Man in green shirt using his tablet
By Erin Peralta Jul 13 2015

The always addressable customer is here, there, and everywhere. Are you?

As we forge ahead into Q3, it’s abundantly clear that digital ad spend will likely exceed the already bullish predictions for 2015. Television dollars are shifting to online video. The mobile movement is well underway with spending expected to surpass desktop this year. People of every generation and in every phase of the purchase funnel are spending more time on more screens than ever before — and where people go, brands must follow.

Today’s consumers continuously move from one screen to the next. In fact, if you’ve been in digital for any duration, chances are you’ve heard these numbers before, but they’re worth repeating: the average household has 4.4 devices, according to a 2014 YuMe and Nielsen study, while the average U.S. consumer spends 60 hours a week consuming content across devices (according to a separate 2014 Nielsen report). Start doing the math and suddenly your potential digital audience has swelled to record-breaking numbers.

But as a digital marketer, is the glass half empty or half full? The customer journey has become increasingly fragmented – that much is true. However, it is possible to leverage this reality and grow an audience in ways never before possible. No matter the product or service, the goal is to establish and grow brand affinity. The good news? When digital is done right, the possibilities are truly endless.

The New Path to Purchase

The proliferation of media and devices doesn’t make marketing any easier. Today it’s about planning programs and messages to be consumed across every point of interaction from in-store to print, TV, desktop, and mobile — seamlessly. It’s not about throwing the same message from the same creative across every channel and hoping it works. Today’s customer journey is a web of interactions that’s more intricate and nuanced than before. This path-to-purchase has marketers and agencies talking, as they try to figure out the right strategy and the best set of tools.

With this new thinking comes new vocabulary. There are three terms that need clarification: cross-channel, multi-channel, and cross-device.

  1. A cross-channel strategy is about the consumer. This strategic approach focuses on the experience you create for each individual customer as they journey through life and across devices.
  2. A multi-channel plan is about inventory. In order to execute a cross-channel approach, you must first determine how to reach customers, on which channels (web, mobile, social, email, etc.) and by which format (banners, rich media, video, etc.). When talking about buying inventory across any of these channels and formats, the correct term to use is multi-channel.
  3. A cross-device approach is about targeting. How will you engage your audience? Cross-device is defined as the ability to target the same consumer, from one device to the next. What’s important here is the ability to deliver a cohesive experience from connected device to connected device. This is a complex problem to solve that involves cookies versus device IDs, probabilistic versus deterministic matching and much, much more.

Here’s a real-world example to put the above terms into perspective:

Right now, marketers can reach moms with banners and video, on mobile web and apps, on Facebook, and more. That’s a simple example of a multi-channel campaign and the technology to do this is readily available. A more sophisticated level of targeting can identify a particular female and (if she belongs in the mom segment) then reach her wherever she is in her day, whether checking social feeds on her phone, shopping for cars on her tablet, or watching a video on her laptop. This is a cross-device campaign. Together, these two scenarios make up a cross-channel strategy.

Cross-channel is about the customer experience. Multi-channel is about the inventory. Cross-device is about the individual. This holistic approach is about reaching and engaging prospects no matter where they are in the customer journey, with a view into which channels are performing. That way, you can turn insights into action and optimize your mix accordingly. To follow your customers on these journeys with consistent and relevant messages, programmatic technology is essential – more on that tomorrow.