March 14, 2011

Tuesday Mailbag

Ok, these aren't real questions ... but they should be:

Dan in Boise writes ... Kevin, I read on the Get Elastic blog (an outstanding resource, by the way) that a research organization is saying that Multichannel Commerce is dead.  Didn't the very same research organization ask us to pay for a research report just two years ago, suggesting that multichannel and multichannel attribution would be critical in just eighteen months?

Kevin:  2011 has been crazy, hasn't it?  E-mail is dead.  Search is dead.  Cataloging has been dead for a decade.  Television and Radio are dead (do they look dead to you), Magazines are dead, Newspapers are dead, and now we add Multichannel to the death list.  I don't know what to tell you.  Well, I do.  Give Sucharita at Forrester a read, her comments are always practical.  We're smack-dab in the middle of a vendor bubble, folks.  Somebody is going to own the fusion of social + mobile + retail + e-commerce.  Vendors and thought leaders are placing their bets, hyping the living daylights out of their point of view in an effort to "win".  We're a society that loves "winning", aren't we?  Always remember one thing ... nobody knows your customer as well as you know your customer.  Take all of this hype with a grain of salt ... 90% of it won't come to fruition in two years when everybody moves to hologram marketing ... I just heard hologram marketing mentioned on Charlie Rose, for crying out loud.

Betsy in Chico writes ... Isn't there something to be said for this whole lifecycle view of customers?  I mean, channels really are irrelevant, you've been harping on us to pay less attention to multichannel marketing, asking us to focus on the customer.  Well, now people are listening to you.  Isn't that what you wanted to see happen?

Kevin ... No, that's not what I wanted to see happen.  Here's what is happening ... remember the four letter word known as "CRM"?  Sure you do.  Fifteen years ago, we were going to have personalized, relevant messages that increased customer value and reduced costs, while managing the customer across all touchpoints in the customer life cycle.  That's what is happening ... again, disguised under terms like "Social CRM" or 'Smarter Commerce'.  Now, everybody is going to tell you that things are different, that "mobile changes everything" that customers love "highly engaged conversations with brands".  Sure they do!  So much of this (not all, mind you) is a replay of the CRM / Multichannel / Online Integration movement of the late 1990s.  We'll integrate your online/offline data, we'll house your database for you, we'll manage your campaigns for you, and we'll add smart consultants to the mix. This isn't a bad approach, people will benefit.  But it is a repeat of the late 1990s ... and the whole world changed in unexpected ways in the past fifteen years, rendering so much of the infrastructure you build feckless.  I'm guessing that the world will change in unexpected ways in the next fifteen years.

Geoffrey in Spokane writes ... Fundamentally, you agree with life cycle analytics, right?

Kevin ... Absolutely, but to a limit.  Here's the thing.  You don't map out the customer life cycle on a greaseboard, you don't identify key 'inflection points', and then you don't offer a smart discount via social media to move the customer along the customer life cycle.  That's thinking like a CRM expert from 1997.  Take a moment, and watch your spouse shop.  Last week, when he purchased a dog seat from "In The Company Of Dogs", was he thinking ahead to his future brand interests in a deep, emotional social media relationship coupled with an app that allows him to buy Pupperoni on-demand for 20% off plus free shipping?  Doubtful, though maybe 5% of the population thinks this way.  That's a CRM approach to the world.  

Here's what the data suggests.  The data suggests that customers do not follow a clear, easy-to-understand customer loyalty ecosystem.  Every customer is different.  Many customers go through an interative loop ... loyal to inactive to loyal to something else. That being said, customers to tend to exhibit future patterns based on prior activities.  Instead of creating 'touchpoints' to 'manage' a customer, I'd create compelling merchandise that self-motivates the customer to move through the life cycle.  For some reason, we don't enough time focusing on this, do we?

Have a real question ... send it to me, we'll see if we can add it to the mailbag!


  1. Hi Kevin, love this format :)

    To answer "Dan," the spirit of Brian's report is to be provocative and even controversial - multichannel is still multichannel, it's the mindset about it (and the technology that supports it) that needs to catch up to what the consumer is already doing. The channels aren't going away, but the organization should view the channels in a holistic way rather than in silos, and support the consumer with a seamless experience across them all.

    Brian's argument is that it has already come to fruition - the customer IS engaging across touchpoints and there is a real problem with siloed management of these channel/touchpoints.

    Multichannel attribution is very important, but extremely difficult. A shift to "agile" ways of managing these channel/touchpoints can help this problem, but not completely erradicate it. I don't believe any vendor or thought leader will emerge the winner here (Charlie Sheen excluded), as there will always be a large market of point solutions and commerce platforms that can support this shift. If anything, that playing field will grow as the market demands more such solutions, there can't be a vendor winner. Also, technology is only half of the pie, the other is how the business organizes itself, and the co-operation between touchpoint "owners."

    Always appreciate your commentary,

    Linda Bustos

  2. Anonymous8:19 PM

    Hey Kevin, Life has a way of coming full circle doesn’t it? This is Brian Walker, formerly of Eddie Bauer where we worked together years ago, and now with Forrester and author of the idea in question. BTW - Here is the actual post where this idea can be found After reading the comments and your thoughts I think we are in more synch than you may think. Linda does an excellent job of describing the issue above, but I want to be sure to state that I (and my colleagues at Forrester) thought long and hard about the name of the phenomenon. The reason we determined “multichannel” no longer described the ways businesses are working is because that is what clients told us. Through surveys and many, many conversations we heard this over and over. Organizational models that are organized against channels no longer work – they are monolithic and unresponsive to the gaps in the customer experience. Operating in silos does not make sense as customers expectations long ago moved beyond channels – and your work at EB long ago proved this – and yet companies do not really address it. And eCommerce technology is being pushed and pulled everywhere – mobile, in-store, call center, etc.. Calling for companies to embrace “multichannel” was falling on deaf ears, and it is actually not accurate – it is no longer multiple channels in the customers’ eyes. Time for a wake-up call, I say. I actually tried to connect with you as this idea was developing to get your input, but our schedules conspired against us. I look forward to doing that soon, as I would enjoy hearing that feedback. Thanks, and glad to see you are doing so well,

    Brian Walker, Forrester, @bkwalker


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