Nowadays users interact with your company through many different channels. What might start on the web, might go to mobile and tablet applications, emails, print, radio, social media, by talking to your employees on the phone for customer support, etc., etc.
When users engage with your company through a particular channel, they don’t consider it to be the “email channel” or the “mobile channel” (as you might describe the different touch points internally). They just see it as one of the many interactions that make up their entire user experience with your company.
Cross-channel marketing or multi-channel marketing or omnichannel marketing or whatever term you prefer internally is all about engaging with your customers or leads across every channel and any device you might think of.
The subject itself is something you might have heard about before somewhere. Although you might have thought about it before, or you might already dipped your toes a bit in the water regarding cross-channel user experiences, a lot of companies are still missing out on a lot of opportunities to make it work for their business.
Having a consistent customer experience across different channels increases the brand awareness and helps deliver a higher conversion in the end. But what are the items that a good User Experience design needs to adhere to achieve this? Resmini and Rosati, authors of the book Pervasive Information Architecture, Designing Cross-Channel User Experiences defined seven items to keep in mind when designing a cross-channel experience:
- Customer focused
- Channel Specific
- Anchored within the organisation.
Let’s dive into all seven, so you too can deliver an optimal cross-channel customer experience for your clients!
#1 Customer Focused design
Organisations traditionally think in channels. A lot of times these channels are designed separately and controlled separately. There might be an internal person or group of individuals responsible for TV, for print, for social media, for banners, etc.
A customer or prospect does not think in this way. The experience of a customer with a brand or company is being built with every customer contact, independently from the channels. Important to remember here is that the sum of all these interactions as a whole here is bigger than the individual parts. The challenge here is to design all separate interactions in such a way that they form one seamless experience with the customer. Of course without losing focus on your business objectives.
To start designing your experience in this way, it is essential to start mapping out the customer journey. User research, both quantitative, as well as qualitative, helps you to create well thought of customer buyer personas.
Customer Journey Mapping is a powerful way to define how your customer or prospect is moving through your buyers funnel.
A great tool to use with this is the Customer Journey Sketchboard by Mel Edwards. In her blueprint she maps out the journey across seven dimensions:
- Customer Types
- The Customer Experience phases
- The Customer Journey
- The Specific Touchpoints and Interactions
- The Points of Delight or Opportunities
- The Point of Pain or Service Barriers
- The Emotions of the customers
She uses this sketch board as an analytical tool to map the current process. This then forms the basis to create a blueprint on how to improve the journey. Very powerful!
#2 Consistent customer experience across channels
Trust is one of the most powerful factors for having a healthy and profitable relationship with your customers. As soon as you start to align more channels with each other, making them more consistent, you will make the experience more consistent. A consistent experience in return will bring more trust towards your customers or prospects.
This all comes down to expectations of the customer or prospect. Is the experience you give to your clients the same in your advertising as it is on your website or physical store? This will in return help to bring more consumer trust. This works both ways, though, if by switching channels the customer does not have the same consistent experience this might in return hurt the confidence of the customer and might end up giving a distorted brand image and a lower conversion.
#3 Recognisable brand experience in all channels
Not just the customer experience should be recognisable across different channels, but your branding should be too. The stronger your brand experience across channels, the bigger the impact of your brand with your customers and prospects.
Is your visual brand recognisable across different channels? Your logo, your typography, your colours, your photo style, etc., etc.
Not all contact points with your customer can deliver the full experience, think of a text message or a phone call your clients and prospects are having with your organisation. It ‘s hard to insert your visual brand in here, but as you know, a brand is so much more than just the visual part. In situations like these, your brand experience comes purely from your brand’s tone of voice. Especially this last part seems like a no-brainer, but it is something that is often forgotten. Remember the last time when you were waiting on the phone with a company? Did you hear some generic, no-good, boring waiting music? This is a great opportunity as well. Try personalising this with a message tailored to your business and let people remember you!
For web designers and developers has the arrival of CSS3 and Web Fonts been an important step. Now there is also no holding back anymore to truly make your online experience in line with your brand.
#4 Channel Specific characteristics
Consistency across channels and having a recognisable brand experience does not mean that all channels should be a literal copy of each other. Every channel or device has their particular characteristics and opportunities, target audience, etc. Your design should be an extension of the channel you are using.
While one-click, multi-channel updates may save time and energy, in a social, multi-channel world, relevant engagement is essential. Channels are not created equal — different channels require different strategies. People are responding differently on different places.
This is also true for things like your website. Someone visiting on mobile potentially has a different purpose (finding your address instead of browsing through your catalogue).
Although the overall message should be consistent, adapting it to the quirks and behaviours of individual channels make your message that much more powerful.
#5 Complementary functionalities
The real power of a cross-channel user experience design becomes visible when you use different channels and devices complementary to each other. Think of things you can do on one channel, but you can’t do on another channel.
Having a Facebook page, Google Adwords campaigns and an extensive email strategy does not mean that those channels are working together. You may have created the same message and the same visual branding across channels, but unless those channels are communicating with each other and affecting each other’s activity, it’s a multi-channel campaign, not a cross-channel campaign.
For example, a cross-channel campaign would be when the same Google Adwords and social media adverts are positioned in front of people who have also received an email. The messaging in each would be slightly different, yet complementary, and each channel would benefit from the targeted support of the others.
A study done by the CMO Club showed that 82% of Chief Marketing Officers (CMO’s) couldn’t implement an effective cross-channel marketing strategy. This because of their ability – or lack thereof, to measure their cross-channel marketing experience in the first place.
This incredibly high number shows how vital it is for a larger organisation to be able to do a precise measurement of their cross-channel user experience, and they are right! As soon as there is any visibility on how customers and prospects start to interact with your brand on different channels, it becomes imperative to measure the impact of each channel and the effect it has on your entire marketing campaign. You need to be able to see just what retargeting ads, or what landing pages, or what individual channels have done to engage with your customers, and via which channels and platforms.
Measurement needs to come from several different perspectives for you to be able to get a decent overview of the overall performance. Measuring only one channel, or per individual channel might cause you to boost the spending on one channel, while in reality, you should have boosted another one.
Don’t forget to measure the more “intangible” items like customer service and a number of calls/emails they are getting before and after you started implementing your new cross-channel user experience.
#7 Anchored within the organisation
Measurement is not only vital to see how the campaign is performing, but it also helps secure company buy-in into your cross-channel efforts. As a startup or small business, where it is you running the marketing department it might not feel that important. But with scale comes a different set of stakeholders and different priorities with them.
The bigger the company becomes, the more difficult it is to stay consistent across all different channels. Make sure that all the people in your business are on board, maybe develop an internal best -practices or guide book.
Having the buy-in of everyone within your company makes sure you can get the most out of your cross-channel marketing.
Have you tried your hand at cross-channel marketing yet for your business, or are you thinking about starting to implement a cross-channel marketing strategy for the first time? What are the things holding you back, or the thing you learned along the way? Share them in the comments!