How To Implement a Cross-Channel Strategy

In order to cope with new consumer shopping habits, many online retailers and professionals have adopted cross-channel strategies to facilitate and improve the purchase experience. When executed well, a cross-channel strategy will erase the barriers that exist between e-commerce and physical commerce by blending a variety of communication channels into one single, fluid process.

This article will introduce you to the basics of cross-channel marketing and outline the steps to creating an effective cross-channel strategy.

At its most basic level, a cross-channel strategy allows a company to guide and support its customers throughout the different stages of the buying process. This type of strategy exists to better the synergy between purchasing outlets (whether it be online or in a physical store) as well as facilitate the communication channels between a business and its customers.

By adopting a cross-channel strategy, an online retailer opens all possible communication and promotional channels to its consumer, ultimately creating a link between the virtual and in-store purchasing experience. E-commerce sites that present products with attractive imagery and reliable information are more likely to draw customers into a company's physical stores for further exploration. Regardless of where a consumer makes their final purchase, the use of complementary channels will enhance a consumer's shopping experience and their overall satisfaction. Customer habits have evolved over the recent years. Consumers are more informed than ever, thanks to specialized blogs, social networks, forums, and price comparison sites, and this awareness can often be a hurdle for businesses. Companies often struggle to compete with competitor pricing or overcome poor online product reviews. In addition, with consumer trends indicating an increase in mobile or tablet purchasing, poor in-store performance can also be detrimental to a company's overall profits.

With all of these factors in mind, mastering cross-channel promotion is quickly becoming necessary for the survival of a business. Implementation of a cross-channel strategy is not without its challenges, but when successful, it will create a slew of new opportunities. A cross-channel marketing strategy must promote web-to-store behavior. This behavior is comprised of every step in the purchase process from a customer's first glimpse of a product to their final purchase.

When establishing this type of strategy, a company must be sure to address four main criteria: multi-channel presence (i.e. "storefronts" adapted to different market places),mobile adaptation (i.e. availability of a mobile site or dedicated application), social network presence (i.e. show off product and services and interact with customers), and innovation in physical stores (i.e. kiosks or touch screen displays).

At the heart of this cross-channel experience is complete synergy between outlets and parties. In addition to e-commerce outlets, cross-channel promotion strategies should also be deployed to social networks. In addition to serving as an additional means of product promotion, social media presence allows businesses to interact with their customers and build a relationship. If your company isn't already on social media, you can learn more about how to choose the best social channel for your business in our "How To" section. A geofencing strategy uses location technology of mobile phones to define virtual boundaries within a selected area (also known as a geofence). These services can promote the use of geolocation during a visit to a physical store and may also be used to offer deals, coupons, and promotions. These practices can be found at the core of companies such as Yelp and Foursquare.

Learn more about geofencing and how geolocation can help your business by clicking on the links. Kiosks offer complementary digital services to a customer in a physical store. Content proposed by a kiosk can be built around the product catalog of the brand and may include information about a product or service, tips on how to choose the best product for your needs, or even interactive videos. These digital offerings may also prove useful to consumers who are looking for an online experience that mirrors the in-store offering.

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