Channel IntegrationThe Internet as a sales channel has grown by nearly 15 per cent every year since 2007, so it’s understandable that the web is now a part of the marketing efforts for many companies. However, in my experience as a sales channel specialist, I often observe companies that aren’t getting the most out of their online efforts because they haven’t taken the time to think through how to integrate them and create synergy with all of their offline sales channels.

The Online Sales Channel Cannot Create Its Own Synergy – What’s in Your DNA?

Almost every performance-driven business lists ‘continuous improvement’ as one of its key objectives. Most organizations, however, fail to understand that without a systematic approach to integrating its disparate sales channels, the web’s true potential, not to mention the potential of its offline channels, cannot be realized. Unfortunately, today’s business climate is increasingly unforgiving, and customers are increasingly demanding.

Industry pioneers such as Amazon, Walmart.com and eBay are redefining their online value propositions, and thus, the customer experience.

Consider these three capabilities:

  1. Order online, pick up your selections at the brick-and-mortar location of your choice (a popular Walmart.com offering)
  2. Order today and receive delivery today (offered in selected U.S. cities by both Amazon and eBay)
  3. Shop from increasingly vast assortments of value-priced merchandise in nearly every category (offered by all of the above)

Although technology and an innovative spirit were key factors, it is also important to understand that these initiatives were also the results of a common belief in the Internet as a driver of strategic value. Amazon, Walmart, and eBay do not simply view the web as its own isolated channel. Instead, they understand that when online’s unique strengths are combined—or ‘integrated’—with other channels, the ability to accelerate growth, generate new operational efficiencies, and achieve a stronger competitive position are strengthened.

A Quick How-To Guide

Infusing this mindset into your company’s DNA, however, is no accident. Over the years, I have found five steps that are essential:

1) Develop a clear strategic commitment.

From the top down, it must become clear that channel silos will not be tolerated. Remember, it’s about value creation!

2) Develop a comprehensive list of every sales/communication channel.

If customer communications are to be clear, they must also be consistent. Consider a broad definition of channels and sub-channels such as:

  • Brick-and-mortar retail locations
  • Websites (traditional, mobile, and tablet)
  • Social media
  • Outbound e-mail
  • Direct mail/catalogs
  • Print advertising
  • TV and radio
  • Outdoor and event marketing
  • Telemarketing (inbound/outbound)

3) Define and consider each channel’s unique capabilities and advantages.

Each channel brings distinct advantages to the party. Brick-and-mortar locations allow the customer to physically touch the product, websites provide 24/7 shopping and expanded merchandise selections and social media allows unprecedented interaction, to cite three examples. By building out a comprehensive list, your organization will begin to more fully appreciate each customer touchpoint.

4) Integrate the web into each customer interaction.

Brick-and-mortar locations, for instance, can leverage the web by assisting store customers who could not find a particular item in the store by locating the item online and arranging for delivery. Conversely, channels such as direct mail, print and broadcast media should empower the customer by promoting all retail alternatives whenever possible.

5) Measure synergy and refine as needed.

No strategy will be successful without measurement and multichannel integration is no different. In nearly every case, the most profitable customer is the one who utilizes and is influenced by more than one channel. This can be mapped by tracking each known contact, its financial cost and the resulting sales that are generated.

Channel Integration is a Learning Process

Since the Dotcom Bust of 2000, the Internet’s strategic challenge has shifted from “which channels?” to “how do we create channel synergy?” With careful planning and implementation, your organization, regardless of size, can improve, create and implement strategies that incorporate this essential mindset.

To learn more about competing more effectively in the challenging multichannel environment, please contact Boardroom Metrics.

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