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ARTICLE

Four Ways to Create a Unified Customer Experience in a Post-Channel World

February 1, 2017 — by Joanna O'Connell

This byline originally appeared on Marketing Tech.

Every marketer knows the route to true consumer engagement no longer runs along a single path. An explosion of innovative technologies, channels, and formats has created a complex, connected ecosystem where interactions are fragmented and unrestricted. Keeping up with the needs and wants of today’s consumers through the delivery of timely, relevant marketing communications requires marketers to convert ever-expanding streams of user data into actionable strategies.

Yet by setting their sights on ‘multi-channel’ communication as an end goal, digital marketers are trying to solve the wrong problem. With so much focus on splitting campaigns across channels, most have failed to notice we have now entered a new world where, for consumers, there are no borders. In this post-channel world, the customer is at the epicenter of all activity and campaigns are not just about maintaining a broad brand presence, but also providing a unified experience that offers plenty of opportunities for cross-selling, up-selling, and boosting loyalty.

So the question is: how can marketers ensure their communications strategies live up to the requirements of a seamless and consumer-centric post-channel age?

What the new world looks like

The idea of an integrated consumer experience isn’t new, but until now typical campaigns have viewed each touchpoint as a progressive step in a journey that still flows through the traditional purchase funnel. In the post-channel world the traditional funnel no longer exists. The route individuals take follows the path of their choice, which means marketers must build seamless campaigns capable of accommodating their needs. How and where a consumer has chosen to interact with a brand doesn’t really matter; effective marketing is now about providing a cohesive and unique experience, regardless of touchpoint, at the right moment and in the right place. It is not enough for retailers to ensure shoppers are delighted in store, for instance, they also need to deliver positive interactions online to keep the consumer happy.

Marketing has come a long way since the days when each channel had its own campaign, but in categorising communication methods such as digital, in-store, social, and mobile as separate entities, the industry is still restricting itself to thinking, and often by extension, operating in silos. It is vital for marketers to break down the barriers to unification by creating a holistic picture of consumer activity using a combination of unified, holistic data and smart tech that takes them from “multi-channel” to “omnichannel”.

How can this be achieved? By following these four steps:

Step 1: Take an integrated data approach: As connected devices become more commonplace, myriad new solutions have emerged to help marketers collate, sort, filter, segment and analyse data from every channel, yet most operate independently – whether in different tools or managed by different departments—leaving marketers with multiple streams of disconnected audience information.

Marketers require interoperable solutions that can integrate a range of consumer data types from numerous sources and create a centralised, actionable view of the consumer. Armed with this data, they can adjust campaign messaging and targeting to align with fluctuations in audience needs, interests, preferences and purchase states.

Step 2: Use unified data for holistic execution: If the first step is to integrate data, the second must be to use that integrated data in a single omnichannel platform to allow integrated execution and seamless workflow across all addressable channels. The post-channel world requires holistic, coordinated, efficient media buying and optimisation, enabling the brand to move fluidly throughout the digital universe to engage consumers wherever (and whenever) they are. It is also important to recognise that cookies—the standard bearer of digital targeting and measurement—are not equal to consumers (think cookie deletion, environments where cookies don’t exist, like apps; cross device usage and more).

It’s critical to couple an identity management system that resolves to the individual level with your omnichannel execution. A system that can manage an all-encompassing media strategy within a single user interface, delivering integrated workflows, execution, and reporting across all channels with a foundation of identity as the consumer level becomes a must in a post-channel world.

Step 3: Incorporate machine learning and predictive analytics: Using integrated data, coupled with omnichannel execution, marketers can instantly identify pockets of strong performance, areas for improvement, and patterns in user behaviour that they can draw upon to enhance future messaging and delivery. But that’s not all. Platforms with self-optimising capabilities can also build a comprehensive view of each consumer that—over time—allows them to predict what those consumers are likely to want and when.

Armed with this information, marketers can run personalised campaigns that reach consumers at the most opportune moment and feature items of real interest. Using an omnichannel platform enables machine-based learning across addressable channels allowing marketers to optimise more intelligently, in line with their business goals, at the consumer level.

Step 4: Adopt cross-channel attribution: Most marketers understand that last-touch measurement approaches are suboptimal: consumers don’t simply make a purchase decision as a result of a single interaction, such as seeing a paid search ad. And yet, few have adopted an effective solution to this problem. Lack of executive buy-in, confusion over methodology, and lack of actionable insights are all common challenges marketers cite.

Yet in the post-channel world the organisations who want to win long term must embrace a multi-faceted attribution model with the capacity to track activity on a variety of channels and combine the resulting insight to produce a cohesive understanding of performance. This leads to better budgeting decisions, smarter messaging strategies, better performance, and happier consumers.

In an industry characterised by constant progression, it should come as no surprise that a new trend begins to emerge just as marketers are adjusting to yesterday’s innovation. As we enter the post-channel world a shift in perception and a move towards a more holistic viewpoint—of the consumer, first, and how a company re-orients itself around the consumer—is required for long-term health. By following the four steps of data integration, holistic execution, machine learning and cross-channel attribution, marketers will find they will begin to tear down the silos by ensuring the experiences they provide are fit for the new world.

Joanna O'Connell

Joanna joins MediaMath from AdExchanger where she was the founding member of the AdExchanger Research practice, developing syndicated primary research in the areas of programmatic advertising and audience targeting, and serving as an expert partner to marketers, agencies, publishers and advertising and marketing technology companies. Prior to AdExchanger, Joanna spent three years at Forrester Research, serving as Principal Analyst. Joanna has more than 15 years of experience in the marketing leadership industry. She started at digital advertising agency Avenue A in New York and was a founding member of Razorfish’s ATOM Systems agency trading desk. More recently, she ran brand relations for the Audience on Demand practice at VivaKi, helping advertising clients target and optimize broad-reaching interactive campaigns. Joanna graduated from Vassar College with a B.A. in psychology. She was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and graduated with departmental and general honors.