One of the amazing things I’m finding about the National Retail Federation’s “BIG Show” is the incredible amount of experience and knowledge walking the halls. There are 10-, 20- and 30-year veterans of the retail world everywhere you turn. Two of those professionals – Office Depot’s Alan Adams and Kerem Tomak from Macys.com – presented a Big !deas session in front of a packed house on Monday afternoon. They discussed one of the hottest topics at this year’s event – cross-channel campaign management.
Using a screen grab from the Pixar movie, Finding Nemo, Adams began by telling the audience the water represents a company’s customer data and the fish represent the various departments that exist.
“The fish in the bags are in the water…but not really,” he said. “Companies that aren’t sharing customer data are just floating like the fish in the bags. We need to take advantage of customer data by sharing it with all the departments, and then use it to swim around the same customer.”
Tomak’s take on the picture had a marketing spin (which I, of course, loved). He said retailers need to think about the various types of campaign events (sales, new product rollout, etc.) and look at the various marketing tactics that drive people to those events, such as email, direct mail and online search. “You achieve the biggest ROI when these tactics are used to expose your customers to your campaigns,” he said. “Otherwise, there’s a big disconnect when your customers arrive at the store expecting to find some correlation with your marketing, only to find there is none.”
The focus on the customer through cross-channel campaign management was a common theme in this session. “Cross-channel campaign management uses a deep understanding of your prospects and customer to deliver the right message, at the right time, at the right offering, through an ever growing list of vehicles that is desired by the individual at any given moment,” Adams said. Amazingly, less than five hands in the audience went up when Adams asked if anyone was having success achieving multi-channel marketing. However, there were lots of nods when asked if they are trying to achieve that goal.
True cross-channel campaign management requires two-way communication with your customers. With so many purchasing options, it requires retailers (and other industries) to understand how customers interact with their brands through multiple touch point, digital and offline, and then to use that insight to build a two-way communication channel, Tomak said.
So how can retailers change how they interact with customers? According to both experts, the key is to organize your structure around the customer experience. Engage how they wish to be engaged, breaking down walls so each interaction is a single interaction with the brand. If a customer can’t get what they are looking for in a short amount of time, they’ll go to a competitor. Adams even half-joked that every customer is just one click away from not being a customer anymore. "That's why it's imperative that customers are at the center of everything we do."
That can be difficult with silos and other political challenges. Tomak concluded the panel discussion with some wise take-home counsel. He said, “We need to be like a conductor of an orchestra and get all the parts playing at the same time to make beautiful music. Marry your marketing with merchandising. Utilize analytics to better understand your customers. Optimize better and focus more.”
Or as Nemo so eloquently exclaimed as he worked with a school of fish to escape a dangerous fishing net, “Just keep swimming!”