If you’re looking for ways to improve your digital content strategy in 2021, taking a cross-channel approach is the way to go.
That means your customers want to engage with your brand across multiple channels.
By giving customers the cross-channel interactions they’re looking for, you can boost your sales and ROI while reaping many other benefits.
In this article, we’ll explain the basics of cross-channel marketing and shed some light on multi-channel vs omni-channel approaches.
We’ll also answer some frequently asked questions like, What are the different types of marketing channels?
Finally, we’ll discuss some benefits of multi-channel marketing.
What is cross-channel marketing?
As marketers are well aware, customers engage with brands in multiple ways before making a purchase.
In the research phase, they may browse digital or physical catalogues.
They may read product reviews and compare brands. And as they get closer to a purchasing decision, they may head into a physical store.
This is called the customer journey. In it, the customer uses multiple channels.
Therefore, cross-channel marketing seeks to reach customers at multiple channels.
A long and windy road
But in 2021, the customer journey looks different from how it did just five or ten years ago.
Today’s customer journey is far less linear, as customers may browse products on social media, head into physical stores, and then go back online to complete their purchases.
Your cross-channel marketing needs to understand your unique customer journey to be successful – and that journey often takes a non-linear appearance.
Another important thing to understand about customers in 2021 is that they expect a higher-than-ever level of personalisation.
Customers use ad blockers, and they’re basically desensitised to those ads that they can’t block out with browser extensions.
The only way to reach customers is by creating messaging, marketing and content that is relevant.
In support of this point, research by Accenture has revealed that 91% of consumers are more likely to shop with brands who provide relevant offers and recommendations.
Not only are customers “blind” to irrelevant messaging, but they also trust and prefer brands who seem to understand and care about them personally.
Personalisation is the new marketing buzzword. And for good reason.
Personalisation includes tracking online behaviours such as website visits and abandoned carts to deliver relevant advertising.
It can include personalised email marketing that nurtures leads by offering useful and entertaining content.
It can include audience segmentation based on detailed demographics.
What are the different types of marketing channels?
There are almost endless types of marketing channels, but we’ll do our best to identify the main groupings.
Keep in mind that the term “channel” is used loosely to refer to the various means of marketing to your customers.
When talking about social media, “channel” is sometimes, but not always, synonym with “platform”.
- Representatives at stalls
- Talks and presentations
The use of promotional or informative emails.
Influencer and affiliate
The use of “influencers” like celebrities or local/industry experts to promote products or brands.
Social media marketing
- Posts, tweets, stories
- Discussion groups
- Pay-per-click advertising
- Google ads
- Banner ads
Cross-channel vs multi-channel vs omni-channel
These three terms have been defined differently by various organisations.
According to Shopify, multi-channel is the use of several channels, treating each one as a separate silo.
Shopify defines omni-channel as a multi-channel approach which creates a cohesive customer experience across all channels.
By contrast, HubSpot uses the terms “omni-channel” and “multi-channel” interchangeably, but says that both of these approaches lack cohesion and unity, where each channel has its own goals and metrics that are never consolidated with the others.
According to HubSpot’s definition, cross-channel marketing is the optimal, holistic approach.
It doesn’t matter which terms you use and how you define them. The important thing is that you acknowledge that you can’t treat each channel as a silo, where the left-hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.
You must have a digital content strategy that integrates all channels and metrics to create a seamless customer journey and measures ROI.
In a unified cross-channel approach, you prioritise your customer experience.
You understand your unique customer journey with its multiple touchpoints and their nonlinear structure.
Your channels work in tandem to deliver relevant, engaging and effective messaging.
Now that you have a handle on the basics of cross-channel marketing, it’s time to look at why this approach is so important and beneficial in 2021.
Benefits of multi-channel marketing
Increases customer engagement
How many times have you deleted a promotional email because it was addressed to “Dear customer”?
How about abandoning a cart because the website was not mobile friendly?
Maybe you’ve sighed frustratedly at banners advertising a product you bought 3 months ago?
A poor and fragmented cross-channel approach is not going to achieve your desired actions such as clicks, likes, shares or purchases.
Instead, it’s going to put customers off and be a waste of money.
Now imagine noticing and clicking on relevant ads, reading useful emails, and progressing through check-out on your device without a hitch.
A cross-channel digital marketing strategy allows you to increase your customer engagement by providing them with relevant, timely and personalised content.
Increase brand loyalty
Think back to the annoying experiences described above.
What is your impression of this imaginary brand?
Does it strike you as trustworthy or authentic?
Does it seem to care about your precious time, let alone your wants and needs?
Your answer in all instances is probably going to be No.
Instead, by creating a seamless experience for your customer, you can create a positive and lasting relationship.
You increase engagement, sales, and even brand loyalty.
Measure and Maximise ROI
Maximising your return-on-investment is hard to do—sometimes impossible—without measuring results.
That’s why you should measure metrics across all channels, like engagement for social media, open rates for email, clicks for ads, and purchases for websites.
By measuring, you can then test and tweak your strategy—your content, audiences, timing and more—until you get the best results.
But measuring metrics on independent channels is not going to do you much good if you have a customer journey across multiple channels.
Cross-channel marketing allows you to integrate and interpret metrics from multiple channels to improve your customer journey and maximise your ROI.
How to perfect your cross-channel strategy
By now, you have some understanding of how multichannel or cross-channel marketing works and the enormous benefits it offers your brand.
Now let’s take a look at some tips to improve the cohesion and effectiveness of your cross-channel approach.
While personas are an older digital marketing method, they’re still extremely useful.
They are the best way to understand your audience(s) and plot out the customer journey with its various, nonlinear touchpoints.
Establish the following details about your personas:
- Job title
- Family size
- Pain Points
You will probably have more than one audience, so it’s important to have more than one persona.
Give your personas names and faces to humanise them while you work on developing your strategy.
Get a customer relationship manager (CRM)
If you don’t have one already, a CRM will help you collect data about your audiences and your campaigns.
It allows you to view all the metrics and understand how they work together towards your ROI goals.
Using a CRM is the best way to measure a cross-channel marketing strategy.
For example, you can collect data about website visits, social media clicks, email reads etc.
Test, Measure and Tweak
Armed with your audience personas and CRM, you can test your cross-channel marketing and collect data on your trials.
For example, one of your paid advertising channels may not be reaching customers as well as you’d hoped, leading you to reinvest that portion of your budget into a better channel.
Another way to test, measure and tweak is by conducting split tests. In these, you can test two types of content (ads, images, emails etc) while keeping all other variables (channel, audiences, time of day, etc) static.
Once you’d discovered which content works best, use only the superior content or retest to improve it again.
A cross-channel focus for 2021
It doesn’t matter whether you call it cross-channel, multi-channel or omni-channel marketing.
What matters is that your digital content strategy for 2021 should use multiple channels that are relevant to your brand and your audience.
Most importantly, these channels should work together, not against each other, to deliver a seamless customer experience.
By understanding your customer journey, your brand can deliver personalised marketing that gets noticed, that doesn’t annoy customers with its irrelevancy.
In this way, cross-channel marketing can create lasting relationships with your audience that improve engagement, sales, brand loyalty and ultimately ROI.