What is a multi-channel strategy?

Get a recap of my presentation on multi-channel strategy, presented originally at Impression & D2N2’s Breakfast Bites event in Nottingham on 14th December 2016.

A few weeks ago I was invited by Impression and D2N2 Growth Hub to present at their ‘Breakfast Bites – Your digital opportunity‘ event. The event started with an introduction from D2N2 before Laura gave a great presentation on ‘12 free ways to attract more customers‘ followed by Aaron presenting ‘How to pay for traffic the smart way‘.

Finishing off the morning was my presentation, ‘WTF is a multi-channel strategy?’. Here’s an overview of the presentation for those that missed it along with all the slides from the day.

Slides 1 – 2: Introduction & relevancy

This presentation is focused on real case-studies from companies such as Thorntons, Burton Snowboards and Apple. Whilst these are big companies with huge cash-flow and personnel, the same strategies and principles apply to all business – Be them large, small or even freelance / agencies.

The following slides are not exclusively for e-commerce companies either. Regardless of your business goals having your own multi-channel strategy is essential in modern marketing. It’s relevant across all verticals and both B2C and B2B business models.

Slides 3 – 8: What is a multi-channel strategy?

For those that don’t understand multi-channel, consider your own behaviour. You can understand the principles behind multi-channel in three simple questions;

  • Do you own a smartphone? (You probably do!)
  • Do you use the internet? (You probably do!)
  • Do you visit retail stores? (You probably do!)

If you answered yes to all three of those questions (100% of the audience did) then you are a multi-channel consumer – Businesses have multiple touch-points in which they can engage you.

In short a ‘multi-channel strategy‘ is nothing more than “a plan using more than one method of communication to achieve a long-term aim”.

Slide 9: Why I hate the term ‘multi-channel’

I have a real issue with the term multi-channel. It does a disservice to hundreds of other factors that go into a true marketing strategy. In particular, platforms and moments need to be considered as part of a complete digital marketing strategy.

  • Multi-platform: Consumer behaviour across various devices such as mobile, tablet and desktop.
  • Multi-moment: Consumer behaviour as a result of multi-platform. Fragmented customer journeys.
  • Multi-channel: Consumer behaviour across many touch-points during their fragmented journey.

In the following slides we’ll explore each of these topics.

Slides 10 – 14: Mobiles

Mobiles have redefined consumer behaviour. In 2010 approximately 10% of searches on Google were completed on mobile. In 2015 that was over 50%, and it’s even more in 2016. In fact, the average millennial checks their phone on average 157 times per day. Wow!

The act of browsing a product in store before purchasing online. For example, trying on a pair of shoes to find the right size, before ordering online.

The opposite of showrooming. Browsing online before purchasing in store. For example, checking the specs of a snowboard before going into a store to test out.

Both showrooming and webrooming are growing year-on-year due to the adoption of mobiles in the every-day lives of consumers. This is only due to increase as digital natives gain more purchasing power.

Seamless experiences are therefore key in retaining customers throughout their journey. A seamless experience is simply ‘smooth & continuous events or occurrences which leave an impression on someone‘.

Slides 15 – 20: Moments

Google introduced ‘micro-moments‘ a little while ago now. Here’s their intro video.

The first thing you should do when considering your potential customers moments is create a map of moments you want to win. Tie that together with the needs of your customers and make sure you’re presenting personalised experiences. Be seamless in your approach to moments across platforms and channels.

Once you’ve started responding to moments, always review and improve. Ask yourself four key questions;

  • Were you there when the consumer needed information?
  • Were you quick in your response to their need?
  • Were you useful, or did the consumer need additional info?
  • Were you consistent in your approach across multiple touch-points?

Creating customer personas is a great way to understand your consumer’s moments. Consider demographic, behavioural and motivational characteristics, and understand the challenges they face. It’ll help you devise a strategy which truly puts the consumer first. Laura did another great presentation on ‘Building useful audience personas’ at BrightonSEO back in April 2016.

Slides 21 – 28: Channels

There’s hundreds, if not thousands, of different channels available – Both online and offline. Importantly, consumers don’t care which channel they’re using, they just want a seamless experience as explained earlier. Whilst it’s important for marketeers to pick the right channels, this should never be an obvious decision – If your customer has to hunt for you on particular channels, you’re not meeting the needs or expectations of that customer.

Digital marketing tips to aid multi-channel marketing

Below are a few tips to consider as part of your multi-channel strategies. Consider if your consumers are using each of the following channels and, if they are, start working to get yourself in front of your audience when they need you.

Google has huge market share, and pretty much everyone is using it. Google’s algorithms understand intent and providing the right results is crucial to it’s success. From a paid perspective, remarketing has one of the best ROI’s around. “Near me” related searches have climbed 34x since 2011, so local search marketing has never been so important.
Content marketing goes hand-in-hand with search marketing. Creating great content that answers your customer’s questions is key. Rand Fishkin from Moz has previously explained the 10x better concept. Remember the search term “How are Easter eggs made” from earlier? At Thorntons we answered that question by creating an interactive chocolate factory.
Hosting events & PR stunts is a great way of getting people to talk about you and your business. Influencer marketing is the practice of working with people who influence your audience, and is becoming a very popular approach to modern marketing. Create events which excite influencers and make journalists want to share their experiences. And don’t forget online for those who can’t attend your physical location.
Affiliate marketing is a fancy way of saying “working with others”. Ultimately, this type of marketing is partnerships which are mutually beneficial. In retail this is often about cashback and voucher sites, but local businesses can partner together to create additional buzz. Smaller businesses can partner on a project-by-project basis to get more bang for their combined buck.
Just because you’re a small or online business, doesn’t mean you can’t have a physical location. The emergence of pop-up shops is great for creating “real-world” experiential events which otherwise wouldn’t be possible. Renting physical space (such as a cafe or office space) for a short period of time can do wonders for your brand. Using technology such as iBeacons can help connect the physical and digital together (“phygital!”). 
2017 is going to focus on video. It’s in massive growth and networks such as AdWords, Facebook and YouTube are already driving increased viewership. In fact, YouTube is commonly a more effective method than TV. If you do have the budget for TV, don’t forget that 2/3 people pick up their mobile phones when the ad breaks come on. Again, be seamless across all platforms and channels!

Slide 29: Attribution modelling

With all the different channels at play, it’s easy to lose sight of which channels have truly performed. Google Analytics helps answer this question, but you need to delve into it’s attribution modelling to truly understand performance.

Analytics uses the last-click model, which attributes 100% of a sale to the last channel before the conversion (in this example a sale of £100) takes place. It plays a dis-service to all the other channels which helped the consumer make their decision to purchase. The first-click model isn’t much better, attributing the sale to the channel that first made the customer aware. Time decay is better, with an increasing importance placed on channels the closer to purchase, however this still has a few issues.

For me, the most accurate out-of-the-box attribution model is ‘Position based’. This attributes an equal amount to the first (awareness) and last (conversion) channels, and then splits the remaining value amongst those channels in-between.

Using attribution modelling and understanding channel performance is key when investing money in channels. Under the last-click model, for example, you may not repeat TV exposure, deeming the affiliate model more profitable. This assumes TV had no part to play in attracting customers in the first place.

Slides 30 – 31: Takeaway points

  • Mobiles: Ensure you prioritise smartphones. We now live in a mobile-first world. Google agrees.
  • Moments: Be where your customers are, when they need you. Be useful and quick.
  • Channels: Ignore ‘channel-by-channel’ reporting. Create a seamless experience for customers.

Slide 32: What’s your multi-channel strategy?

I’d love to hear about your multi-channel strategies, so please feel free to drop a comment in the comments box below!

John Alexander Rowley

An enthusiastic digital marketing professional passionately dedicated to increasing the online presence of businesses and individuals in order to improve engagement and ROI.

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