Channel Integration Strategies: Building the Ideal Customer Experience
Channel integration is a bit like customer relationship management—for every 10 people who discuss the idea, there are 15 definitions of what it is.
And while integrating your channels generally sounds like a good idea, you may be struggling to define exactly why and how it can work for you.
Channel Integration From Your Customer's Point of View
It's easy to think integrating channels is about connecting all the places you sell your product or service—a Web site, catalog, land-based retail, resellers, etc. But let's look at channel integration from your customer's point of view.
Whether business or consumer, customers are driven by a need to learn about your company, try it out, purchase a product or service, get help or share an idea. And they want to do these things wherever and whenever it's convenient for them. They jump across sales channels on a regular basis. This regular "channel skating" is common—especially for customers who purchased from catalogs before the Internet.
Your business can fall short of meeting your customers' needs if you look only at the integrating offer and sales activity. You also can miss the mark if you assign value to your channels based only on the revenue and profit that's directly tied to each one.
Customers expect you to integrate channels of interaction. They look for a logical experience as they learn, try, buy, get help or share ideas.
The integration of all business processes and the smoothing of pricing or other typical channel "borders" probably feels like a tall order. It is. Even if we share a common definition of channel integration, there still are many ways for a business to approach the challenge.
That's What. Now, How?
Many organizations use one of the following starting points:
1. Integrate Marketing Communications. Businesses that start here focus on ensuring customers experience the same marketing offers and brand message across all channels. Integration activity is focused on spreading the company's brand, key marketing messages and promotions.