Multi-channel merchants suffer from a self-fulfilling prophesy, and it is completely understood. On the surface, it makes perfect sense. For those that slept through Psychology 101, Self-fulfilling prophesy is when you tell yourself that you are no good at math, you keep telling yourself this and as a result, don’t study as much, give up easily, so that when you finally take the test, you score low, and you mark it up to the reason: “I’m not good at math”.

Multi-Channel marketers tend to overstate the reach of catalog sales, they see that catalog makes up 90% of sales, and the website makes up 10% of sales. So, they reason, the catalog will continue to have most of the marketing resources, and website will have a small amount of resources, because it doesn’t perform as well as the catalog.

Obviously, I have a number of responses to that proposition.

  1. Is there a sales tracking mechanism in place that covers each channel?
    Many catalog retailers that I’ve talked with don’t have sales tracking on the website. It is an assumption based on a number of factors, but mainly their gut instinct and initial sales numbers, which can easily reinforce that thinking.It’s not a wrong assumption at its face value, but it must be explored more in depth. Each channel must have a sales tracking mechanism in place in order to know for sure which channel accounts for a percentage of sales.
  2. Have the basics of search engine optimization been implemented on your online catalog?
    If not, then of course, your printed catalog will perform better than the website. If search engine optimization has not been performed on your website, then the average amount of search traffic is about 20% of total visits, and 80% of that 20% is most likely branded searches for the company.Search Engine Optimization reverses the traffic sources from your website. It takes general product searches that result in visitors and increases it to 60%-80% of your traffic. The branded searches and other means of accessing the website actually slightly increase their levels, but get dwarfed by the incoming search traffic very quickly.

    Because of the increase of search traffic, sales from the website will increase, as should sales from every channel; call centers, catalog requests, and the catalog itself. This is where tracking is critical. Knowing the source of growth and action is vital to continuing marketing efforts.

  3. The Internet is not a single channel.
    The internet is a broad term covering significant channels and it has changed the very definition of multi-channel to include: Organic Search, Paid Search, Shopping Search Engines, Email, Banner/Networks, Social Media, Online Public Relations, Link Building, Blogging, and more every day . . . .Tracking is vital again in order to understand the value of each channel. While some channels are more effective in providing a direct response for sales, others are just as vital in providing an accurate story of your company and product. Others are important simply for visibility, others for buzz.
  4. The channel determines the motivation, expectation and the qualification level of the visitor.
    Segmenting the channel is important because the source determines the motivation and the behavior of the visitor. To treat all visitors to your website the same, regardless of HOW they got there is to ignore the individuality of the consumer and the method of which you acquired them.Expectations of the visitor are everything; understand what they expect and tuning the message to them is vital to convert them into a long-term customer. I am surprised by the amount of companies that do not start with the simplest of segmentation analytics just by channel. There is an immense amount of intelligence to be gathered, but just starting with the basics will provide a significant reward.
  5. To quote a famous stand-up philosopher, the website gets no respect.
    I remember talking with one multi-channel manager, who took the website to an amazing 70% of sales revenue for the company. But as he asked me – “Do you think I can get even 50% of the marketing budget for the best performing channel in company history?” Here is the case where the tracking, search optimization, and marketing were all in place and humming along, but the majority of the budget still goes to print. Maybe because “it’s the way it has always been done”? I’m not sure, but history will have to answer that one.My guess? Print is tangible, and it wins awards, but the web will win sales.

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