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Not measuring the ROI of cross-channel marketing? Start now

It’s the Holy Grail of digital marketing: how can a company measure the bottom-line results of a single campaign that plays out across multi level marketing channels — from email to mobile to social media to display advertising? Marketers are just now beginning to answer that question.

Until now, the metrics used have been overly simplistic, and not always useful. Display advertising managers have been obsessed about reach and click-through rates. Email marketers have focused on open rates and deliverability. And neither team has worried much about what the other team was doing -- or how well they are doing it.

That's all changing.

Breaking down internal walls

Marketers across industries, from travel to retail to telecom, are shaking up their businesses in response to sweeping changes in consumer behavior in the digital age. They're learning how to connect with customers on a personal level. They're hiring experts in lead generation, analytics and SEO. They're dismantling the silos that separated, say, display ads from social media and mobile from email marketing, and asking teams to collaborate on highly targeted campaigns that aim to connect with a consumer across multiple mediums.

Take, for example, a consumer who flies frequently and is a member of a car rental company's loyalty program. After she clicks on a special email offer on a discounted car rental — or reserves a car directly from the car agency's website — she may then see a display ad or receive text messages offering additional incentives to ensure that she actually picks up the car on her day of travel. All of these messages are coordinated to provide relevant and timely information that, collectively, increase the effectiveness of the car rental company’s marketing.

The CMOs who are driving these cross-channel campaigns want to see quantifiable results. So instead of tracking how many consumers opened an email announcing a new smartphone, and then how many of them actually went to the carrier's site to buy one, marketers today are looking for insights into how different messages delivered to consumers across multiple channels actually resulted in the purchase of a new smartphone. And with big data, marketers are learning that coordinating marketing programs across channels does increase returns on investment -- by, in my experience, as much as 40 percent.

Saving time and money

The ROI analysis across multiple channels is still in its infancy. Marketers can't yet easily track the direct impact of traditional TV and radio ads combined with a consumer’s interactions with emails, display ads or other digital marketing campaigns. But what they can track today are conversion rates when select channels are combined. Marketers, for instance, can analyze the tangible benefits of combining display advertising with email messaging. Using the smartphone example above, marketers can compare how many consumers bought a new smartphone after receiving an email promotion against the number of consumers who bought the phone after receiving an email and subsequently viewing a related display ad. At Responsys, one client saw its conversion rates increase 30 percent after it switched from an email-only campaign to one that combined email and online display ads. The Responsys Interact Marketing Cloud also offers a new report to show the incremental lift of conversion rates when email and display ad campaigns are combined in the same program.

Here's another example of how this new way of measuring results is driving cross-channel marketing: a brand can learn how many members of its loyalty program are buying more after receiving personalized coupons by email and then seeing display ads that promote weekly specials at the nearest store. This analysis teaches marketers which combinations of channels perform better for specific audiences, which saves marketers time and money. Customers are happy too because they're getting messages that resonate and are delivered through the channels they use most.

Soon, marketers will have the ability to track conversion across other channels. At Responsys, an upcoming release of our Interact Suite will allow brands to measure lift in conversion rates when mobile and email are combined in the same cross-channel marketing program. Eventually, marketers will be able to calculate the ROI when a series of channels are combined — and will be able to get automated recommendations about which combinations would be best for a specific type of promotion in a particular vertical.

Building a collaborative culture

Measuring results from cross-channel campaigns won't be possible, however, without strong leadership in the marketing department. CMOs have to commit to breaking down the walls that separate the various teams within a department. They can do this by creating incentives such as ROI-based bonuses to teams that work together. A motivated, collaborative marketing department that has access to the right software will produce real and measurable benefits when different channels are combined – and tracked -- in the same marketing program.

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