Moving Past the Multichannel Conversation

By Laura Saati,

One of my favorite movies scenes is in Meet the Parents, when Ben Stiller’s character, kicked out of the compound for the "Jinxie cat switch" and subsequently setting his future in-laws' house on fire, boards a plane to return to Chicago. Arguing with the flight attendant that his bag is not too large to stow in the overhead cabin, he finally clutches the suitcase to his heart and proclaims, “I am finished with the stowing of the bag conversation!” It’s a great line I use sometimes, most recently in a work meeting when the term "multichannel" kept popping up. Eventually I said, out loud, “I am finished with the multichannel conversation!” Here’s what I mean:

How long have we been talking and asking about multichannel? You know the questions. “Do you have a multichannel marketing program?” “Do you know who your multichannel customers are?” “Do you know how much your multichannel customer spends?” We’ve been asking these questions for about as long as we’ve been using words like "relevance" and "1:1" – which is to say, for a really long time. None of these terms is unimportant. But what’s next? What should we really be striving for now?

At its core, "multichannel" means you have more than one channel – to conduct commerce, to communicate with your customer, for them to communicate with you. As a retailer, I could have a brick-and-mortar presence and sell online. Voila – I’m multichannel. I could have an e-mail program and a social strategy. Boom – I’m multichannel. But how integrated am I? As marketers, and sometimes marketing technologists, we spend an awful lot of time creating, and talking about, the next "channel." But with every channel that is created, the customer raises the bar higher and higher, and beats the drum louder and louder for integration.

The expectation has been set, and the intersection of channels is here. Just think about it – shopping is becoming social, and your wallet is going mobile. Tying this data together certainly isn’t easy, but it can definitely be done. And the reward is a loyal customer (read: larger share of wallet) and a more profitable marketing program.

Even some of the most historically offline-focused merchants are starting to make an impact in creating an integrated marketing experience.  For example:

One worldwide home furnishings retailer has taken advantage of the tremendous exposure from their annual direct mail catalog to prominently display a QR code that drives to a site which reinforces their brand message cornerstone of family focused “life improvement.”  With a secondary message of “Made by _” (i.e. The Smith Family), they are also illustrating the importance of a customer’s own personal choice and style. 

This “Made by” empowerment concept drives an integrated marketing program where you can also enroll into their loyalty program online and then pick up your card in store, where you are exposed to products focused specifically for the family.  Each month, loyalty program members can also receive a SMS text message highlighting new family program products and offers.  While each channel serves a specific purpose, there is a common thread that runs through the entire communication stream – which creates an integrated experience for the customer. 

The old edict of creating “the one version of truth” and the “360 degree view of the customer” is more important now than ever. It’s time we get committed to creating and enabling an integrated marketing strategy as we move beyond the multichannel conversation

Laura Saati is VP, Strategic Marketing Services at 89 Degrees (, a marketing solutions provider that uses advanced analytics to drive outstanding results for data intensive marketers.  Laura can be contacted at

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