Un-silo your channels: using the customer voice in cross-channel marketing

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If you’re a retailer, you can hear the bells on Santa’s sleigh already. The holidays are coming, and over a frenzied 55 days many retailers will make 25 – 40% of their annual sales. The online channel is taking a healthier chunk of those sales – an all-time high of 10% of total retail sales, which translates to $27 billion as of last holiday season. But let’s face it: the bulk of sales – the other $243 billion – are still happening in front of a register, right?

Wrong. They may end in front of the register, but they often start behind the cozy glow of a computer screen. eMarketer found that the internet influences $3.45 of in-store sales for every dollar spent online. And Forrester predicts that more than half of total retail sales will be influenced by the web by 2014.

Customers behave in a channel-agnostic way. They seamlessly move between a retailer’s online store, brick-and-mortar stores, Twitter and Facebook pages, advertisements, and email campaigns. So why do so many retailers’ different channels often act like totally separate mini-companies? Online prices are different from in-store promotions. Sales people give a different message than catalogs. Customers can use gift cards in store but not online or over the phone. There are countless examples.

Making your channels consistent and complementary is the aim of cross-channel marketing. The difference from multi-channel marketing (using many channels to fuel your business) may seem like semantics, but it’s not. Getting an organization to embrace the channel-agnostic viewpoint of a consumer is a big organizational shift – but it’s one that helps capture shopper loyalty.

Here are some inspiring and visual examples of retailers effectively amplifying the voice of their customers across their shopping experiences. Note: click any image to enlarge.

Television – QVC regularly designates top rated products on-air, and now has a show called “Customer Choice” devoted to customer top-rated products, based on reviews collected on their website. You can also go online and immediately see what is playing on air at any time. Genius!

QVC’s “Customer’s Choice” program highlights top-rated products.

Catalogs and Advertising – Browse the L.L.Bean catalog and you’ll see they regularly feature customer favorites from their website.

L.L. Bean features top-rated product in print catalogues.

Twitter – Searching for a gift but are fresh out of ideas? The Container Store regularly tweets new 5-star customer reviews on merchandise most relevant to the buying season. August? You’ll find school items. November? Holiday essentials. All the information is timely and relevant.

The Container Store tweets timely five-star reviews to their Followers.

In-Store Merchandizing – LEGO includes customer reviews on in-store merchandising. No need to call home and ask someone to look up product reviews while you’re standing in front of the shelf.

LEGO’s in-store signage highlights top-rated products.

Mobile – Want to read customer reviews in the store without ever moving away from the product? Text Best Buy SKU numbers from the in-store product tag and they’ll text you back with a quick link to the online product reviews on their mobile site.

Best Buy integrates customer reviews into their mobile retail experience.

These innovative companies prove that there are tons of opportunities to create a cohesive cross-channel shopping experience that includes the customer voice. The mandate is clear – it’s time to un-silo your channels.

Bizzarevoice blog