Mixing and matching channels in online marketing

Integrating promotional activities across different channels is something that is regularly discussed by retailers, but in reality is something that many businesses are struggling to achieve.  Recent research we conducted showed that less than a quarter (23%) of marketers have completely joined up online and offline campaigns.  Despite a growing number of channels for retailers to integrate, new approaches and new technology are making the plausibility of joined up campaigns much more practical.  There are a number of ways that retailers can start to join the dots across different channels, from mobile to social and from online to offline.

Making Social and Mobile Count

The social and mobile landscape continues to grow, with brands looking closely at how they can effectively maximise the return on investment (ROI) achieved.  Affiliates are equally keen to expand the activities taking place over these channels.  Our recent research revealed that 38 per cent of publishers plan to expand their social media engagement by up to 20 per cent.  Similar growth is expected for the mobile channel in the next twelve months, with 37 per cent of publishers expecting site views on mobile devices to grow by up to 20 per cent.

With this in mind, retailers need to carefully consider how mobile and social campaigns are integrated into the wider marketing mix.  Engaging with new channels may be exciting, but their integration needs to reflect the wider marketing message and contribute to driving revenue in some shape or form, even if it is at the beginning of the customer lifecycle.  For example, we’ve recently worked with Debenhams to implement a voucher trial with affiliate Vouchercloud, who offered their app users a 10% discount via a mobile barcode, which was scanned in-store to redeem the discount.  The affiliate was then paid on a CPA basis for mobile redemption from the app.

In a similar way, Debenhams has used social channels effectively as part of its cross channel engagement.  A ‘Refer a friend’ campaign to the existing Debenhams customer base was run at the same time to encourage customers to refer 10 friends to receive a £5 off voucher.  ‘Go Recommend’ on Facebook was used, which prompted Facebook members to text a short code to receive the voucher.  Affiliates also then communicated the offer to their fan base by sharing the link to the Facebook page on thank you pages that appear following transactions. 

Connecting online advertising to the call centre

There is also an opportunity to capitalise on new technologies that are designed to provide a more effective cross channel experience for the customer, that namely connects the on- and offline worlds.  For example, call-tracking technologies generate unique phone numbers for individual publishers to use in their online promotional activities and on their websites.  Consumers can then phone the numbers to speak with the customer support teams at the call centre to ask questions and make purchases.

Hillarys Blinds has used this technology particularly well to drive online consumers to their call centre, where customers are fully supported by a member of staff when they make further enquiries and book fitting appointments.  In addition, every call generated is trackable, so that there is visibility over which affiliate is responsible for each lead generated to the call centre to enhance future marketing activities accordingly.  This not only makes the whole approach to customer care and online and offline integration more strategic, but means that retailers can identify which publishers are proving the most profitable at driving both online and offline interaction.

Building relationships with affiliates

Building a good relationship with affiliates helps to establish how they too might be able to assist in joining cross channel activities.  A number of affiliates, including the likes of vouchercodes.co.uk and quidco, are becoming brands in their own right, building their own dedicated Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, where they share their brands latest and best deals.  If brands are to make the most of these opportunities, they need to ensure that they have the right relationships in place with publishers and listen to the challenges they come up against when working with advertisers.  

Recent research we carried out revealed that the most important factor for publishers when working with advertisers was ensuring advertising creatives are kept up to date, an issue cited by 53 per cent of publishers.  The next biggest concern is around ‘earnings per click’, a payment model which demonstrates how well an advertiser is performing by measuring the average amount of commission earned per click generated for the brand.  45 per cent of publishers cited this as one of the key considerations when working with advertisers.  However, challenges like this should not be a problem if the publisher is involved in the campaign closely at the planning stage.  With the right relationship in place, the retailer will then be in a position to ensure these issues are addressed to take advantage of some of the affiliates own cross channel initiatives.

Test for Success

An effective multi-channel strategy is a great way to better nurture the customer experience and ensure that campaign return on investment is maximised.  Affiliate marketing offers the ideal testing ground with publishers from all channels including search to social, email to mobile. It is only through a detailed understanding of which campaigns connect best with different consumers that brands are the most successful.  A key ingredient is to test and then test to again to see which combination of channels performs best and generates the best ROI.

Pete Rowe

Peter Rowe has held the position of Managing Director, affilinet UK, since 2008 and is a member of the European Management Team. He has full operational responsibility for all areas of the UK business including Sales, Affiliate Management, Client Services, Marketing, Strategy and Finance.
As part of the team that launched affilinet UK in late 2005, Peter has helped establish affilinet in a highly competitive marketplace and been integral in recruiting and growing key accounts. Prior to joining affilinet Peter was Head of Operations at dgm and a Project Manager for HP Global Services working in the Telecoms practice. Peter holds a BA (Hons) in Business and Finance.
Interview with Peter Rowe.

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