Catalog and Direct Selling: Crossing the Channel
Dos and Donts for Cross-channel Offers
Simply put, a cross-channel offer is a way to entice customers who have made a purchase in one channel (e.g., catalog, retail, Internet) to make a subsequent purchase in a different channel. Why would you want to do this? Analysis continues to prove that cross-channel shoppers are much more profitable than single-channel shoppers.
Since most company operating systems (call center, order entry, marketing database) were developed prior to the information superhighway, marketers have made their share of mistakes pioneering the Internet.
To avoid repeating their mishaps, here are a few do’s and don’ts to consider before you promote your next cross-channel offer.
Do include the fine print—such as the offer’s expiration date and exclusions. When you forget the fine print, customer service is bombarded with questions, complaints and account adjustments (such as that one brilliant customer who wanted to use four 25-percent-off promotions to save 100 percent). The fine print helps customers understand the parameters of the offer you’re making them. It also assists your customer service team when it comes time to address the issues.
Do carefully review the logistics of your program with each channel manager. One of the most common problems with catalogers promoting shopping at retail stores is the quagmire of dollars-off versus percent-off. Most catalog order-entry systems are programmed to capture source codes and to calculate discounts according to the offer. However, when cross-channel promotions entice customers to shop retail, store registers often aren’t equipped to handle marketing efforts that combine source code and offer. This type of nuance often overshadows the entire promotion and significantly reduces the overall effectiveness.
Do make it easy to order. Prominently display the search-box function and quick catalog-order box on your Web site. Catalog customers receiving promotional bind-in cards (or blow-in cards) with a special online order discount often become victims of the ordering process. Since the objective of the promotion is to increase the number of cross-channel shoppers, the target audience usually begins with customers whose previous purchases all were through the catalog channel. But when these customers are ready to switch channels and place their orders online, the Web site home page can overwhelm them. You’ll lose customers if they can’t figure out how to place an order.
Do make sure points program transactions can be downloaded to the catalog channel database. Customers enrolled in frequent-buyer programs, or points programs, typically are very responsive to promotional offers that double or triple their points for a particular type of transaction. It may sound elementary, but if you’re going to offer a bonus for shopping in a certain channel, make sure you can track which channel was used to make a purchase. Under-stating points can occur when the order information for each channel is not integrated, or if the points processor (external vendor or in-house) isn’t working closely with the customer database. Don’t assume the databases are compatible or that each system captures the same data in the same way.
Do use data from both the catalog database and the Internet database to complete a match-back on e-mail address or ship-to address to determine if a catalog customer responded to an e-mail campaign. Sending an e-mail promotion to announce the arrival of the latest catalog, or to remind customers of a special product offer, is a popular e-marketing strategy. Determining the effectiveness of these e-mail efforts can be cumbersome, however, because some customers use a variety of e-mail addresses (work, home, Webmail, etc.). Catalog databases are just beginning to include one or more fields for the customer’s e-mail address.
While the Internet database may store all the e-mail addresses relating to a single customer record, the catalog database might consistently replace the e-mail address field in its database with the most recent address. Thus, customers might place their orders online in response to the campaign, but only because the Internet database was used to e-mail them.
To analyze responses, the catalog team asks the Internet team to provide a match-back of all e-mailed responses. Because separate databases were used—and responses may come from addresses not found in the catalog database—the analysis may indicate an inaccurately poor response. Remember, each system is different, and the Internet database probably is more robust than the catalog database.
Don’t assume technology is too large an expenditure. Traditionally, cross-channel promotions supporting retail include listing the store locations on the Web site and in the catalog. Often, the retail store will use the catalog database to identify ZIP codes in a specific store radius and announce retail promotions and events. Increasing retail traffic, and ultimately revenue, is the goal. One way to quantify the results is to include a coupon for a free gift. This incentive helps retailers determine the effectiveness of the mailing. Find out if the printer can inkjet the customers’ names and addresses (and customer numbers) onto the coupons. Work with your creative team to ensure that the layout can support the requirements of inkjet imaging.
Don’t forget to use every channel to promote and contact the customer. But, respect their opt-in preferences for each channel as well. Remember, customers have choices. Keeping customers loyal requires tapping them on the shoulder with marketing messages.
Cross-channel promotions help keep your company top of mind with customers. But don’t forget, customers don’t see different channels, they see one company. Cross-channel support builds customer relationships for the entire organization.
Gina Valentino is vice president and general manager of J. Schmid & Associates. She can be reached at (913) 236-8988 or firstname.lastname@example.org