A recent study by Time Inc showed that those consumers who grew up with mobile technology – so-called ‘digital natives’ – switch their attention between media platforms (things like TVs, magazines, tablets, smartphones or channels within platforms) a mind-boggling 27 times per hour, or about every other minute.
These findings were echoed by Nielsen’s Australian Online Consumer Report 2012 which found that so-called ‘multi-screening’ has become habitual for six out of 10 Australians, who regularly use the internet while watching television and other devices, with more than one third doing so on a daily basis.
So, it’s perhaps no surprise that multi-channel marketing – whereby retailers strive to reach their prospective or current customer in a channel of their liking – has become a recent buzzword. Technology providers have naturally jumped on the back of this, offering to help simplify this ‘crazy’ new world of multiple touch points.
But have they really simplified things? I’m not so sure. I’ve spoken to hundreds of marketing directors over the past two years and I’ve heard story after story of organisations that have embarked on complex, technical implementations that have taken many months, cost the earth and yet failed to deliver the promised benefits of integrated, multi-channel marketing.
Many of the people I’ve spoken to were left with big bills and heavy recurring costs, having invested in new people to run these systems for them.
This really frustrates me – technology is supposed to make things simpler, not more complicated! In my opinion, part of the problem is that many organisations are told they have unique challenges and require bespoke solutions to be built just for them.
But is this really true? Certainly, every organisation is different – selling different products and services in different ways. But most marketing directors I talk to usually face almost the same root issues – how do I acquire more customers? How do I convert more customers? How do I sell more? And of course, more recently, what’s the right channel for my customer at a particular point in the sales cycle?
No outside technology provider is better placed to give them the answers to these questions than the organisation itself.
But tech providers can help with simple tools to address things like Callback on a website, optimising a site for mobile devices or allowing the retargeting of a website customer who’s abandoned a sale, via an SMS. These are simple solutions that give customers the choice of how to interact with an organisation and are proven to increase engagement and sales conversion.
Today, these kinds of solutions can be offered as cloud-based ‘Apps’ and this is set to revolutionise multi-channel marketing. What is different is that these kinds of Apps are seeking to join up the dots of existing channels, rather than reinvent them. Apps are quick to add on to existing channels and put the power into consumer’s hands – giving them the option to choose how they want to interact.
Because they are hosted in the cloud, there’s no complicated technical back-end stuff to do, they cost tens of dollars, rather than tens of thousands and you only pay for the bits you need. When delivered as part of a suite, these types of Apps can also take away the headache of dealing with multiple technology suppliers and all the complex integration that implies, making it possible to report on campaigns centrally.
These kinds of benefits also mean that multi-channel marketing is now becoming a reality for smaller companies that have previously seen such solutions as the preserve of larger enterprises with deep pockets. Opening up access to the ‘big boys marketing toys’ is, for me, what the cloud is all about.
There is no doubt the world has changed and that consumers are demanding far more choice about how they engage with the organisations that matter to them. The challenge for the technology community is to ensure that we help oil the wheels of the new multi-channel world, rather than obstruct it.
James Critchley is CEO of Cloud.IQ.