May 15, 2012

Multiple Digital Channels: Oh Boy

A few weeks back, the folks on Twitter took umbrage with my stance on the concept of "multi-channel".

  • "77% of customers research online before buying in a store ... this is the very definition of multi-channel."
  • "63% of e-commerce buyers touch at least four channels before buying merchandise."
So what?
  • "But this is proof that customers prefer a multi-channel experience.  You cannot deny it."
Of course I can deny it!

Customers don't prefer a multi-channel experience.

Customers are forced into a multi-channel experience.

You know why customers are forced into a multi-channel experience?  

Because customers don't trust us.

Customers don't trust that we offer the lowest price, every single day.

Customers don't trust that we offer the lowest shipping/handling cost, every single day.

Remember Jennifer?  She's the persona you are least enamored with.


You don't like Jennifer because Jennifer doesn't trust you!

Jennifer knows that you have multiple versions of email campaigns.  She knows that her neighbor was offered 20% off scarves while Jennifer was offered 10% off of socks.  So Jennifer clicks through your email campaign (see, multiple channels work), because Jennifer still needs a scarf, regardless of your promotional strategy.

Jennifer documents the price of a scarf on your website, placing a scarf in her shopping cart, but she doesn't trust you.

Jennifer heads to Google, to see if comparable scarves at your competition are comparably priced (see, multiple channels work, don't they ... Jennifer just used email + search, multi-channel Heaven).

Let's assume that Google proves to Jennifer that your scarves are comparably priced.

What is Jennifer going to do next?

Well, she sure isn't going to pay for shipping and handling.  Your website says you offer $8 shipping every day, but Jennifer remembers that two months ago you were running free shipping campaigns (hurry, act now, free shipping ends in just 36 hours).  

Jennifer has a hunch that you're offering somebody free shipping, just not her.

Jennifer doesn't trust you.

Jennifer heads back out to Google.  She searches for a free shipping code.  Google redirects Jennifer to an affiliate website (see, multiple channels work).  There, Jennifer finds a free shipping code.  Oh, Jennifer also finds a 20% off scarf promo code.  Jennifer has to pick one of the two promotions.  

Jennifer doesn't want to pick only one of two promo codes.  Jennifer doesn't trust you.

Jennifer picks free shipping, as free shipping saves her more money than 20% off of the scarf she wants to purchase.

If Jennifer had time, she'd dial your call center and demand 20% off plus free shipping ... and you'd add another channel to the purchase process and suggest that multi-channel works, right?

By the way, Jennifer did all of this on her iPad at work, using wi-fi from the Starbucks downstairs ... Jennifer doesn't want her company to know that she is using the company computer to shop for a scarf.  But we observe this behavior as "mobile multi-channel" ... we think Jennifer is the valuable mobile buyer that we've been hearing about!!!  

Jennifer, however, is not using mobile because of mobile, she's using it to shop while at work.  Mobile isn't a channel to Jennifer, it's a way to get around the rules.

Jennifer buys the scarf, using a free shipping promo code.  

Jennifer feels burned that she couldn't apply a percentage off code.

If Jennifer had time (she needs the scarf for date night with her husband on Saturday), she'd leave the scarf in her shopping cart for a week, knowing that you'd send her a trigger-based email message with an offer to save an additional 10%.  And when she purchased, you'd credit her with another touch point in the process.  See, multi-channel works, doesn't it?!

Do you get it?

Jennifer touched a veritable plethora of channels, not because she's a multi-channel customer, but because she doesn't trust us.

Jennifer doesn't trust that we will always offer her the best price.  This lack of trust manifests itself in the use of multiple channels.

There is an inverse relationship between trust and use of multiple channels.  

Yes, great customers buy online and in stores.  But many customers don't trust us, and use multiple digital channels to evaluate just how much they can trust us.

Think of a brand that you trust.  Once trust is built, you don't do a lot of comparison shopping, do you?  You simply trust.  You cut down all friction, simply purchasing in the channel that is most convenient to you.

That's what my evaluation of the data suggests.  What does your evaluation of the data suggest?

2 comments:

  1. I agree overall, but disagree in spirit, because I believe that there's more of a direct relationship of desire for convenience to multi-channel than there is an indirect relationship of lack of trust to multi-channel.

    Good multi-channel mobile experiences that serve the customer facilitate ease of purchase, ease of research, and increased loyalty and trust in the brad.

    At Starbucks, for instance, I use the mobile app tied to my Gold card not because I don't trust Starbucks, but because the experience provides me a better experience.

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