By Matt Pigott - August 11th, 2015

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In an increasingly fragmented marketing arena, where channels split and fray and split again, the marketer’s role in devising a meaningful multichannel campaign–one that takes the customer on a relatable journey, building relationships and securing conversions–is more challenging today than at any time in the history of the role.

While the digital tools available should facilitate such campaigns, are in fact integral to those multichannel initiatives, the complexities of implementation can thwart even the brightest minds. Being selective is key, but only after channels have been heavily tested to find out if they’re any good at driving engagement. 

Putting the customer first

Decisions about how to reach customers, with the focus being on relevant and timely touch points, are vital. But more than this is the understanding that the multichannel marketing process is ultimately customer-centric. Marketers who ignore this do so at their peril.

While, once-upon-a-time, agencies chose the channels they liked and filled them with marketing generated by focus groups, today data is gathered at such a fast rate, and customers have so many platforms and communication mechanisms at their disposal, that these older methods have become like the tail wagging the dog.

Faced with so many open channels of communication, the true marketing skills that help campaigns to work are seeing and hearing. Why shoot at moving targets in an open field wearing earplugs and a blindfold when careful observation and consideration will eliminate 99.9% of sheer randomness.

Fine-tuning channels is key

As with any relationship it’s a ‘feeling’ process that requires understanding of consumer behaviour at the granular level. And this is just one of the changes happening right now. Rather than implement a catchall approach, successful companies and agencies are drilling down to the: who, what, when, where and how, at the 1:1 level.

Once, this might have been seen as an insurmountable task, but with smarter digital strategies and the ability to implement razor sharp segmentation, based on choices made by consumers, it’s becoming readily achievable. Let’s look at a couple of multi-channel marketing campaigns that really worked. 

Flying high with leading initiatives

After Heathrow (the busiest airport in Europe and the fourth busiest airport in the world), Gatwick is the UKs second busiest airport. From a marketing perspective, what makes it significant is that it was the first in Europe to offer passengers a 24 hour Twitter feed, encouraging real time feedback and responses to help improve its various services and, by turns, the customer experience. On top of this, in 2013, it became the first international airport to integrate a third party review site with its airport-based products and services, including mobile and retail.

Qype, subsequently acquired by Yelp, enabled customers to post reviews and photos and comment on their experiences in a way that could be collated and analysed. The 1:1 experience provided meaningful data that would then be used to improve the customer journey. These fresh initiatives drew attention to Gatwick as an innovative airport that put its customers first, garnering widespread media coverage almost as a by-product. 

In this example, the multichannel experience started out, first as a series of delivery mechanisms that users thought was cool and different, before extending beyond that and getting picked up, as a story, by journalists, which gave the campaign greater traction and the airport itself greater appeal. 

In this case, the touch points grew exponentially because Gatwick had directly involved itself in ensuring a smooth journey (in more ways than one) for its customers, and the story had spread from there. 

Multichannel marketing health benefits

Through its Good Life MOT campaign, health food chain Holland and Barrett also succeeded in engaging customers in multiple ways, using in-store promotions and online forums to provide expert opinions, addressing important health queries to increase the flow of online and offline customer exchange. 

Q (from a customer): Any advice on beating cravings and resisting office snacks?

A (from H&B): Eat a high-fibre, slow digesting breakfast to keep blood-sugar level even and reduce mid-morning cravings

This was just one example of customer questions posed during the lifecycle of the campaign, with company representatives on hand to provide timely advice. Now, some might think that of this as ‘brand’ going beyond the call of duty, but it’s this extra effort that drives engagement and participation across the board. In addition to taking a ‘caring’ approach, Holland and Barrett simultaneously used social media, PR, television and print-based advertising to raise awareness. The campaign succeeded in increasing the number of signups to the company’s customer loyalty scheme, boosting sales and increasing exposure across its 700 stores.

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