The traditional boundary between chief marketing officers (CMOs) and chief information officers (CIOs) is blurring as marketing and technology increasingly overlap. One area where better alignment can transform a business is improving customer engagement. An increasingly important way of achieving this is through effective multichannel communications – producing and delivering consistent and personalised messages across mobile, online, social and print channels.
Clear and relevant customer communications are critical to building trust and long-term customer relationships. Today’s digitally empowered consumers expect consistent and relevant communication, regardless of the medium used. However organisations can struggle to co-ordinate communications across the multitude of channels available.
In many cases different marketing and IT stakeholders create and manage print and digital communications, using multiple disparate systems. This means that many businesses may lack a commercial perspective on how integrated printed and digital communications can drive better customer engagement.
This siloed approach leads to ineffective communications characterised by poor brand consistency, higher customer care costs, compliance issues and, ultimately customer dissatisfaction and attrition. For instance, today’s savvy consumers are more likely to purchase from retailers that personalise across channels and many will disconnect from a brand if they perceive its message to be irrelevant. In a recent CMO Council study, more than 90% of consumers polled admitted they had unsubscribed from brand communications because the message was irrelevant to them.
Examples of personalised and relevant communications include:
- cross-media campaigns that convey a consistent, personalised message across media such as postcards, emails, web and video
- personalised offers based on purchasing history designed to re-engage previous customers
- and even bank statements including messages tailored to the customer’s banking habits or financial investments.
So how does print fit into the marketing mix? Certainly, the ubiquity of mobile and online communications means that print now has to fight harder to retain its place. However, the tangibility of print gives it a unique power to engage and, when integrated with online channels, can be an effective element of multichannel communications.
Printed communications can be made dynamic and interactive through the use of QR codes, pURLs (personal URLs) or augmented reality (AR), driving customers to online and mobile channels. For example, adding a pURL to a statement or invoice to cross-sell other financial services or products.
One approach to integrating print and online communications is through a customer communications management (CCM) platform. By leveraging existing customer data, a CCM platform makes it possible to create, manage and track communications consistently across each channel. Key components of a CCM platform include:
- data integration – data access tools can be used for customer segmentation and marketing campaign analysis
- document composition – content for a wide range of document types, for example letters, direct mail and statements, can be designed for delivery via paper, email, SMS or online channels
- campaign management – marketing messages can be customised and co-ordinated across print and online channels, using business rules and predictive analytics to define target customer profiles.
Cross-media services that utilise CCM products are available from providers including Canon, HP, Pitney Bowes, Ricoh and Xerox.
Personalisation goes hand-in-hand with analysis of the big data captured through all customer interactions, including online purchase data, click-through rates, social media interactions and geo-location data.
By combining insight derived from big data with an integrated marketing strategy, organisations can develop the marketing nirvana of a 360 degree view of their customers. This helps to drive better engagement with customers, improves customer retention and loyalty and makes it easier to optimise marketing spend across multiple communication channels.
As marketing becomes more technology-driven and IT becomes more commercial, the future of effective integrated multichannel communications will rely on bridging the CMO/CIO divide. Print needs to remain part of the communications mix but it must be integrated and relevant. The key is to avoid a disjointed approach to print and digital communications and to use print to complement and re-enforce online communications.
CMOs and CIOs must both share the same strategic goal to be revenue generators, not cost centres. Similarly, print should be viewed not as a sunset technology that should be avoided at all costs, but as a potential generator of new revenue that can complement and integrate with online channels.
Organisations may feel unprepared for the integration of print and digital, but a CCM infrastructure is capable of supporting a consistent and dynamic interaction with every customer across every channel.