Multi-channel marketing: The challenges of broadening your reach
Multi-channel marketing is a strategy that involves both direct and indirect channels to communicate with your audience at every touch point. Multi-channel marketing can offer you a high return on investment, since you’re reaching a large portion of customers instead of those confined to a single channel – and therefore, your profits will grow. We’ve already covered other reasons why we think you should use multi-channel marketing for your e-commerce business, so we wanted to balance it out with a list of some of the challenges of multi-channel marketing for you to ponder.
You’ve been warned. Don’t panic too much, though, as there is always a way to make changes to alleviate any challenges that you might face.
Challenges to multichannel marketing
- Increased marketing costs: Operating on more channels means you’ll need more resources for these channels, including paying for ads and spending time creating the best campaign for every channel. To aid this, you can assess your budget or spending limits per channel and determine your priorities. Some channels may be harder to assess as they require many hours of labour rather than monetary resources. For instance, content marketing can be done internally to save on budget, which detracts at the time spent working on other marketing campaigns. Be careful to not overload yourself or a staff member – it might be wise to choose a handful of relevant channels instead of creating tons of work for yourself on multiple channels.
- You have to do in-depth customer research: Arguably, some would call this a benefit, as you’ll be gaining knowledge. However, if you’re a smaller business,this could take up a lot of valuable time. It’s worth the pay-off, as the insights you’ll gain can help you tailor your campaigns better than without research. You need to know how to use your different channels, which products perform best on which channel and which channels your customers prefer using.
- Multi-channel marketing requires advanced analytics: If you’re using multiple channels to communicate to your customers, it’s more important than ever to track what works and what doesn’t. This can be tricky to do with regards to collecting data and analytics. While it may be possible to figure out on your own, it’s much easier to use an advanced analytics tool or expert analyst to assist you. This could become costly and may not be affordable to new businesses.
- Higher costs for labour and materials: If you’re going global with your multi-channel marketing, you should know that having more products in a lot of places means that you’ll need more suppliers, warehouses, fulfillment staff and higher shipping costs. However, this cost is no different to scaling up, regardless of the marketing strategy used.
- Sales disruptions: It’s possible that opening an online store could take away from an in-store location. You may find that either one of these achieve surges in visitors – meaning that you could see an under-performing venture. It’s more common that visitors prefer the convenience of e-commerce shopping, so in-store visits become fewer and there are less sales. This is known as cannibalisation in business, and refers to sales losses that are caused by a company bringing forth a new product or channel which causes displacement for its older products or channels – and overall market share can decrease. You may choose to curb this by limiting the extent of what you sell in-store and online- for instance, allowing for exclusives in both locations creates a sense of scarcity and provides a new incentive for customers to use both channels instead of preferring one only.
- It’s hard to stay consistent: Working across so many different channels means that it can be difficult to execute a brand message that is consistent, regardless of location. There are many departments or teams working on a single product, so each person involved will need to know their role in broader campaigns. Content should be tailored for every medium and specific audience related to it while still retaining a synchronised message. This is quite difficult to execute well, and will require a fair deal of fine-tuning.
- Customers have different habits: Your product may capture audiences from vastly different demographics. Maybe you appeal to Millennials and Boomers alike. The problem is that these groups value different media incongruently. This means you may need to reach a lot of channels that include a strong brand voice, as well as personalisation for every audience segment. The upside to this is that there’s lot of data and analytics information available for you to best do this.
- You need a specific voice for your brand: Digital marketing doesn’t treat overly ‘salesy’ content well – as consumers are exposed to more ads than ever, they’re also becoming more discerning regarding brands’ tones of voices that work for them. Instead of simply promoting how amazing your product is, you should be talking about the customer and the value you can provide for them, with examples. Your content should address weak points in the customer journey, and aim to forge a relationship with your audience instead of pushing for sales in a monotonous way. Marketing has become incredibly interactive, and you should strive to continually build new customer relationships where your audience feels comfortable talking to you. This could make you stand out
- You shouldn’t fall behind current trends: Multi-channel marketing is amazingly fluid, meaning you need to stay on top of multiple parts of your campaign. Rapidly changing times mean that what might be trending and popular during one week will become outdated next week. You need to stay abreast of current news and trends so that you can leverage any shifts or changes that you notice. If you’re able to make a timely social media post, you can generate positive public attention. But if you’re behind by a week, you may look unprofessional and out of touch with current trends. This is a thin line to tread – so you’ll need to keep your eyes peeled at all times.
- It’s more difficult to manage inventory levels. Now that you’re available on multiple channels, it can be complicated to keep your stock levels updated – as they’re rapidly changing and could be different from one platform to the next. You’ll need to take precautions so that you don’t overstock poorly performing products or oversell products that could have long lead times. Multi-channel software created for this purpose, however expensive it may be, could combat this issue.
- Similarly, it’s harder to control your shipping. When using multi-channel marketing, you should be ready to scale – you’re going to be adding multiple channels to the mix and it won’t be as easy as arranging shipping for your e-commerce site only. You’ll want to get this figured out quickly to avoid missing out on sales and upsetting customers. It’s vital to consider all of your fulfillment and shipping options, including self-fulfillment, third party couriers and dropshippers – at varying price points.
- You’ll need knowledge of different metrics for different channels: Each channel uses differing methods to analyse metrics, and also prioritize different metrics for various reasons. For instance, click-through-rates or CTR on your website are counted in a different manner than your CTR for your email marketing campaigns. You’ll need to understand the different metrics involved, as well as how they work together – as well as which figures you’ll need to look at.
- Are you competing or collaborating? Companies (often unintentionally) divide staff that work on different platforms i.e. online and retail teams. However, it’s possible that these teams can work against each other since they’re both trying to capture the same customer. What your teams should be doing is working in collaboration to improve the customer experience at every level to ensure that you’re forming relationships with loyal customers that keep them coming back to your store. You should find a way to get all teams to work together, clearly outlining protocols and job functions so that both your online and offline channels can work harmoniously in building a base of loyalty customers – as well as boosting your reputation.
As with implementing any new marketing strategy, there are drawbacks involved. The good news is that if you’re aware of potential problems and pain points well before they happen, you have more time to allocate resources that can deal with any issues that may arise.
It’s vital to stay updated on current news and trends in an attempt to keep your business relevant. You may need to use more complex analytics systems, as well as keep your knowledge updated and improved so that you know how to deal with metrics for every channel you use. It might become harder to manage your shipping and inventory levels as you’re spreading yourself further – but it can be done with the appropriate tools or personnel.
It’s a good idea to keep up with your intensive customer research so that you know how they prefer to receive communication and engage with specific channels. This is something that can benefit any e-commerce business, regardless of strategy.
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