From Multi-Channel to Cross-Channel: The Challenges Ahead

Jan 06, 2021
Jeff Haws

You may refer to it as 1:1 messaging, omni-channel, cross-channel or lifecycle marketing, but no matter what you call it, these words and their underlying meanings will be both a bane and a blessing for businesses for the foreseeable future. While the nuances of each definition may differ slightly, they are all terms marketers use to refer to managing interactions across various mediums of communication throughout the lifetime of a customer. Most businesses already have the foundations for omni-channel communication in place: a website, email platform, content teams, social media presence, and so on, and many marketers see this as a top prioity.  With the building blocks set, the ROI documented, and resources focused on execution, why have so few organizations been successful?

Marketers across all industries face the same basic challenges in their efforts to transition from multiple disconnected customer interactions to a unified view of customer engagement. Overcoming these challenges means a shift not just in the way different departments coordinate, but in the way they collect and store data, and the technology they rely on to make that data actionable.

Marketing Organizations Must Evolve

Specialization of labor was introduced in 1776 via Adam Smith’s book Wealth of Nations. Henry Ford brought the idea to the assembly line in the early 1900s, and today’s modern marketing organizations represent another application of the concept. Marketing in the 21st century has become increasingly complex, and various disciplines such as SEO, email, advertising, and e-commerce now require a high degree of expertise to be done effectively. However, unlike Henry Ford’s 1900s assembly line, where everyone knew the goal was to build Model-Ts, today’s marketing organizations suffer from a lack of coordination and goals that are often unaligned.

If you were to ask different marketing disciplines which metrics are important, their simplified answers would likely vary: the email marketer would likely say opens and clicks, the social media coordinator measures Likes and follows, and the e-commerce manager looks at traffic and page views.  While all these answers seem to share a common theme (“Get my message seen by as many people as possible”), it often results in a customer experience that is less than desirable. Marketing departments often suffer from a lack of visibility into the messaging of their counterparts. The result is customers who are bombarded with messages, and a brand identity that differs across touch points.

Marketing organizations need to move away from fragmented departments that lack coordination. Those at the forefront have already begun this process by creating new roles like Customer Experience Officers or CRM Directors tasked with unifying these departments on a common goal and coordinating their activities in a cohesive, calculated manner. However, in order to do this effectively, businesses need more than just a common goal. They need a unified view of their subscribers and data that can be shared across the organization.

Customer Data Must Become Centralized

Years of fragmented marketing organizations have created multiple data silos that all represent an incomplete view of customers. In order for businesses to successfully implement a coordinated cross-channel strategy, all facets of marketing must share the same database and utilize the same information to target customers — in many cases, this will involve investing in a modern data warehouse like Snowflake. This is not a fact that’s lost on most marketers, who regularly rank centralizing their customer data as one of their top priorities and biggest challenges. To assist in meeting this challenge, new technologies must emerge that fit the needs of today’s evolving marketing organizations, and database structures.

Technology Must Evolve

It’s easy to point the finger at fragmented marketing departments for creating such a mess of customer data, but technology stagnation also shares a portion of the blame. The high adoption of SaaS-based platforms, whether for e-commerce, email, content management, or analytics has left business with no other option. With every new platform, a new database must be created that updates independently and allows little flexibility in the way data is structured. Before any organization can begin to overcome the challenges of unifying all these data silos they must have technology like MessageGears with the capability to access a centralized source. Customer data can no longer be stored in fragments across multiple vendors. It must reside in a database that businesses can control, everyone can utilize, and new technologies can access directly.

New technology that allows for core functionality to be maintained in the cloud while accessing data from a centralized location will play a crucial role in meeting the challenges ahead. Marketers wishing to implement true cross-channel campaigns will look to technology that allows them to utilize all their data without requiring them to replicate it to multiple vendors.

Predictions for the Future

Marketing organizations and the corresponding databases they rely on will continue toward a model that allows for more collaboration. New “project manager” roles will be integral in coordinating the activity of multiple departments, and businesses will explore every available opportunity to bring their data back in house.

In response, database companies will continue acquiring SaaS platforms, rolling them into “bundled” suites of marketing tools that can communicate with an on-premises database in a more seamless manner. Newer, more flexible “database agnostic” platforms will provide an alternative for marketers who want to access a centralized data source without changing their business to meet the requirements of the less agile bundled offerings.

The transition will be difficult, but organizations that succeed will see the results of choreographed cross-channel communications that improve customer experience and drive profits for marketing departments into the future.

About the Author

Jeff Haws

As MessageGears’ Senior Marketing Manager, Jeff is focused on producing engaging and thoughtful content that resonates with enterprise marketers, helping them to better understand how MessageGears makes their jobs easier. He’s passionate about understanding the way data impacts messaging, and he’s also hopelessly obsessed with baseball.