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Why has the retail industry been slow to seriously adopt multi-channel promotion?
The industry has been talking about multi-channel promotion for years but despite the fact that mobile communication is on the rise and other digital media continue to gain ground, very few retailers seem to have invested in fully developing this strategically valuable approach. The two key challenges are lack of co-ordination and failure to exploit the individual advantages of each medium with channel optimised content.
For example, impulse buys in store or online are best triggered through messages at the till or website points of purchase; whereas post, email or SMS are suitable for time and frequency controlled promotions. The smartphone, of course, has the scope to deliver highly personalised messages at any time and linked to wherever the customer may be – making it ideal for both push and pull promotions.
To ensure seamless co-ordination, all the print, email, web and mobile channels have to be connected in a way which supports a coherent shopping experience. Inconsistent communications can be damaging and irritating for the customer and a lack of integration can lead to contradictory and/or duplicated messages. This can be seen in certain sectors where online promotional spend may be substantial but has no link to
A powerful opportunity
Delivering the right message, to the right target audience, in the right place, at the right time, using the right channel is a very powerful opportunity - a strategy which meets many different goals. Broadening reach and frequency with tailored messages also provides insights into which target groups are likely to be influenced by specific messages through specific channels. This crucial data can be used to truly optimise future promotional campaigns. So why are retailers holding back?
The answer could be that because it has to be done well to be effective, a fundamental change to systems and processes is required. Doing it right is initially disruptive and inevitably requires significant investment, so the path of least resistance is often to organise each element separately – and this way lies disappointment. A degree of trust is also an important factor to ensure customers see highly relevant communications as useful and a great service – and not an intrusion. Campaigns triggered by the context provided by mobile devices, social media and also smart watches provide huge potential for companies to deliver highly personalised offers and messages to customers, but they do need to be handled with a degree of sensitivity.
The right foundations
Having laid the internal foundations by integrating teams and processes, each channel can be gradually introduced to the target audience. For email promotions, there must enough available addresses to make it worthwhile and messaging must be consistent with communications going via existing channels. The mobile channel requires some investment in the production of a really effective, easy to use, well liked smartphone app which provides value and is offered free of charge. A relatively small outlay on developing the right app can have a significant impact once it is firmly embedded into the customer base.
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