As an increasing number of people access the web through their mobile devices, the disruptive influence of the mobile internet and social media is posing a challenge for businesses striving to reach consumers across all channels. For a number of years, a trend has been developing which shows people who buy goods online, on their mobile and on their laptops and tablets, spend more than customers who shop exclusively in store. So what does the rise of the "multi-channel" consumer mean for marketers and how can they appeal to this growing audience?
The idea of brands targeting customers across "multi-channels" has existed for a long time, but "the rise of mobile internet is coming at such a pace that it's pushing everything into a tailspin. It disrupts all the other channels," said a participant at a recent roundtable debate, which explored the challenges and opportunities of marketing to today's connected consumer. The discussion was held in association with Adobe, a provider of digital marketing solutions, and conducted under the Chatham House rule, which means that quotes are reported without attribution in order to encourage a free and frank debate.
Old models of behaviour, where consumers research and then decide what to buy, no longer apply, the roundtable heard. "There's an almost random way that consumers bounce around touch points to make purchasing decisions. Someone could be at the point of purchase in a shop and then straight back into research because they've seen an online review. Or they can be on a bus checking Facebook and then all of a sudden buy something." Rather than connecting with customers through individual channels, ie mobile advertising or in-store displays, brands now have to think about how to target consumers through the "connected experience", the panel heard.
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"Everything will be mobile in future. Consumers are there, advertisers are not. It's about advertisers trying to keep up with the speed of change in consumer behaviour," said a panel member.
Why is this so challenging? "It's been very difficult for organisations to bring it all together, because of how those organisations are set up within their own teams," said one expert. "The way you market is done through siloed teams, one for newspaper advertising, another for the web, or through mobile. No one's come together and said, what is our digital strategy? What is our multi-channel marketing strategy?"
The problem also exists within agencies, the roundtable heard. "There's a huge problem on the agency side, in terms of media agencies not being structured to deal with multi-channel campaigns, proposals and briefs. They're miles off understanding the advantages and benefits of multi-channel campaigns. There's a creative deficit where the audience has raced off ahead of us," said a participant. Small agencies which have grown up with new technology are often better than the big established companies at dealing with this, the room heard.
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