What are the Primary Roles of Various Channels in the Customer Journey?

March 12, 2014

Experian-Primary-Role-Channel-in-Customer-Journey-Mar2014Experian Marketing Services has released the latest of its mammoth annual digital marketer reports, and in this edition [download page] the analysts pay particular attention to cross-channel marketing, with a headline result being that half of global cross-channel marketers surveyed plan to integrate 4 or more channels in their campaigns this year. Effectively managing cross-channel campaigns requires moving out of channel silos – and it’s interesting to see how marketers view the primary roles different channels have in the customer journey. It’s an important point, given that three-quarters of respondents still operate in silos, where their departments are somewhat organized by channel. This type of arrangement means that marketers might be more concerned with the performance of their own channel rather than how it fits into the broader customer journey.

Marketers were asked to identify how each of 12 channels fits into their customer’s journey, choosing whether each has a “greeter” role (creating awareness), operates as an “influencer” (generating interest) or is a “closer” (getting the sale).

Websites were the only channel which more respondents viewed as a closer (42%) than as a greeter (32%) or influencer (21%). While email marketing was the next-most likely to be seen as a closer (30%), a substantially larger portion of respondents (49%) view it as an influencer. (Google research also finds email more likely to play an “assist” than “last interaction” role in the customer journey.)

Some channels stand out in particular as playing the role of greeter. Among online channels, a plurality of respondents see search marketing (42%), online display advertising (42%) and social display advertising (40%) as having this role. By contrast, unpaid social media marketing, mobile applications, and SMS text messaging tend to be seen by more respondents as having an influencer role.

Not surprisingly, few see traditional marketing channels as being closers, for the most part seeing them as generating awareness and interest. TV skews most heavily towards being a greeter (generating awareness), while radio and print lean towards awareness although some see their main role as influencing customer interest rather than generating it. Of the offline channels, only direct mail is viewed by more respondents as being an influencer (32%) than a greeter (19%). In fact, it’s as likely to be seen as a closer (20%), as a greeter, a fairly unsurprising result given its application as a direct response channel.

Meanwhile, the survey also looks at the channels considered to be most important to marketers’ campaigns – with the results mostly correlating with usage rates. To wit, websites and email were considered by most respondents to be among their most effective channels in 2013, followed by search marketing. (These are also the channels that are most-used by respondents). Interestingly, direct mail punches above its weight class in this respect; while being only 8th of the 12 channels in terms of usage, it was the 5th-most cited in terms of channel effectiveness.

Generally, the marketing channels planned for this year followed those seen as most effective last year, although there were a few discrepancies. While 45% of respondents named search marketing one of their 3 most-effective channels last year, only 39% plan to use it this year, which seems like a low figure. Conversely, more respondents plan to use unpaid social media marketing and online display this year than named those channels among their most important last year.

Overall, respondents indicated that the top barriers to cross-channel marketing are: the company’s current technology (39%); organization structure (38%); and budget (33%). Of those who say their organizational structure is a top barrier, just 15% work in fully integrated marketing teams, while 45% are in teams broken out by channel.

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