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From Single- to Omni-Channel Marketing

There has been a major shift in marketing since I joined the industry 13 years ago, just out of college. My clients were focused on direct mail, which was a big money maker at that time. Direct mail is an easily  targetable channel powered by propensity models and is trackable. The biggest concern at that time was not allocating enough money to all of the profitable records available for targeting.

Siloed Marketing: Single-channel marketing

Over the years, email became the next big channel. Everyone started bombarding customers with emails, testing the frequency of drops, and subject line, etc.

At that time, email was the Holy Grail, and no one could beat the performance of email, nor its cost-effectiveness. As a channel, email was the easiest to tweak in real time, and given the frequency of drops, it produces a multitude of attributable conversions. This is particularly true for retail.

However, email was not really an acquisition channel on its own, and in general, it was not very targeted. There wasn’t a wealth of analytics to apply to segments, given that the email universe was small. 

The issue at that point was that marketers were still set up in silos for direct mail verses email targeting. 

Multi-channel or Integrated Marketing: A Push Strategy

Over time, and in most cases, direct mail and email teams started to coordinate their efforts particularly for direct acquisition campaigns, and in many instance they  merged and became a united front. Campaign executions are now multi-channel— where there is a planned, first touch through direct mail followed by a second touch via email. This was a real win for brands by increasing engagement and incremental sales lift using two channels versus an isolated single channel.

Then, things got more complicated with the introduction of the digital channels such as search and display.

Because digital media was new and required a totally different skill set, partners, tools, and measurement, many companies had a completely separate team managing it with very little data used to target precisely within these channels. This set up had many challenges, for example, retailers may have had different promotions in their catalog compared to their site. Advertisers knew that marketing channels were uncoordinated, but at the time it was brand-centric rather than customer-centric marketing, and it was the norm.

The Next Generation in Omni-Channel Marketing: Channel-agnostic pull strategies

As I see it, the next generation in marketing should be channel agnostic. We have moved into a new era of marketing – a customer-centric generation.  We need to focus on coordinated, streamlined brand marketing. This will provide the customer relevant content and targeted offers at the right time and in the right place.

Planning and targeting should not be decided in silos, it should break them down and focus on the individual consumer rather than products It is no longer acceptable to target with one touch via one channel.  It is simply not enough. Advertisers need to market across channels with a testing strategy for multiple touches across all channels by using similar offers. This will expand brand awareness and bring your brand top-of-mind during a customer’s decision journey.

Marketers are now listening and following the customers by using data to inform messaging; when and where the customers chooses and is ready to initiate the conversation.

The channel that a customerchooses to interact with a brand is of less importance than who customer is as an individual and buyer.

The shift in marketing dollars, as noted in RetailMeNot ( Kelton Global, March 2016), should be about channel attribution decisions while keeping the main focus on the known individual. In reality, that same individual checks their postal mail, reads their email, and looks at their social sites. Marketers need to use this to their benefit and offer a multi-channel experience to their consumers.

Marketing Investments In The Following Platforms Change In 2016 (Retailers)




Mobile Advertising



Non-mobile Digital Advertising



Social Advertising



Offline Advertising



Source: RetailMeNot, Kelton Global, March 2016

From a planning, execution, and measurement standpoint,  being omni-channel is difficult and requires new processes, new technologies and tools, and change management initiatives. I believe we are heading there and that the conversation has started. Marketing transformations will be achieved with advertisers and agencies accommodating the requirements of a customer-centric, omni-channel marketing approach. As with the advent of direct mail and email, this will be disruptive and ultimately become an accepted and embraced reality.

Get more in-depth knowledge by reading Merkle’s recent case study about omni-channel marketing.