By Simon Martin, Managing Director of Cross-Channel Marketing at Experian Marketing Services

The way brands market to their customers has been transformed in recent years. Marketers can now reach customers via a variety of channels with a tailored approach, as consumers demand a more relevant, personal experience. This evolution has meant, more than ever, that marketers need to get creative, overcome internal silos and embrace a cross-channel marketing approach.

While campaign creativity and channel co-ordination continues to develop, email remains an effective and profitable channel for many marketers. Customer email marketing remains an effective channel which brands are reluctant to step away from. A recent survey shows that 44% of email recipients said they made at least one purchase last year based on a promotional email. Furthermore, as marketers increasingly become responsible for customer experience, email can also support service messaging (such as e-invoicing and delivery confirmations).

The cross-channel evolution

However, sole reliance on just this one channel - and a web/e-commerce presence - is far from ideal. Using coordinated display, social, addressable TV, mobile and “new” channels such as wearable technology, is the key to optimizing any campaign’s chances of success.

An interesting report by The Relevancy Group took a deeper look into this by studying the demands on email service providers ‘ESPs’ to see how the industry is shifting. One key finding was that 67% of marketers surveyed said that they are currently using creative service providers, as opposed to email only, due to the need for additional requirements such as responsive design and mobile marketing.

The survey supports this, as it showed 39% of marketers stated that social marketing features are the top factor when they were selecting an ESP, while 36% stated that mobile marketing features were the most vital.

In addition to the use of multiple channels, customer understanding and engagement has to address customers as individuals, regardless of which channel you are using. Full customer understanding across all data sources and channels, simultaneously in “real time”, is by no means an easy task. Coordinating campaigns, channels and data to fit together seamlessly has been highlighted as a major barrier to success, with just 23% of marketers’ flagging this as a major issue in the report.

The vital role of data

As customers are becoming more than just an email address and a phone number, increased sophistication in the linking and use of data is required to overcome the cross channel identity resolution challenge, by defining a “Single Customer View”. Marketers can then look to the data to show them what the individual profiles of customers look like and where they interact with their brand.

Getting on top of the data challenge is something that many marketers still haven’t quite achieved. The Relevancy Group report found that demographic and geographical data remain the only two types of data used by more than 35% of marketers.

With a good understanding of customers from internal data sources, linked across channels, many more sources can be used; including web browsing data, purchasing data and external socio-demographic insight.

Email and cross channel platform providers (often called “Cloud” or Suites”) should help marketers to fully utilise their data with external enrichment where needed. Understanding the behaviour of customers by tracking trends and patterns allows brands to understand how best to communicate with them, which is vital in this day and age of marketing.

Research by the Harvard Business Review, found that organisations that are able to skilfully manage the entire experience for a customer can reap enormous rewards, by enhancing customer satisfaction, reducing churn, increasing revenue, and drive greater employee satisfaction in the process.

If rich data is used in conjunction with an effective cross-channel approach, the foundations for more effective and efficient customer engagement will begin to emerge. Bringing these elements together isn’t easy, especially as channel technology and options continue to evolve. However, by embracing the changes, and resolving identities across channels, personalisation and relevancy can be delivered.