There was a time when gathering customer data was a pretty straightforward process. Take this article, for example. It would have been safe to assume that you were reading this through an Internet browser – the same browser that gathered data on your reading and shopping habits and provided relatively complete information. Many would argue that, for a marketer seeking to acquire customers and keep them engaged, life was a lot easier back then.

Today, however, the landscape is very different. Whilst the universe of channels, touch points, and devices has continually expanded, the browser’s importance has begun to shrink. Brand marketers who won the battle for the browser used to be the big winners, but that has all changed.  Now, the successful brand marketers will be those who move beyond the browser and follow their customers into a cross-channel world.

In a cross-channel world, successful marketing depends on how well marketers are able to capture, integrate, and execute on all of their consumer engagement data. We still read reports stating that the majority of marketers say they’re hampered by inadequate access to data but the problem is not the abundance of data. It’s the absence of a useful framework that allows marketers to gather data from mobile apps, connected TV, CRM systems, point-of-sale, and other offline environments where browsers don’t exist, so they can keep pace with their customers wherever they are.

How do you create that framework?

Let’s start by taking a step back to the days when digital promised to give marketers a more complete picture of consumer behaviours, preferences, and interactions.  It delivered on its promise didn’t it? Fast-forward to today and we find that there are very few marketers that are capturing all of the first-party data available to them across the desktop, mobile, email, in-store, digital media, and call centers. Don’t get me wrong; it is a lot of information and it’s difficult to capture everything. But, without data from each individual customer touchpoint, marketers  don’t really know their customers or have the complete picture of their path to purchase.

The first step to building a true cross-channel framework is to ensure that every customer touch point has data collection capabilities. Fail to do that and you’ll miss valuable information signals – customer’s likes, dislikes, needs, and behaviours – that would have enabled more effective marketing.  

You’re not there yet, however. All the data in the world won’t make your cross-channel marketing a success if you can’t make sense of it. The next step is to connect the data into a single picture of the customer. Social data exists in one silo, mobile data in another and so on. Offline data isn’t connected to online data. Merging and matching the data at the customer level is the second step to creating a cross-channel marketing framework.

As your customers move seamlessly across a variety of touchpoints, they will fall through the cracks if you can’t track them across platforms and toolsets.  If you can link together all of your data sets, you’ll be able to change your marketing mix to better engage customers and increase ROI.  You’ll be more likely to retain those customers. You’ll also be able to create meaningful customer experiences because you will truly know your customer.

The third step to creating a framework for multi-channel marketing is real-time execution everywhere. Having gathered all the data, and unified it into a holistic picture of the customer, you need to be able to act on that information in real-time or none of that work will do you any good.

Don’t just focus on speed 

It’s important to get the scope of the challenge right. After all, it’s nice to serve up a relevant banner ad in real-time, but the goal is to align marketing across all touch points and channels in real-time.

The consumer cycle has changed with the expectations of personalisation and quality of service in interactions with brands. The sales funnel has also changed and marketers need to consider relationships in terms of customer need, not marketing action. Customers today only want to hear from you when it’s convenient to them and when they need something. Get this right at any touch point and you increase loyalty and conversions — and create a better relationship with the customer.