Customers Demand Cross Channel Conversations. Here’s How Brands Can Deliver

Personal Branding
Cross Channel Conversations

Nine in 10 customers expect brands to provide a seamless experience across channels and devices, according to the New Jersey Institute of Technology.  Right now, nearly 90 percent of customers think companies are failing at this endeavor. So how can brands send the right message, to the right person, on the right channel, at the right moment? This is the holy grail of Customer Experience Management (CXM) and a business imperative.

Companies that want to survive in the coming decades won’t make it by focusing on a single channel. In order to thrive in the coming decades, brands must put customer experiences at the heart of their marketing strategy — across every channel — and that’s obvious now.

How to Deliver on Cross Channel Conversations

Part of the problem is solutions on the market today focus on one channel – like email or mobile. That’s not bad, in fact, ten years ago that was a correct strategy. But what we are seeing with recent enterprise acquisitions is that the entire paradigm is shifting away from specific tools to clouds-based systems that allow data to inform and execute everything along the customer journey.

Google has some catching up to do

It’s rare to think of Google as #3 in any space except for Google Plus but when it comes to the cloud that’s where they are. Recently acquiring business intelligence platform Looker for $2.6 billion is a bold move. It doesn’t sound like a lot in today’s “Monopoly money” mergers and acquisitions space but it’s actually the third largest acquisition in the history of Google putting it on par with YouTube.

It didn’t make the kind of headlines that an acquisition of Lyft or Snapchat would but it’s far more important. And Looker and Google had over 350 customers in common before the mergers it allows them to speed things up quickly.

The downside is that both Salesforce and Adobe have spent considerably more time and resources on this space. As consumers we love the ease and simplicity of Google Suite tools like Gmail, Sheets and Docs but on an enterprise level, you wouldn’t use Google Analytics over something from Salesforce or Adobe because they are too simple.

This acquisition will help Google compete but they’re currently behind. What it really shows most is how important this space is going forward for everyone.

Salesforce is signaling its intent

Today’s leading brands must engage with their customers and prospects through a variety of devices and touchpoints to be competitive. This poses a challenge for marketers who seek to use data and technology to personalize and deliver timely and compelling experiences to people across multiple channels.

When Salesforce acquired ExactTarget in 2013, it did two things. It was a huge win for the city of Indianapolis. Drive through their downtown and a giant Salesforce sign now anchors its downtown tech scene. But it also pushed Salesforce in to the Marketing Cloud race from where they were first a CRM company.

In fact, each company that is now positioned to lead the next decade of enterprise marketing too k a different route. Salesforce through CRM, Google through search, Adobe through creative. Each makes a strong but different appeal.

The problem/opportunity for Salesforce is that search and creative are still relevant. CRM is slowly losing its hold as the needs of the market change. Companies don’t just want to track relationships, they want to use data to automate action items and use that data and insight to convert not just converse.

And this is why Salesforce just bought analytics platform Tableau for $15.3 billion. That’s aggressive but they have to be. ExactTarget was a great solution six years ago. But the landscape changed. Its specificity, single-channel approach, has become a hindrance when every signal in the industry from both consumers and enterprise is that cross-channel will be the only acceptable solution.

Salesforce making its biggest acquisition to date, Google making its third means they are afraid of something happening in the market. That fear comes from Adobe. Their stronghold on the creative side is unquestioned but they have been making strong but subtle moves in the cloud space for the last ten years, inching closer and closer to cross-channel experiences.

If the space had stayed CRM and email-based, Salesforce would be dominating. But this shift toward customer experience has been slow and methodical. Adobe made their first cloud marketing acquisition of Omniture in 2009. They followed up last year by acquiring the fourth-largest marketing cloud company, Marketo and added eCommerce platform Magento which competes with BigCommerce and Shopify.

Customer Expectations for Cross Channel Conversations

London’s Heathrow Airport airport uses information customers provide through WiFi logins, flight reservations, and in-airport purchases to send targeted communications about booking subsequent trips. Heathrow reaches out to customers on the platform they prefer — if a potential traveler likes social media, Heathrow might reach out via Twitter. If someone purchased a handbag at the airport before and is headed to a terminal near a certain store, Heathrow might send a deal on handbags to that person’s cell phone. Operating under a cross-channel model helps Heathrow Airport engage with 6 million customers every month. And when customers enjoy coming to the airport, Heathrow sees a boost in revenue.

Heathrow currently uses Adobe. In isolation no single move the company made has been seen as a game-changer. But putting the pieces together you see where Adobe has been positioning for where they see the next evolution of marketing. If you’re looking for cross-channel experiences they are now the only cloud solution that offers creative, analytics, eCommerce, B2B marketing automation and programmatic ad buying.

And while we steer perhaps away from programmatic ads toward eCommerce and targeted personalized messages that appear in your social feeds, this still feels like the best positioned company at the moment.

But that moment can change quickly. More acquisitions will be made. Consumer habits will change. We are due for a change similar to the smartphone in 2007 that disrupts the entire landscape. For now, pay attention to the data and cloud space. Email and CRM will fade. Mobile and CXM are on the rise. And the real battle will be fought over which company can automate data the best and turn that data in to action.