Cross-Channel marketing is believed to be the hit of 2012. But is it different from Multi-Channel and what about mobile commerce? It seems only yesterday that offline shops were threatened by their online alternatives. The tide is now turning and the big advantages of offline are becoming more evident; the customer is in the store, the brand experience is omnipresent, and marketing in high traffic places is highly effective. Combined with the rise of mobile commerce, retailers know it; Cross-Channel Marketing is here!
The beginning of offline and online
Commerce began with two people agreeing on a price and bartering. To make the buying of specific goods more convenient, some people specialized in a certain category and started selling similar goods in a physical shop. They attracted others to visit them (the beginning of marketing) and sold the products directly to their customers. With the online revolution, some physical stores made their goods available to everyone on the web. Also some online-only shops popped up, nibbling on the market share of physical shops.
As the online market is getting more and more saturated, online shops are now feeling that offline has several big advantages and the tables seem to be turned once again. Offline shops however still have higher costs and can’t compete purely on price. The dilemma still stays; offline OR online.
Offline channel marketing
Although offline marketing has been around for quite a while, the definition is constantly changing. From word-of-mouth in ye olden days, to the rich media experience we know now. Product and service presentations have been taken to a new level of creativity with moving billboards, branded street furniture, kiosks, digital urban panels, bus benches, interactive posters and spectacular public takeover actions. The number of things you can do with an offline poster are still being explored and companies are doing their best to stand out.
With more and more brands trying to attract their customers, offline marketing is slowly changing to offline interaction, where the consumer can interact with a brand. The offline marketing actions are not limited to offline companies.
An ever growing number of successful online shops is using offline marketing to get their foot between the physical door and present themselves to the consumer. A good example is online-only retailer Zalando, which has started a massive offline media campaign to attract customers to their webshop.
Also more and more consumers own a mobile phone and more and more consumers own a smartphone, which allows offline marketing to present the consumer with online content using QR Codes, augmented reality, bluetooth or even built-in internet.
The offline component still enables companies to address consumers in the places they visit, such as high traffic locations and transit places, like train stations, subway stations and sidewalks. Coupling it with mobile, makes instant interaction possible.
Online channel marketing
Online channel marketing has grown immensely in the last couple of years and now encompasses tens of billions dollars a year. Search Engine Marketing (SEM) as marketing online is called, consists of two elements: SEA (Search Engine Advertising) and SEO (Search Engine Optimization). The main goal of online marketing is being found by the target audience. Especially Google plays a big role in Search Engine Marketing, with a 95+% market share in Western countries.
The last two years Search Engine Marketing has been reaching its highest point, with companies having SEO and SEA as their core business, sites being optimized for search engines, techniques to build shops and sites in the most search engine friendly manner and weblog articles being written in SEO-style.
Without the right expertise, standing out of the crowd and attracting visitors to your site, has become nearly impossible, which is a clear symptom of market saturation.
Saturation of the online market also means that companies spend a great deal of money on remaining visible to the searching public (think of AdWords, affiliate marketing and site/shop optimization). Ironically, the tables seem to have turned again. Where going online meant reaching a huge reach several years ago, it now means fighting for the top 3 positions in Google and losing your margin to find customers, thus making it attractive again to go offline in a market that in the meanwhile has lost a lot of offline advertising customers.
Although Multi-Channel Marketing is a relatively new concept, it is already hopelessly outdated. Multi-Channel Marketing refers to using all the marketing channels a company can access to communicate a message. An example is a company that has launched a new product and communicates it through print media, online media, social media and dynamic media like narrowcasting. Although the goal of the concept is not wrong in itself, the underlying problem is the one-way communication and lack of interaction between channels.
Multi-Channel Marketing is thus an internally focused tool for marketing managers who have a message and want to communicate it. Audience reached with the different media will appreciate the use of their preferred communication tool, but often have trouble with the imposed one-way message. Especially after the 2.0 revolution that started on the internet around 2007, the importance of interacting with a brand has become more and more important, something Multi-Channel Marketing evidently lacks.
In the last couple of years, Multi-Channel Marketeers have seen an increase in the number of easy-to-use mass media tools, such as Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus, allowing for a near synchronous publication of messages. Although adapting these tools has brought many companies a great way to bind their audience to their brand, when executed wrongly, using these tools incorrectly can have a reversed effect. Especially showing non-responsive behaviour with this new media has created big image issues for some companies.
So, if not Multi-Channel Marketing, then what? Enter Cross-Channel Marketing! Instead of focusing on the message and the means of communication, Cross-Channel Marketing puts the customer, user or target audience in the center of attention and follows the needs of their public to provide them with the information or products they need. This approach requires some communication tuning for most companies, as interaction becomes key and listening to the customer becomes more important than speaking to the customer.
In the example of the new product, a Cross-Channel Marketing approach would entail creating a user experience using several media. A good example is how Samsung introduces new products by first giving the heads up for their Facebook-fans, who can become a ‘tester’ for the product, then communicating via Twitter and print media, in many cases creating an interaction inviting their audience to comment on their new product. This Cross-Channel Media approach generates an intrinsic longing for customer stakeholders.
However big interacting with customers is in Cross-Channel Marketing, there is another important component for Cross-Channel Marketing. That component is letting the channels interact with each other. Some of the examples are coupon codes for webshops in print media, delivery of online goods to physical stores and of course QR Codes. By using QR Codes in Cross-Channel Marketing a direct link is made between offline and online media, thus letting the two interact optimally. This also uses all the advantages of the current mobile phone adaptation.
Mobile Commerce (mCommerce)
Mobile Commerce doesn’t exist. A bold statement, seeing that Mobile Commerce (M-Commerce) just like Cross-Channel Marketing, is expected to be the big hit of 2012. The reason Mobile Commerce doesn’t exist, is because mobile phones are used as a tool to have quick and easy access to information and products. This is different than the way computers or paper media are used, where consumers take the time to browse, actively search for information and purchasing compared products (traditional eCommerce).
This encompasses a different approach of selling using mobile phones, as mobile is only seen as a bridge between offline/dynamic media and eCommerce, just like the credit card is a bridge between offline/online media and traditional commerce. Thus to sell via mobile, product presentation (information, price setting, etc.) has to be done in other channels, such as billboards, bus stop posters, subway walls, print catalogs and dynamic advertising pillars/kiosks. The link between offline and online can then be made through NFC or QR Codes.
To sell using mobile phones, other media channels seem to be an inevitable component. Combining Cross-Channel Marketing and mobile (mCommerce) makes an invincible conjunction. As mobile phones are a window into social interaction, web and commerce, this enables any company to present their users with a way to choose their medium of interaction and purchase. The possibilities are endless, as offline, online channels and using mobile phones can mean the next level of eCommerce, mCommerce and Cross-Channel Marketing.
QR Code virtual store marketing
With the current trends of Cross-Channel Marketing and Mobile Commerce (m-Commerce), many companies have taken a jump into the near future of commerce by combining offline and online channels with mobile phones. By presenting their products in an attractive manner and giving the customers a direct link to the product page in their webshop using QR Codes, purchasing is made quick and easy. Some of the companies that use this way of selling their products are Tesco, Ahold, Woolworths, Toys”R”Us, John Lewis, Well.ca and Ocado.
For some great examples, check: http://www.shop2mobi.com/virtual-qr-code-store-examples/
As QR Code Virtual Stores are becoming more and more popular, companies need to check their Cross-Channel Marketing and mobile phone use. The acceptation of mobile phones has reached 96% throughout the world. Abound 73% of all mobile phones are smartphones that can scan QR Codes and make purchases. Webshops and physical shops can now put their Cross-Channel strategies to good use with new ways to reach their customers, and with current technologies, create an own QR Code virtual store within 5 minutes.