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Glossary Index

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Glossary Index

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Glossary term

Cross-channel marketing

Quick definition

Cross-channel marketing is the ability for brands to connect with their customers on an array of different communication channels such as email, social media, SMS, mobile apps, and more.

Key takeaways


Cross-channel marketing allows brands to reach customers on the most relevant and  preferred channels throughout the customer journey.

Brands should avoid siloing their teams by channels in order to orchestrate campaigns for the most benefit.

Cross-channel marketing can help improve issues with inconsistent messages on different channels and too much or too little contact.

Erin O'Connor is a product marketing manager for Adobe Campaign. She originally started at Adobe in sales for Adobe Experience Cloud, and then moved into a product marketing role. On the Adobe Campaign team, Erin works on a range of projects, from Adobe Summit to win-loss analysis to sales plays, competitive intelligence, and enablement.

Q: What is cross-channel marketing?

A: Cross-channel marketing allows marketers to reach customers across different channels, including email, web, mobile, apps, SMS, call center, in store, and direct mail. The purpose of cross-channel marketing is not only to acquire new customers, but to continue the conversation with customers across the channels they use throughout all customer life-cycle stages — all the way from acquisition to loyalty and retention. Marketers need to ensure they can create cross-channel experiences that are relevant to where the customer is in the buying stage.

Q: What is the difference between cross-channel marketing and multichannel marketing?

A: Cross-channel marketing connects experiences on different channels across a singular campaign. For example, if you created an online account with a brand, the next step in a cross-channel marketing strategy might be to send you an email. The goal of the campaign would be to make your onboarding experience more successful. 

Multichannel marketing is more general and less connected. A company uses multiple channels to interact with their customers, but they do so across more than one campaign.

Q: How does a company launch a cross-channel marketing campaign?

A: To get started, a marketing team needs to evaluate their technology stack. You often see marketers using decades-old marketing technologies to communicate with their customers. 

For example, there could be a team and a piece of technology that helps marketers send communications via mobile to their customers. And then there is another team and piece of technology that's used to send an email to a customer, and so on. We're seeing that this is an unsuccessful approach, because the marketing messages are often not on brand or they're each communicating different things. And on top of that, the data is all siloed.

The first step is for marketing teams to understand what technology they're using for each channel. And then on top of that, look at all the teams, because there could be a team for email, a team for mobile, a team for direct mail — internal teams often aren't talking to each other.

Companies need to evaluate how they think about their customer data. A customer might respond better to a direct mail campaign than an email campaign, but they keep receiving emails. If a company’s technology is siloed, they won’t know that the customer prefers direct mail. Marketers need to understand where their customers are in the journey, and not only who they are, but also what channels they're using. What channel should a marketer use to target a customer segment that will get the highest rate of conversion?

Companies should approach cross-channel marketing as a phased approach. They can start by identifying a few channels they would like to improve or focus on. If they want to improve their email campaigns, for example, they can begin by sending email campaigns based on where the customer is in the journey. And once they have that down, and they want to increase their marketing maturity, then they can start adding in additional channels that make the most sense for their consumer base.

Q: What problems can a cross-channel strategy solve?

A: Companies can sometimes send mixed messages to their customers. They may send a 50 percent off coupon one day, then a 20 percent off coupon the next, resulting in the customer having a confusing and chaotic experience. A cross-channel strategy ensures consistency of communication.

In addition to mixed messages with content, the frequency of contact can lead to problems if teams are siloed. If a company can't track how each team is handling customer communications, they could be sending a customer five emails in a week, and then also two SMS messages, which completely makes the customer frustrated with the brand and closer to the unsubscribe button.

Q: How can companies better understand how to reach their customers?

A: Brands need to learn about their customers. They need to not only identify who the customer is and how they interact with the brand, but also their demographic information, where they live, what language they speak. They can track when a customer opened an email or interacted with a text notification, then use that information to figure out patterns.

Q: What are the benefits of cross-channel marketing?

A: Cross-channel marketing allows brands to communicate with their customers on the customers’ preferred channels, and send them personalized offers that are relevant to that individual. Companies have a higher rate of converting their customers if the customer is enjoying the experience.

It also allows companies to create seamless experiences that are relevant to where the customer is in the buying cycle. The marketing message to onboard a new customer is very different compared to the message for a loyal customer who has been around for a while. The story for welcoming a new customer is different from the message used to incentivize a customer to stay and not go to a competitor. A cross-channel campaign allows companies to understand who the customer is and react and respond to them in ways that are the most relevant and meaningful to that customer.

Q: How will cross-channel marketing continue to improve?

A: Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning will be big players in the next wave of cross-channel marketing. We're seeing a lot of AI components being woven into technology offerings. Being able to better predict and respond to customers in real time will be a huge component.

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