What is cross-channel marketing?

Cross-channel marketing comes down to engaging with your customers or prospects across every digital channel and any device. From the inbox to social networks, and across laptops, tablets, and smartphones, today’s consumer moves seamlessly and fully expects you to be there with them, providing a truly integrated experience that is:

  • Relevant and personalized to their tastes and preferences
  • Easy to understand, use, and navigate

Connected customer experience

Creating integrated, relevant experiences takes data and understanding. But how exactly does a marketer provide an engaging and seamless customer experience?

Tracking and monitoring the actions and movements of your customers and prospects and compiling important customer data will help you create the experiences that they are expecting.

But which consumers are using what devices and for what activities? What are the repercussions for marketers when they do not know this information? And more importantly, how can this awareness of potential consequences help marketers be smarter, make more educated business decisions, and create improved, informed, and targeted campaigns in the long run?

View this challenge as an opportunity for you (and other marketers) to consider how you are gathering insights across these devices and using them to test or inform marketing campaigns. It’s no longer enough to look at these devices independently; you need to look at the bigger picture and see how these devices are being used in tandem, at different points in the customer journey. This requires the ability to track behavior across devices to understand how consumers use them to browse goods or make a purchase.

Unfortunately, too many marketers rely on guesswork when it comes to tracking. To reach the right individual, at the right time, and with the right content, you need to know how consumers interact with your brand. While the advent of smarter tracking tools holds much promise for the future of orchestrated marketing campaigns, marketers need to delve deeply into the data to learn more about their audience in order to achieve success.

Cross-channel, multichannel, and omnichannel: What are the differences?

When talking or reading about cross-channel marketing, you might have also heard about multichannel and omnichannel marketing. While all three are similar in concept, there are significant differences exist between them. They all involve using more than one channel to reach and engage with customers at any point on the customer journey. However, each works slightly differently than the others.

Multichannel Marketing

As its name implies, multichannel marketing involves using multiple channels to reach customers. These channels can be direct or indirect.

Direct channels might include:

  • In-person or phone sales
  • Emails or texts
  • Online display ads
  • TV or radio

Indirect channels might make use of:

  • Online reviews, news articles, and press releases
  • SEO
  • Referrals and word of mouth

Cross-channel marketing

Cross-channel marketing also employs multiple channels to reach customers, but the key difference is that these channels are all connected to each other. This allows for an easier and more seamless transition from channel to channel. The different channels record information about the customer and communicate this data between each other, which makes them all come together into one, singular customer journey.

What channels should be connected, though?

Some businesses choose to connect only their online channels. Others sync up their online and offline channels such as print, direct mail, billboard advertising, and radio. It all depends on the goals of your marketing campaign, marketing resources, and what channels your customers prefer using.

Omnichannel marketing

You could argue that omnichannel marketing takes cross-channel to another level. It involves multiple channels being interconnected as well as interactive. These channels simultaneously exchange information about customers and come together to create a seamless, comprehensive experience across all channels that allows for maximum engagement.

Which type of marketing should you use—cross-channel, multichannel, or omnichannel? Again, it depends on your resources, needs, and customers.

Cross-channel marketing pros and cons

When considering branching out into cross-channel marketing, keep in mind that there are both benefits and drawbacks to that approach.

Cross-channel benefits

  • Multiple channels generate more visibility. More attention is being brought to your business, brand, services, and products via the various channels. In fact, one channel can increase interest in another. For example, a YouTube video might prompt more visits to your website.
  • You are giving your customers more choices. When interacting with your brand, a customer can choose which channel they prefer or are more comfortable with.
  • You have more customer touchpoints. The more touchpoints you have, the more data you can collect to further optimize your marketing.
  • Consistency of message. Cross-channel marketing gives you the chance to stay consistent across channels and mediums, which helps strengthen your brand and reputation and reduces any confusion for customers.

Cross-channel drawbacks

  • Complexity. There will be many moving parts that you have to sync up and keep track of. Different marketing teams will have to work together to keep campaigns and cross-promotions consistent. Cross-channel marketing might require additional time, costs, and effort, which can mean stretching your budget, putting in extra hours, hiring more team members, and doing what it takes to make it all work.
  • Once you are working with multiple channels, you have to work with multiple channels. You cannot focus on just one medium. These days, customers prefer doing everything online, including making purchases. But is your website going to make more conversions than a salesperson on the phone? You might have a vibrant social media following and community, but how much more energy can you put into that if you also have an email program to worry about?

How do you create a cross-channel marketing campaign

While cross-channel marketing is more complex, it also increases your chance for success by offering your prospects more ways to reach you and connect with your brand. Before starting a cross-channel marketing program, here are a few tips to help you develop a winning strategy.

Break down sales silos

The biggest roadblock to cross-channel marketing success is a silo mentality around the delivery systems and people who run those areas. Silos prevent any marketing organization from providing a true, unadulterated cross-channel marketing experience to customers and prospects.

Cross-channel marketing requires you to take a broader, more holistic view of what your marketing needs to achieve. Different departments will need to work together. This means coordinating cross-promotions from across different mediums and staying consistent with your branding and messaging throughout. Everyone needs to be dedicated to this effort and united in the goal of creating a seamless experience.

Take advantage of multiple touchpoint opportunities

Cross-channel marketing allows you to create a large number and wide variety of customer touchpoints. Seize that chance, as you can collect and compile more customer data to further optimize your marketing. Touchpoints can take multiple forms such as emails, newsletters, surveys, and gated content.

Test your marketing efforts

Send your cross-promotional efforts to half of your audience and see how well it performs. This is called A/B testing. You can see if your audience is responding to the cross-promotions, and if it is making a difference in sales. You can also test to see which elements of the cross-promotion are working—and which are not. You can even test multiple variants (more than just an A version and a B version) with multivariate testing.

Develop insights into your target audience

The data you collect from your touchpoints, testing, and your metrics reveals what engages your audience and what doesn’t. What channels do they prefer? Which do they like to be connected? It will all be there in the numbers. That data will allow you to further personalize and enhance experiences.

Cross-channel content

Your marketing programs will be more cost effective if you have content that can be used on different channels. For example, a blog post can be used on social media and/or repurposed as a technical paper. Email copy can be used in a landing page. A video interview be used in a podcast. Once you know what your audience wants, you can give it to them in multiple forms and mediums. It adds consistency and creates a more seamless experience from channel to channel.

Future of cross-channel marketing

In today’s digital marketplace, you really have no choice but to use multiple channels. You can be sure that your competitors are. Cross-channel marketing enables you to reach more people and build better relationships. And the data is there for you to mine, compile, and use for more insights into your customers. You simply need to get all your teammates aligned and ready to embrace the challenge.