Josh Cragg, e-commerce and marketing manager at North Beach, distinguishes between multi-channel as a sales mechanism in retail versus multi-media, which covers the way retailers communicate.
“Both are ever growing and need to be factored into a business strategy,” he says. “Businesses should try to achieve an interconnected system that runs in the background and supports marketing and customer service goals across the increasing number of media.”
The question, according to Cragg, is how to connect with customers in a seamless and frictionless way and to ensure a consistent brand experience across all media.
“An online strategy is necessary as part of a business strategy; a whole technology to provide benefit to all other aspects of the business and to offer better efficiency and availability as well as integrated online shopping and value add to the customer and brand,” says Cragg.
“The internet of everything is fast becoming an accepted reality and its varied connectivity reconfigures the way customers interact with every part of a business and brand.”
He advises that anything a business does should be intuitive and noninvasive from the plethora of tools available for a given purpose. “One of the biggest advantages is an effective integrated online strategy, but with that comes managing tools for connection, ” explains Cragg.
“Customers can choose how to connect with your brand with every screen acting as a channel and medium which can handle increasingly complex applications. Just as quickly expectations for these mediums change, with older mediums falling away quickly. And in conjunction with this, consumers rightly expect the ability to choose exactly when, where and how they connect, without losing any functionality or quality of service, regardless of the medium.”
Cragg stresses that big data is here to stay. It provides insight into customers as never before to enable businesses to give them exactly what they want as everything is trackable and quantifiable.
“Many media are available, accompanied by security challenges as well as the necessity to speedily integrate with platforms that are constantly updating. If businesses don’t update, they will speedily be left behind.”
Customers increasingly cannot be expected to call a customer service number but instead will access sales support via online chat, social media, kiosks, or smart devices.
To cope with these changes, Cragg advises retailers to dream big and to focus on what matters. “Be customer-centric and find out where, when and how customers want to communicate and be available at the exact time and place a customer is prepared to purchase. Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Twitter for example could or could not be relevant to a brand and spreading too thin across too many platforms is a definite no no,” says Cragg.
“Best of all is that the correct approach and content can reach customers for next to nothing.”
According to Cragg, the majority of customers interact with Facebook. “Here brands can have an authentic presence and be a friend on the internet through engaging with content and being cool and informative,” he says.
“Businesses can back customers’ brands and in return customers will back their brands and become repeat purchasers. But be careful to manage the sheer volume of content generated on social media so as to cut through the clutter to get to the eyeballs.”
Cragg explains that brands need to use the 70/20/10 rule; 70 per cent creative brand, 20 per cent shared content and 10 per cent promotional content.
“Better still, use data to work out what works for your customer,” he adds.
“Instagram has more of focus on being content driven and inspirational rather than pushing anything down a customer’s throat. Apple has been successfully inspiring customers for many years.”
Cragg concludes by pointing out that the internet is here to stay and it will continue to grow a number of channels and mediums. “It provides great opportunities and big challenges so you will need to work smarter and not harder to focus your efforts on what matters!
“You will need to start investing in your social brand and making it the best it can be to generate fans.”