Unica's Akin Arikan on Multichannel MarketingJuly 10, 2008 By Melissa Campanelli
eM+C: In your book, "Multichannel Marketing: Metrics and Methods for On and Offline Success," you say that in order to succeed in today's business climate, marketers must have a deep understanding of their customers. What are some of the best ways companies can gain this knowledge?
Akin Arikan: To stand out from their competitors, companies can offer better customer service. That is, first of all, a call to action for the company's employees to be truly helpful to their customers' goals. Yet many interactions of customers with companies are not with employees but through a Web site, advertisements, e-mail, SMS, etc. How to extend the good customer service beyond human interactions to these automated interactions is, therefore, a strategic question.
Successful companies employ many techniques to listen to their customers. Some techniques teach them about the average experience of customers in general, while other techniques allow them to learn about individual customers' wishes and goals. For example, companies may study surveys or panels of volunteers; they can study retail shopping behavior from checkout scanner data; they can learn if customers are satisfied with their products from providers of syndicated research; and they can dig into their Web analytics. For example, a motorcycle manufacturer may learn the most popular combinations of accessories that site visitors from different countries configure online.
eM+C: Do you believe there is not much synergy between online and offline data in the multichannel world?
AA: Actually, there is a lot of synergy between online and offline data, but most marketers are not leveraging that synergy today. These marketers are not yet connecting the dots between the dialog with customers online versus offline. Marketers have many excuses for the lack of integration so far. It used to be that the technology was not ready until a few years ago. There is also a real lack of know-how. I am hoping to contribute a little bit toward closing that gap with my book. In it, I have described the metrics and methods used by online, direct, and brand marketers, so that they could more easily understand each other.
Integration aside, what I find inexcusable is that marketers from these three disciplines -- online, direct and brand -- have not been talking with each other in the past. Before worrying about integrating marketing, step one is to orchestrate marketing across online and offline by working hand in hand. This means, for example, that a television commercial that can create hand raisers in the audience should be coupled with consistent content on the Web site that these hand raisers can easily find.
eM+C: Why should companies integrate their online and offline data? Is it difficult to do?
AA: There are two levels of benefits to be gained. The first level is to measure marketing ROI to improve it over time. The outcomes of our marketing campaigns play out across online and offline channels. How can you know whether one campaign works better than another campaign if you don't add up total results across online and offline channels?
The second level of benefits comes from measuring behavior of individual customers across online and offline. Otherwise, how can you have a dialog if you keep missing half of the conversation? Say, for example, a customer comes to the Web site and is presented with a cross-sale offer for a bicycle because that's what she browsed three weeks ago. But what if just yesterday, this customer was in the store and purchased a kayak? Shouldn't she be able to retrieve offers relevant to kayaking rather than bicycles?
eM+C: Can you offer our readers any best practices in terms of using multichannel marketing metrics?
AA: Start by jotting down your company's business goals, such as how do you make money? Then listen to your customers to understand how they use multiple channels to do business with you. Now, set up metrics to measure how well the flow across channels works and how many customers drop out just when they switch from one channel to another. For example, how many customers research on your Web site but then never come into your stores? This will form your baseline. Now, as you experiment with things such as online user reviews or in-store pickup, you can compare back to the baseline to see whether you have created better returns for your company.
When you go down to the level of individual customers to fuel targeted marketing, start with just the top three behavioral events that would help you make a more relevant offer to customers. Think to yourself, which three pieces of information could help you extend a more relevant offer? For example, if a customer browses certain products online, should the next direct mail offer highlight that category of products (among others)?