Reaching for the Omnichannel Brass Ring
Do you have a 360-degree view of your customers? Can you attribute sales accurately to each channel? Are you creating the right omnichannel contact strategy for each customer?
No? Hold onto your hat. Neither is anyone else.
How do I know? Recently, I was privileged to be one of 10 "gurus" at DMA 2014 in San Diego. Attendees came to each of us throughout the day for 15-minute appointments and many questions. Here's a recap of the questions I heard from those attendees and others.
Most Asked Questions
- "How can I track sales from all channels?"
- "How can I attribute sales to the proper channel?"
- "How can I combine all the data coming from all the channels in a way that's actionable?"
- "How do I get a 360-degree view of my customers, in all the channels they're using?"
- "How do I find a platform or service provider who can put together a 360-degree view of my customers for me?"
These questions came from giant marketers, small marketers, B-to-B and B-to-C.
Answers … Sort Of
First, don't feel bad about your situation. It turns out that no company currently has a 360-degree customer view, and no platform currently exists for getting it. The 360-degree omnichannel view is currently an idea, not a reality.
A great panel discussion (panelists included executives from IBM, Oracle and Teradata) made this clear. Some quotes:
- "most enterprise companies don't know what data they have";
- "we're getting pretty good at automating deliveries of data for each channel — stitching it all together is what's hard";
- "We're in uncharted territory regarding how to integrate"; and
- "whoever can inhale it all and output it in a meaningful way will win."
Translation: "We're working on it, but we're not there yet." The panelists and their clients were all giant companies that can afford to get there. But what about the rest of us?
There are over 12,000 catalog companies in the U.S. and Canada, and most are not giant companies with endless resources. One midsized cataloger recently told me the following: "Our website can't capture where the orders or prospects come from. But it wouldn't help if it could, because our legacy order management system lacks fields to store that data even if we could track it."
This isn't an unusual situation. In fact, I hear it all the time. So what can you do if you're in the same boat? Wait 15 years and hope a small-scale, affordable data platform appears? Who can wait that long and hope to still be around and competitive?
Here are some suggestions for forging ahead while we're all waiting for a small-scale data platform miracle:
1. Become a data guerrilla. Even with a legacy system, you can gather a lot of data outside the system. Test and measure whenever and whatever you can. Mailings can be measured via matchbacks. Likewise, email campaigns can be measured via analytics (e.g., opens, clicks, conversions). Surveys can answer questions like "Approximately what percent of our catalog customers first came via the web?," "How many of our best customers contact us via Facebook?," etc. You can develop pretty good rules of thumb from such data, such as percent of sales to attribute per channel, to best mailing frequency for customer segments.
2. Become a data evangelist. Keep working on convincing your team of the value of improving systems. Tell creative, "this data will make your creative more successful." Tell sales, "this data will drive growth." Tell finance, "this data will improve the bottom line." Prove it by sharing reports, tests and surveys. Structure results in one-page, top-line views for quick access (to get them read). And be sure to summarize what the data says, why it's important and steps that can be taken because of the new knowledge it provides.
Susan J. McIntyre is Founder and Chief Strategist of McIntyre Direct, a catalog agency and consultancy in Portland, Oregon offering complete creative, strategic, circulation and production services since 1991. Susan's broad experience with cataloging in multi-channel environments, plus her common-sense, bottom-line approach, have won clients from Vermont Country Store to Nautilus to C.C. Filson. A three-time ECHO award winner, McIntyre has addressed marketers in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, has written and been quoted in publications worldwide, and is a regular columnist for Retail Online Integration magazine and ACMA. She can be reached at 503-286-1400 or firstname.lastname@example.org.