Developing Cross-Channel Vision Staff

Updated · Sep 24, 2001

Brick-and-click companies are starting to face a new breed of client – the cross-channel consumer.

With more offline brands moving web-wards, Forrester Research analysts muse that a new type of consumer is evolving – one that “demands better products at lower prices, higher levels of service in routine business interactions, satisfying experiences, and access to all of these things at any moment via the Web, e-mail, phone, store or kiosk.” Satisfying these picky cross-channel customers is ostensibly no mean feat.

A new report from Forrester entitled Cross-Channel Scenario Design examines the dynamics of dealing with customers that interface with retailers through both their online and offline storefronts. “The surge in cross-channel customers causes unbearable strain on most companies,” they opine, “yet these types of consumer are the most valuable – spending far more than single-channel customers.”

Emerging CRM systems as well as a multitude of new products and service options enable customers to perform a variety of feats that blur the boundaries between offline and online systems. Many customers in the US, for example, can already make use of Internet kiosks in offline stores to shop at a company's web site or call customer service reps while standing at the ticketing counter. “This boundary blurring gives consumers more control, but it leaves organizations struggling to deal with new, seemingly random contact patterns,” notes the report.

Cross-channel consumers also have many expectations. According to Forrester, they demand that their privacy be strictly safeguarded whilst relying on companies to retain details of their past transactions (whether online or off). At the same time, cross-channel consumers want faultless and instant access to a company or its representatives via e-mail, websites, telephones, or kiosks.

“Companies breathlessly try to keep up, but when they succeed, they simply license customers to ask for more,” observe Forrester analysts. They predict that cross-channel shoppers will be intolerant of “missteps between channels” and “make today's customers look like saints!” To deal with finicky cross-channel clients and customers, Forrester recommends extensive customer surveys to determine exactly what their needs are.

Forrester proposes that such research surveys hone in on a company's most profitable and demanding customers. In addition, they suggest that marketing databases, call-centre logs and data-mining tools all be added to the survey mix.

“Customer research should be distilled to create a collective vision of key personas, customer goal descriptions and multi-touchpoint scenario maps,” they advised. “Firms must ensure that each cross-channel interaction leads – directly or indirectly – to online revenue, offline revenue or operational cost savings.” To do this, muse analysts, businesses must develop, define and sell a clear, cross-channel vision.

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