Creating an Integrated Multichannel Strategy

By Niti Vaish Print this article Print

Making the new wave of tech tools work in harmony greatly increases their value.

Although mobility and social media have been hot topics of discussion over the past several years, few organizations understand how they can be used together to provide tangible business benefits.

With hundreds of millions of smartphones and tablets in use, it’s not surprising that many organizations are gravitating toward creating mobile device-based applications. The relatively low cost of entry into the mobile device app market has also encouraged organizations to develop a mobile presence.

However, without a holistic understanding of how the apps would integrate into the organization’s business functions and goals, companies are unable to establish or generate a measurable ROI, such as building and sustaining a community or customer relationship, improving customer loyalty, increasing revenue or decreasing cost. Without a clear strategy that defines how to leverage the mobile, social and digital channels to meet business goals, confusing or even conflicting directions can arise within an organization, which will eventually lead to disenchantment with these important communication vehicles.

Before creating their first smartphone application, enlisting fans for a Facebook page or responding to users on Twitter, brands should understand holistically the dependencies among mobile, social and digital channels, as well as the key considerations for each of these channels.

When implemented correctly, an integrated multichannel strategy can provide a 360-degree view of the customer, create a consistent customer experience, and leverage business rules and processes across channels—all of which are imperative to building customer relationships and meeting business objectives.

A “top-down and bottom-up” approach is used to implement the integrated multichannel strategy. The top-down component focuses on interviewing stakeholders to evaluate the maturity of each of these dimensions: the mobile channel, the social channel and various aspects of the digital channel (content management system, user experience, business intelligence and Web analytics, and architecture and search).

By using a maturity model, a company can conduct a gap analysis between the current and desired maturity levels, putting capabilities on a prioritization matrix and finally creating an actionable road map. The bottom-up approach relies on deriving analytics-focused business insights from structured and unstructured data.

Create a Maturity Model: Within an organization, different channels could be at different levels of maturity. However, they all play a critical role in holistically implementing the integrated multichannel strategy.

A maturity model should be created for each of the dimensions mentioned above to clearly evaluate an organization’s current and desired maturity level for that dimension.

• Maturity Level 0, Limited Presence: Organizations at maturity level 0 are characterized by limited mobile, social and digital presence. These channels are not considered core to the business, and the need for a better solution is not acknowledged by the organization.

• Maturity Level 1, Reactive and Experimental: These organizations are characterized by the business reacting to external pressures. The need for improvement is acknowledged, and pilot implementations exist, but overall vision is absent.

• Maturity Level 2, Defined and Repeated: Organizations at maturity level 2 are characterized by mobile, social and digital media being considered core customer interaction channels, and a global vision drives investment in these channels.

• Maturity Level 3, Managed and Measured: Organizations at this maturity level are characterized by a seamlessly integrated channel experience and mobile capabilities that expand beyond implementing the core business capabilities.

• Maturity Level 4, Optimization and Innovation: These organizations are characterized by a rich, dynamic, seamless channel experience in which continuous improvement and optimization become the focus, and capabilities drive deeper efficiencies and innovation.

Create a Prioritization Matrix: Analyzing a brand’s current and desired maturity level is the first step toward performing a gap analysis, which identifies the capabilities that are required to close the gap between current and desired maturity levels. These capabilities are then measured against a prioritization matrix across several dimensions, such as risk, effort, implementation complexity and business impact.

Develop a Road Map: Areas of interest specified on the prioritization matrix serve as input to create an actionable road map that shows project dependencies and estimated time frames for long- and short-term projects, with a focus on incrementally deploying capabilities in the organization.

Derive Analytics-Focused Insights: Analytics-focused business insights provide direction on how to refine the implementation strategy to meet business objectives. These insights can be derived from both structured data (data stored in a structured format such as Web logs or databases) and unstructured data (data collected via comments, reviews and the social channel). With the correct tools, processes and infrastructure in place, this data can be analyzed to draw business insights and to provide real-time predictive analysis.

Niti Vaish is a consultant at Slalom Consulting, and the owner and independent consultant at Blue Saphyre. She has more than 15 years of management and development experience.

This article was originally published on 2011-10-04
Niti Vaish is a consultant at Slalom Consulting, and the owner and independent consultant at Blue Saphyre. She has more than 15 years of management and development experience.
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