July 19, 2007

Multichannel Retailing Week: Online Marketing

Here's a secret: Online Marketing works in a multichannel retailing environment.

Maybe that's not a secret to you, because you work in the online marketing profession.

But it is an unknown fact to almost every other employee in your multichannel organization.

As an online marketing professional, it is your job to evangelize your craft.

I recently sat in a room full of retail executives, retail directors, and retail marketing managers. I asked them the question, "If you were going to purchase a computer, and had no idea where to shop, what is the first thing you would do?"

The answer I was looking for was "I'd do a internet search".

Not one of the sixteen individuals volunteered this answer.

We all know that customers initiate searches, primarily on Google, to research and learn about potential product purchases. But this roomful of retail leaders, entrenched in their mall-based shopping ecosystem, did not think of shopping in this manner.

We also know that between twenty-five and thirty percent of website visitors at multichannel websites arrive via search.

In many cases, a targeted e-mail campaign sent right before a catalog mailing causes an increase in online or store response.

In many cases, catalog marketing and search marketing combine to increase the likelihood of a customer purchasing an item online or in stores.

In many cases, online advertising and search marketing combine to increase the likelihood of a customer purchasing an item online or in stores.

Your average retail staffer does not see the world through this lens.

During the next five to ten years, the online marketing executive will need to bridge this communication gap. If the online marketing executive wants to become the Chief Marketing Executive, the transition from metrics-based facts to retail storytelling will be essential.

To do this, the online marketing executive will partner less with the web analytics team (as they generally have access to online transactions). The online marketing executive will increasingly partner with the database marketing team or the business intelligence team, SAS-based programmers who link online, catalog and retail transactions with clickstream data. This gives the online marketer a holistic view of the effectiveness of online marketing.

Maybe the biggest thing the online marketer will learn is that at least half of their marketing activities are speaking to existing, often loyal customers. Historically, online marketing has been viewed as a customer acquisition tool. In the future, online marketing will be viewed as a customer retention tool. Couple that perspective with the education of your retail marketing team, and you've greatly enhanced the power of online marketing.