What is Cross-Channel Messaging?
What is cross-channel messaging?
Cross-channel messaging (also referred to as "cross-channel marketing") has been defined as "the ability for brands to connect with their customers on an array of different communication channels such as email, social media, SMS, mobile apps, and more." Cross-channel marketing can also carry the thought of providing customers with a seamless experience across a combination of several channels.
Why is cross-channel messaging important?
Cross-channel messaging is important because today's average consumer often has multiple interactions with a brand, across different channels, before making a purchase. When a business maintains a consistent presence across those various channels, and consumers can interact with the business in the ways they prefer, the result is often a greater number of prospects in the sales pipeline. Moreover, the prospects already in the pipeline are more likely to progress through the different stages of the sales funnel until they finally buy from the company.
Examples of cross-channel messaging
Cross-channel messaging comes in many forms, most of which are already very familiar to consumers. For example, when people buy an item in an eCommerce store (channel #1), they'll often receive a follow-up email showing related products they may be interested in (channel #2).
Another example is when a consumer receives a text message about a company's latest promotion (channel #1). They may then visit the company's brick-and-mortar location and purchase a product (channel #2). After that interaction is complete, they may receive a thank-you email that includes an online-only discount code (channel #3). Finally, they decide to use the code and buy another product from the company's online store (channel #4).
Benefits of cross-channel messaging
Increased reach and engagement
Cross-channel messaging enables brands to reach a higher percentage of their consumer base. Being active on more channels allows them to reach different demographics, thus broadening their audience.
In addition, cross-channel marketing promotes increased engagement. One study found that when customers receive outreach in two or more channels, their levels of engagement are 166% higher than those who receive outreach in only one channel.
Better customer experience
Cross-channel marketing promotes an overall improvement in customer experience. This is especially true when brands are able to achieve cohesion between online and offline behavior and then personalize their offerings to meet customer needs. For example, some companies help consumers perform online research while they're in the physical store — e.g., by allowing them to scan barcodes that take them to the item's product page on the brand website.
Personalization and segmentation
Interacting with customers across multiple channels empowers brands to personalize their marketing according to each segment's needs and preferences. For example, some leads who sign up for a company's membership plan may only want to receive promotions via email; others may opt-in to receive SMS messages.
Increased sales and revenue
Cross-channel messaging can contribute to increased revenue in several ways. One example would be enhanced brand recognition: when customers see a company's ads across multiple communication mediums, they may view the brand as more trustworthy than competitors that only advertise on one or two channels. They may also keep it top of mind when they make purchasing decisions, resulting in more sales for the company.
Investing in cross-channel marketing, as opposed to single-channel, often leads to a significantly higher return. Companies that are able to target prospects and nurture leads across multiple channels may find that their ad spend is more effective at generating results.
Challenges of cross-channel marketing
Effective cross-channel marketing requires a "single customer view," or a way to collect and centralize data about each customer and manage their experience across the different channels. If customer data is not shared between teams (for example, sales, marketing, and customer service teams), then the customer may have an inconsistent experience from one channel to the next.
Integration and automation
In order to achieve the "single customer view" mentioned above, companies often have to collect data from various sources (e.g., the company website, emails, physical locations, social media, and so forth). It may be challenging to integrate these various systems into a cohesive whole. It also takes technical skills and resources to automate certain interactions, such as developing "smart content" like a dynamic home page that changes depending on user data, user signals, and user browsing history.
Some businesses have organizational silos or teams that are metaphorically walled off from other sections of the company. These siloed teams often work independently of one another, with minimal collaboration. For example, one team may be in charge of email marketing, another in charge of blog content, and yet another in charge of social media posts. The end result could easily be a lack of messaging consistency across all channels.
Measuring and analyzing results
Measuring the results of cross-channel marketing is often a difficult task. It may be hard for marketers to accurately gauge marketing attribution (i.e., how much of a given outcome should be attributed to a specific marketing action). For example, even if only 1% of a display ad's viewers actually click through to the ad's landing page, there could be many times more who remember the ad and eventually visit an in-store location. However, those visits may not be attributed to the original ad.
Keeping up with technology
Developing and maintaining a holistic view of each customer across various channels typically requires the use of digital technology in the form of marketing software, analytics programs, and other tools. If a company's marketing team lacks the technical expertise to navigate these tools, it can hinder the entire cross-channel strategy.
Tips for building successful cross-channel messaging campaigns
Identify your target audience
Companies should segment their target audience according to key characteristics, such as demographics (age, gender, education level), psychographics (fears, goals, motivations), location, and behavior. Clearly defining such customer segments will help brands tailor messaging to what prospects really need and want.
Define your goals
Marketers should have clear, realistic goals in mind for a cross-channel campaign. It is also important to share those goals with all of the company's internal stakeholders, such as sales, customer service, and tech support.
Not all goals have to be ambitious. Many brands create and optimize micro funnels in the early stages of their cross-channel marketing journey. These micro funnels (or small-scale sales and marketing objectives) can help a company spot issues in its broader marketing funnel and make adjustments as needed. One example of a micro funnel would be launching a cart abandonment campaign across several channels (e.g., sending an abandoned cart email, sending a text message, etc.).
Choose your channels
Marketers should list the various channels that are popular among their target consumers. Then, they must decide which channels to focus on. Understanding which channels customers use most frequently can help brands develop effective content and advertising tactics.
Develop a content strategy
Brands have to develop a content strategy that fits their customer personas as well as the channels they are using. Content should be adapted to the funnel stage that each customer is currently in. For example, a Google Search ad would typically be geared towards top-of-funnel (awareness stage) prospects, while social media posts are often designed to generate engagement and aid in customer research (evaluation stage). The ultimate objective of any content strategy should be to move the consumer from one stage of the sales funnel to the next as seamlessly as possible.
Implement and test
Cross-channel messaging requires continuous testing and optimization to remain effective. Many brands take advantage of A/B testing to determine which content types and tactics are most successful with their target customers.
Monitor and analyze results
With clearly defined goals in place, marketers can monitor the results of a cross-channel messaging campaign and analyze how their efforts are contributing to the company's bottom line.
For example, marketers can trace the purchasing path of a typical customer and compile a list of all the interactions they had with the company before finally buying a product. They can then use that data for marketing attribution purposes and determine which channels are most productive and which tactics are most effective.