People are producing more data than ever before, from a wider and wider range of devices and an ever-growing number of channels. Because of this, as marketers, how we communicate with our customers is getting more and more disparate.

Do we email them? Do we text them? Who are our display ads being shown to? What are people doing on social media (take your pick of networks)?

What we should really be concerning ourselves with is not how to make each individual channel work but rather how we interact with each individual regardless of channel…

Cross-channel marketing

Do you know the difference between cross-channel and multi-channel marketing?

Cross-channel is a term that is used a lot when discussing this issue and it’s quite right that it is. However, it is important that we fully understand what the cross-channel view entails, why it differs from a multi-channel approach and what steps one needs to take to get there.

Cross-channel is the current holy grail of marketing strategies. Made possible by the development of sophisticated online intelligence analytics and complex delivery platforms, it is as a premise which is actually exceedingly simple. Essentially, it consists of marketing to a customer as an individual across channels. In a cross-channel strategy all channels are joined up and inter-dependent on each other.

This is where a rather commonplace misconception emerges. Many businesses have heard the term ‘cross-channel marketing’ and many marketers would mistakenly claim that they run a cross-channel strategy. Having an active presence in a multitude of channels is not cross-channel marketing, its multi-channel marketing.

Having a Facebook page, PPC campaigns and an extensive email strategy does not mean that those channels are working together. It may be that the same messages are going out on each channel as part of the same campaign, but unless those channels are communicating with each other and affecting each other’s activity it’s a multi-channel campaign, not a cross-channel campaign.

For example a cross-channel campaign would be when the same PPC and social media adverts are positioned in front of people who have also received an email. The messaging in each would be slightly different, yet complementary, and each channel would benefit from the targeted support of the others.

Getting to cross-channel

In order to move from a multi-channel approach to a cross-channel approach you have to concentrate on the individuals not the individual contact points. Stop thinking of customers as an email address, a phone number and a cookie tracking ID and start thinking of them as people – with multiple touchpoints. When you look at it like this it is a lot simpler to understand how all the different channels, when working together, can help and support one another.

In order to do this you have to go back to the data. To get a cross-channel view of your customers you need to be able to join up your data so that you recognise individuals rather than separate touch points. A person may have up to three email addresses, a mobile number and two social media profiles – and to get a cross-channel view these need to be amalgamated until you have an individual rather than a list of channels. This is called achieving the Single Customer View (read more on SCV by downloading this free white paper here).

It could be that at this point you enrich your first party data from a third party source to get a fuller picture of your customers – Equally, if your data is comprehensive enough you may not need to do this.

When you have a Single Customer View you are in a position to treat people as individuals. This opens the door to segmenting those customers and treating each segment in the ways that best suit them. People are different and regardless of what you sell will not always respond best to the same messaging, offers and products. Combining segmentation with cross-channel capability will also mean you can remove people who are unwilling or unlikely to ever be your customers and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of your campaigns.

The key here is that improving the customer’s experience is paramount as offering specific segments the service that they prefer (whether that’s via email, SMS, social or display advertising) is more beneficial to them (who likes being shown irrelevant ads for stuff they will never buy?) and more beneficial to the advertiser.

Next steps

If you are in a situation where you think you are running cross-channel take a step back and ask yourself if you are treating each customer as an individual or as a series of contact points? Are those contact points joined up? If they’re not then it’s likely you’re running more of a multi-channel approach and you need to up your game to stay ahead of the competition.

To see how smart your current marketing is, take our Smarter Marketing Assessment.

If you want to make the step to cross-channel you need to start with the data. Invest in online analytics, linkage and data enrichment to get that Single Customer View and look to profile your customers in order to create audiences.

This is the future of marketing – the brands that don’t keep pace will quickly fall behind.

For a practical example check out how a cross-channel approach boosted social media sales for energy saving experts Mark Group.

Experian Marketing Services is a leading global provider of consumer insights, targeting, data quality and cross-channel marketing. We help organisations intelligently interact with today’s empowered and hyper-connected consumers. By helping marketers identify their best customers, find more of them, and then coordinate seamless and intelligent interactions across the most appropriate channels, Experian Marketing Services‘ clients can deepen customer loyalty, strengthen brand advocacy and maximise profits.