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Multi Channel Marketing

Why cross channel benefits will gain your business a winning position.

The ability to master multi-channel marketing is becoming increasingly vital for companies determined to be leading players in the new economy. Over the next few years both B2C and B2B sectors will be using multiple channels to buy products and services. These channels will include high street shops, telephones, ATM's, catalogues, the Web, WAP technology and interactive TV.

Although in the early stages of their evolution, those companies that determine which "bricks, flicks or clicks" processes are best fit for purpose will gain a leading market position. In other words, companies who deliver innovative new benefits through integrated multi-channel solutions will grow market share, obtain improved shareholder value and Gain a Competitive Advantage .

The key to successful multi-channel investments will be providing distinctive value propositions, such as time to market and supply chain visibility, to high-value customer segments. There is little doubt that the need among companies for an effective multi-channel strategy will only intensify.

Those companies that provide cross channel benefits, such as giving customers the ability to check item availability, via the Internet, prior to visiting the retail store, will become successful marketers. However, equally important is channel integration; managing the customers experience seamlessly (including a universal brand promise); and building capabilities to market a multi-channel enterprise.

"Bricks"
Some leading companies are now beginning to use retail outlets to not only to sell their latest product offerings, but also to significantly improve a customer's brand experience. Examples include climate simulators for winter clothing and creating realistic sporting arenas, such as golf holes for selling golf equipment

"Flicks"
There is compelling evidence that people are far more likely to buy products and services via the Internet after flicking through a sales brochure or catalogue. Consequently, companies are using direct mailing techniques as part of their marketing mix. Free catalogues and magazines are understandably being used to build brand awareness and to communicate the advantages of using both retail outlets and online websites.

"Clicks"
Winning companies are now using their community websites for a variety of marketing opportunities. For example, to optimise a customers' retail store experience and to sell old, liquidated or discontinued product lines.

Cross-Channel Benefits
There are substantial differences between strategies that simply provide multiple channels for shoppers and those that provide cross-channel benefits based on robust linkages across multiple channels. The dilemma amongst marketers is the degree to which they will embrace new benefits sought after by high-value multi-channel customers. The size of the market, profit potential, shopper convenience, the need for advice and actionable information and industry sector benefits are all factors that need to be evaluated.

Channel Integration
Many of today's multi-channel networks are a result of organic growth and incremental channel expansion. This has often led to duplication of roles, capabilities and costs resulting in higher distribution costs and fragmented customer experience. Explicitly defining a multi-channel architecture, namely, the core role(s) of each channel along with their functionality, formats, physical density, and how they will interact is critical to profitability. The key to this process is carefully mapping high-value customer usage and preferences against the existing network and cost base.

Managing customer experience & universal brand promise
It is important for marketers to align brand promise, value proposition and customer management to provide a seamless experience. In order to deliver these strategic marketing issues it will be necessary to make changes to organisational accountability, resource allocation / budgeting, marketing practices, KPI's and P&L's.

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