A tale of cross-channel marketing gone wrong

While recently making a retail purchase, I was asked by the sales associate to sign up for the company's "Thanks for Sharing" program -- an effort to raise millions of dollars for charity. After a $25 enrollment fee, you get 10 percent back on purchases through the end of the year. Sign me up! It's a win-win for the charities, the retailer, and my own pocketbook. Unfortunately, my ongoing experience with this program has left me feeling more confused than appreciated.  Let's start at the beginning.

In-store
My customer journey started off well. The sales associate said today's purchase counted toward the program, meaning I'd already earned back the $25 enrollment fee. Great! She encouraged me to track my rewards progress on future paper statements. A week later, I went back to the store, and the same associate couldn't find any record of my enrollment. I assured her that I had signed up just one week prior and went home to await my paper statement to verify.

Direct mail
I was looking forward to seeing all the rewards rack up on my paper statement, but when it arrived in the mail, there were no rewards, nor any acknowledgment that I was enrolled. There was, however, an advertisement for the "Thanks for Sharing" program.  It dawned on me that maybe I wasn't enrolled after all. 

Online
I logged into my online account hoping to find some answers, but there was no mention of this program. I needed to make a phone call.

Call center
After being forced to listen to 13 different phone tree options, I finally got through to an agent who informed me that I was indeed enrolled in the program. However, the large purchase that had inspired me to join in the first place wasn't eligible because the sales associate had signed me up before the program officially began. What? Given that it's a charitable cause, I didn't have the desire to debate the issue.

Email
To satisfy my curiosity, I looked at my inbox to see what emails may have come from the retailer.  I was surprised that the only two emails from the past 30 days were:

• Thanks for your recent payment
• Your statement is ready to view online

No "Thanks for Enrolling" email acknowledging that I had joined the program or promotions of any kind. I was beginning to feel un-thanked for sharing.

The moral of the story

It takes a certain level of planning and sophistication to successfully orchestrate a marketing campaign across multiple channels. While some marketing snafus can be humorous, others can send the consumer reeling.

Because today's consumers have a "get it now" and "get it right " mentality, marketers need to provide both. As such, we need unprecedented visibility and access to relevant data about consumers and the context in which they are shopping. So what do marketers need to gain the insight and contextual understanding required to enable the creation of sophisticated cross-channel customer experiences?

Marketers need a powerful and nimble system of record
A technology infrastructure that will support an integrated approach to marketing strategy, development, delivery, and measurement -- across the marketing mix -- is necessary. Carefully assess your current capabilities and develop a plan for investment in marketing technologies that will ensure you're in a position to leverage customer data in real time across multiple platforms and devices.

Marketers need to get collaborative
Organizations need to be more collaborative in how they plan and optimize campaigns. They must bring together individuals from different business units, such as IT, product development, and marketing. These groups need to work together in new ways to collectively understand consumer decision journeys and design experiences that will meet consumer demands.

Marketers need to design interactions that enhance the customer journey
Understand how customers interact with your brand and look for opportunities to enhance the experience across their journey by leveraging data and context for real-time response and dialogue.

A sophisticated marketing program can drive significant ROI. Because it is not feasible to manually act in the moment a consumer is making a decision, marketers need automated campaigns that are skillfully orchestrated across channels. Skillfully is the key word here -- we need the right technologies, people, and processes in place to meet the consumer's present tense demand for marketing.

As the call center representative said, "Thanks for calling and have a great night." (It was 10 in the morning.)

Amanda Hinkle is a senior digital marketing strategist at StrongView.

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Comments

Debby Girvan
Debby Girvan February 4, 2014 at 11:13 AM

Had to return to say I really appreciated Lori's reply. She not only posted here but also contacted me personally. All of us who operate in the digital world have had our technical user challenges - it's not the problems but how we address them that matters. Even with regular operation checks, I know I rely on feedback from my website visitors to ensure everything runs smoothly. I'm a loyal iMedia reader and will continue to be. Thanks, Lori and iMedia.

Lori Luechtefeld
Lori Luechtefeld February 4, 2014 at 9:39 AM

You bet we can take constructive critiques, Debby. Thanks for your patience and persistence in ensuring we received this feedback. I'm going to have our lead developer investigate this situation in an effort to improve the experience for future readers. I'll reach out separately to remedy your duplicate account situation. Thanks again for taking the time to share your feedback. We're on the case!

Debby Girvan
Debby Girvan February 4, 2014 at 7:15 AM

Amanda- You make a good point about how when marketing strategies are not market-ready they can do more harm than good. I'm confused why you wrote, "Given that it's a charitable cause, I didn't have the desire to debate the issue." Why not? Charities are big business. Under the guise of "doing good" some of these charities actually spend a higher percentage of their proceeds than reasonable on marketing and administrative costs (big salaries, etc.). Considering how poorly run this "charity" apparently is, I wouldn't "debate" the issue either - I would have simply cancelled my "membership."

By the way, I had a similar problem with iMedia. Trying to post this comment, the following occurred: 1) The screen wouldn't accept my login & pw so I had to create a new account (which will no doubt cause me to receive duplicate newsletters from iMedia); 2) entering the captcha code left the login "spinning", I hit cancel which then brought me back to the home page, requiring me to find your article again; 3) Then I had to wait to receive a link via email to activate my new registration but then it took me back to the home page where I had to search for your article again. Too many steps and too many malfunctions - I'm surprised I made it this far. Maybe the topic compelled me to make sure my comment got posted. I enjoy iMedia and the daily newsletter, often sharing your content so I hope you'll take my critique as constructive. I would want to know my own visitors' experiences to make improvements. Thanks.