2takingMultichannel marketing generally refers to the approach marketers adopted to manage and optimize customer engagement across the burgeoning landscape of customer touch-points. In late 2011, Sitecore commissioned Forrester Consulting to research current and planned practices in multichannel marketing and published the results in May 2012, titled The Multichannel Maturity Mandate.

Forrester’s research found proven results that marketers who have adopted multichannel marketing practices have realized significant business benefits, ranging from improved campaign performance to higher return on marketing investment (ROMI). In addition, the study emphasizes that there are still opportunities for improvements through better organizational alignment, process definition, and technology integration.

With the Web and social media being virtually part of everyone’s daily life, buyers have more choices and more opinions to consider – and consequently control the buying process more than ever before.

As there is de facto still no standard definition of multichannel marketing, Forrester came up with the smart idea to explore the practice of multichannel marketing that helped them to identify four key levels or characteristics (see figure below) which gave the following insights:


The four levels are:

  • Channel entropy: Non-integrated channel operations are the baseline of the multichannel maturity model. Marketers in this category independently manage customer interactions within each channel. They may have multiple teams executing programs in the same channel. The business logic behind the customer engagement strategy is different in each channel. Companies operating at this stage maintain independent channel-specific data stores. No true cross-channel capabilities exist across the enterprise. Only 5% of the respondents in the survey fell into this category.
  • Channel independence: Managed channel operation is the mode in the next stage in the maturity model. Marketers in this category still manage customer engagement independently within each channel. However, they have integrated the teams executing programs in the same channel. The lack of process and technology integration, the study discovered, leads to the conclusion that more than 50% of the respondents in the commissioned Forrester survey, who characterized themselves as “mature” multichannel practitioners, fell into this category.
  • Multichannel integration: The third stage of maturity characterizes integrated, cross-channel visibility. Marketers operating at this level have a single view of customer data, interactions, and transactions across multiple channels, in near real time. The integrated view of the customer’s multichannel interactions enables marketers to execute cross-channel campaigns and to analyze the results. However, this integration is at the data level, not the process level. Customers can, and usually do, have different experiences in different channels.
  • Multichannel engagement: Holistic cross-channel customer engagement is the practice of the most mature multichannel marketers. Marketers operating at this level have a single view of customer data, interactions, and transactions across multiple channels. Processes are consistent across channel and user interfaces. Customer engagement in each channel is aware and informed by offers and interactions in other channels. Customers expect and receive consistent, reliable interactions with the company.

As seen, Forrester’s Multichannel Maturity Model gives indeed a great definition of the issue and the whole report highlights interesting key findings, such as:

  1. Marketers have accepted multichannel marketing as common practice and are familiar with its concepts and practices: 40% of the respondents assessed themselves as mature practitioners of multichannel marketing, another 40% were in transition, and only 5% had no plans to implement multichannel marketing at all.
  2. Perceived skills gap impedes multichannel marketing efforts: Respondents who were not practicing multichannel marketing had high perceptions of the potential value. When asked why not moving toward an integrated multichannel marketing strategy, the responses pointed toward a lack of knowledge and skills, as well as a dependence on external marketing services partners.
  3. Mature practitioners of multichannel marketing have realized significant business gains, as they benefit tactically and strategically.
  4. Mature practitioners have significantly different practices in handling multichannel marketing: They are more likely to be aggressive adopters of technology, more inclined to work in close partnership with IT, and collaborate more with sales on setting goals and executing programs.
  5. Even the most mature multichannel marketers have opportunity to improve, since disjointed marketing processes still seem to be the norm. Further process integration, supported by newer technologies, offers significant opportunity to drive incremental benefit from multichannel marketing efforts.

Since most of Asian e-Marketing readers are most probably mature multichannel marketers, we want to take a closer look at point four and the different approaches of multichannel practitioners.

The research revealed, for instance, that they:

  • Collaboratively engage with sales: Mature multichannel marketers have a higher recognized contribution to pipeline and higher revenue attribution than other marketers. So, it’s not surprising that they also indicated better collaboration with their sales colleagues. The enhanced interaction ranges from executing field programs to working, jointly, on collateral and messaging.
  • Aggressively adopt technology: 64% of mature multichannel marketers reported that they are at the forefront of technology adoption, versus only 42% for the average company. A scant 14% said that they are in-synch or lag the wider market, versus 22% for the average.
  • Align with IT: 56% of mature multichannel marketers reported an “excellent” relationship with IT, and characterized the relationship as one in which IT understands their requirements. Only 28% of the marketers who said that they were interested or planning more multichannel investment reported an “excellent” relationship.

Of course there is always space for improvement as even the most mature practitioners struggle to support integrated customer interactions across multiple channels. The research shows that many challenges still remain, such as the fact that processes are only loosely integrated, or customer experience is still largely managed across organizational silos. Indeed there are just too often organizational silos that are pestering firms - be it regarding the organization of personnel, customer data, and marketing technology within individual lines of business or channels. It all makes customer experience just more complex, disjointed, and fragmented. I highly recommend reading The Multichannel Maturity Mandate in more detail.

By Daniela La Marca