See why “Bluecore isn’t your typical ESP” in the latest Forrester Wave for Email Marketing Service Providers

- Get the Report

Why We’re Thinking About Cross-Channel Marketing All Wrong

By Matthew Limeri

It’s time for retailers to let personalization strategies take the lead over cross-channel tactics

When it comes to personalization across channels, is your marketing program a jack of all trades but a master of none? For too many retailers, the answer to this question is yes.

It starts with well-intentioned marketers who recognize the need to go cross-channel and meet customers where they are. But somewhere along the way the core goal of creating a relevant and contextual shopping experience gets relegated to the sidelines in favor of simply being on every channel. And the result is a less than ideal experience in which shoppers get hounded with a single message and product (potentially one they’re not even interested in) everywhere they go.

So where do we go from here? It’s time to let personalization strategies take the lead over channel-focused tactics.

Personalization is a Strategy, Cross-Channel is a Tactic

Personalization and cross-channel are hot words in marketing these days, but they’re not comparable. Personalization is a strategy that you can inject throughout your marketing efforts; going cross-channel is a tactic to help execute that strategy.

The most effective retail marketing teams recognize this difference and have made adjustments accordingly. Rather than organizing their teams around channels, these brands are organizing their marketing teams around things like customer lifecycle (e.g. an acquisition team versus a retention team) and giving each of those teams the power to use a variety of channels as they see fit.

This approach proves so powerful because it allows teams to prioritize customer needs and then determine the best way to meet those needs, whether it’s through a personalized email, a targeted Facebook ad or a special offer onsite. Essentially, it creates a true customer-first marketing program that focuses on delivering relevant messages, product recommendations and offers to shoppers regardless of where they might be. In doing so, cross-channel marketing happens purposefully, rather than just because it feels necessary.

Channel Choices Still Matter, But You Must Approach Them Thoughtfully

All of this isn’t to say that having a cross-channel marketing program is ineffective. Rather, it means that going cross-channel just for the sake of it won’t move the needle for your brand.

To build a high performing personalized marketing program that touches a variety of channels, you need to have a strong foundation of first party data and have the right technology to use that data effectively on each channel. That’s because if you have the right data to create a personalized experience for your shoppers but can’t properly activate that data across channels, then you end up with the same batch and blast approach you’ve always used. Critically, you need to have both of these things — the right data and the right technology — working in tandem. One without the other won’t do you any good.

For most brands, this means focusing on mastering personalization within one channel, including securing access to the proper data and the best tools to activate it, before moving on to the next. It also means bringing different channels into the mix in a purposeful way to create a truly coordinated shopping experience that actually moves customers down the purchase funnel (as opposed to simply blasting them with the exact same message on every channel).

What exactly does this purposeful cross-channel personalization look like? Consider the case of two existing customers for Brand A. 

  • Jenny likes Brand A’s sweaters, has a high predicted lifetime value and doesn’t need a discount to buy. Meanwhile, Maggie likes Brand A’s jeans but likely needs an incentive to buy. 
  • Brand A’s retention marketing team starts by sending Jenny and Maggie an email with weekly best sellers. The email is part of a personalized batch campaign, so even though it’s one campaign with a single email template, Jenny sees sweaters and Maggie sees jeans plus an offer for 10% off her next purchase.
  • Both Jenny and Maggie click through the email and land on pages featuring sweaters and jeans, respectively. Maggie also sees an onsite banner displaying the same 10% off message. 
  • Neither Jenny nor Maggie buys, and each of them receives an abandonment email later that day. 
  • Maggie clicks through that email, adds the jeans to her cart but still doesn’t buy. After receiving another abandonment email the next day that also features a reminder about the 10% discount, Maggie buys.
  • Jenny does not open the initial abandonment email or the next two that follow over the course of the week. Since she isn’t responding to emails and is a high value customer, Brand A’s marketing team decides to target her on Facebook with an ad that shows the same sweaters she looked at the previous week. Jenny takes notice, clicks through the ad and decides to buy.

In this example, the use of channels for each customer was extremely purposeful and intended to build on each shopper’s previous engagements. It stands in stark contrast to a cross-channel program in which shoppers simply see the same products and messaging everywhere they go, regardless of their recent behavior. Even in cases where the product itself is relevant, the use of channels and messaging must also be personalized to the shopper’s previous engagements to make the entire experience a personal one that moves customers through the purchase funnel.

Stop Going Cross-Channel for the Sake of It

Are you ready to put personalization first? Adjusting how you think about “cross-channel” within your marketing program might be painful at first, but doing so will result in truly relevant shopping experiences that boost engagement and revenue.

To start, you need the right technology to access and activate first party data. Check out our eBook on the email personalization problem to find out what it takes and why email is the best channel on which to start.

Matthew Limeri

Matthew Limeri

Matt is a technology consultant with over ten years of experience in MarTech and AdTech across several Technical/Implementation and Account Management roles.