We live in a multi-channel world. Consumers not only use more than one channel to make a purchase, they often use those channels simultaneously (checking online prices in stores, watching TV while browsing on their laptops) There are many factors that affect the quality of the cross channel experience. Externally, messaging, visuals, and functionality are all critical while internally marketers need to button up things like offer optimization, attribution modeling, and analytics.
But before they can get to all of that, before they can make sure the font is the same on the website, the store signage and email messaging, marketers need to get everything in one darn place.
The best cross channel experience is one that not only meets the consumer where she wants to be but helps the marketer offer the best, most strategic offer to her at every turn. If we’re ever going to get close this experience, we have to start with everything in the same place. And that means data.
It’s easy to say that the bridge between offline and online data should be smooth and seamless. But the practical reality is that data from different sources is often painfully difficult to get out of business silos, to aggregate, to make meaningful. For many companies, most of their time is spent finding data and trying to make it fit within existing parameters. Companies with legacy systems often find this process particularly challenging.
The first and most important step to connecting data sources is not a technological one. Internal culture can provide the biggest hurdle, with departments territorially protecting their processes and data from those looking to streamline and integrate. For true integration of data, you need true integration of the marketing teams, regardless of the channel they work in.
After the internal challenge of fighting through entrenched processes, finding a technological strategy may seem like a breeze. Vendors abound in the data management space. When you start to look, be sure to find one that is prepared to customize extensively for your unique needs – and consider how your analytics program will need to interact with that data management before you make any decisions.
Why This Matters for the Customer
Getting data management buttoned up isn’t just a marketing problem. It’s a customer service problem. Target is the perfect example of an imperfect system. Target and their e-commerce site aren’t just siloed – they are separate companies; Target.com is a subsidiary of Target Stores. Regardless of how this works internally for their marketing teams, as a consumer I shouldn’t even know this. So why do I?
Every time I try to return something that I bought online, try to check a price, or have a registry question, I run into a problem with the sales associate being less than ideally informed and prepared to help me. Whether or not the data from my purchases eventually makes it from one side to the other for marketing purposes, Target has a long way to go to the best cross channel customer experience.
The integration of channel data is difficult not just because of the technological challenges. Personal ego and existing business structure can very easily get in the way of optimizing this process. It is the successful – and brave – marketer that can break through to the other side.