Cross-channel is an essential part of any effective customer engagement strategy. As customer expectations grow and the competition becomes more intense, marketers must move beyond traditional single-channel, batch-and-blast strategies to build campaigns that truly meet the needs of their customers. And that means understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each channel, as well as how they can play together effectively.
What Does Cross-Channel Mean?
Cross-channel means using the ideal mix of channels to reach customers in a complementary, cohesive way. Instead of sending every message via every channel, marketers leveraging a cross-channel approach focus on making the most of each channel’s advantages. Cross-channel campaigns should include a mix of both in-product and out-of-product channels in order to ensure a truly coordinated customer experience.
What Is the Difference Between Cross-Channel, Multi-Channel, and Omni-Channel?
Cross-channel definition: This approach is focused on ensuring that you’re using the ideal mix of channels to reach customers in a complementary, cohesive way, with an eye toward making the most of each channel’s strengths. True cross-channel campaigns include a mix of both in-product and out-of-product channels in order to ensure a truly coordinated customer experience.
Multi-channel definition: This approach uses multiple messaging channels to reach users, not necessarily in a coordinated or optimized way. Technically, any brand that sends messages using more than one channel (think email and push notifications) could be considered to have a multi-channel approach. Multi-channel campaigns are often executed using a one-off approach as opposed to a more coordinated, journey-based approach.
Omni-channel definition: This approach tends to focus on bringing together digital and in-person engagement, and is often used to talk about the vision of communicating with consumers across every available channel. Omni-channel strategies adopt a "more is better" mantra when it comes to channels, rather than looking to find the ideal channel mix for a given audience or situation.
Top 6 Advantages of Cross-Channel
1. Create a more comprehensive and consistent messaging strategy.
2. Branch out beyond paid media and take full advantage of owned channels.
3. Leverage channels in concert to amplify the reach of each individual campaign.
4. Tap messaging channels that do not require an explicit opt-in from customers.
5. Break down silos between:
Email marketing and mobile marketing, enabling the teams overseeing these channels to create a consistent journey, share learnings, and co-create best practices.
Marketing and product and engineering, allowing these functional areas to leverage in-product channels backed by a full suite of marketing automation tools that an in-house build would likely never include.
Marketing and data science, so that cross-channel experiences are developed and deployed using machine learning–driven targeting and product recommendation algorithms.
6. Deliver measurable results, across industries:
The Cross-Channel Difference
When 90% of consumers today want a seamless experience across different devices and platforms, leveraging a cross-channel marketing approach is a must for modern brands. However, truly successful cross-channel messaging doesn’t mean using every channel out there to spam your customers. So how do you find the right mix of channels to deliver brilliant experiences?
What Are Best Practices for a Cross-Channel Strategy?
#1: Always consider the full customer journey. Cross-channel is inherently tied to a customer journey, as opposed to ad-hoc campaigns. That takes weaving different channels together to create a more cohesive and consistent messaging strategy that maximizes reach, minimizes noise, and is designed to meet the customer’s needs first.
#2: Leverage a mix of in-product and out-of-product channels. Understand the strengths and weaknesses of each channel and keep these in mind as you plan your campaigns. Leaning into the strengths of each channel allows you to be creative and make every message count.
Out-of-product channels include: Email, mobile and web push, and SMS.
Out-of-product channels are great at: Getting customers back onto a website or into an app.
In-product channels are great at: Guiding users deeper into an app or web experience, reaching engaged customers who aren’t opted into an out-of-productchannel, and encouraging customers to opt-in to those out-of-product channels.
Using both maximizes the total reach of a campaign but also can help to extend the subscriber list of each out-of-product channel, too.
#3: Keep messaging consistent, but not exactly the same. Since some users may receive the same campaign via multiple channels, you don’t want to get repetitive. Plus, each channel will likely benefit from different creative treatments in terms of imagery, colors, emojis, copy length, and more. Ensuring the message for each channel is aligned without being repetitive will go a long way toward generating engagement.
#4: Think beyond messaging. Cross-channel isn’t just about sending messages. It’s also about all of the peripheral tools and tech that make those messages meaningful and impactful. Cross-channel journeys must be powered with AI, regular experimentation via A/B testing, dynamic personalization based on user behaviors and attributes, and comprehensive reports that help marketers understand what is working or not as they continue to optimize.
Test and learn, always. The channel mix that works for new users may not be the same as engaged or dormant users. There may also be regional differences, too. Slowly experimenting and optimizing toward each audience at each stage of the customer lifecycle will help you discover these nuances. Don’t expect to get it right on your first try!
#5: Understand your audience and performance. Closely track the reach of each channel to understand how you may need to weave them together to engage different segments and achieve different campaign goals. As your audience changes, your channel mix may need to as well. Keeping an eye on both of these areas will ensure your campaigns don’t start to become stale, or worse, irrelevant.
#6: Prioritize cross-functional alignment. The best cross-channel campaigns involve multiple teams working together toward a common goal.
#7: Invest in the right technology. Introducing more channels can also add complexity, which is why marketers need solutions that help teams—both creative and technical—save time and scale powerful cross-channel campaigns faster.
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Forrester recognized Braze as a leader in cross-channel campaign management, awarding our technology platform the highest scores in the Strategy and Market Presence categories.
As part of The Forrester Wave™: Cross-Channel Campaign Management (Independent Platforms), Q3 2021 report, Forrester evaluated 13 cross-channel campaign management solutions across 30 key criteria, with Braze earning the highest possible scores in 12 of these areas, including product vision, performance, and more.