Thursday, September 11, 2008

In politics as in retail, the more channels of interaction, the better

Marketers and e-commerce managers have long known that shoppers who buy from stores, online and from catalogs are a retailer’s best customers. Opinion Research confirmed in a recent study that multi-channel consumers spend nearly twice as much as their single channel counterparts on average.

Taking this insight a step further, I suggested to friend in magazine publishing that the number of channels a consumer uses to interact with a brand could be a leading indicator of consumer brand engagement. Turns out, his data supported the idea that the more channels a subscriber uses to interact with the brand, the greater the brand engagement and more likely the subscriber loyalty, measured in renewals.

What does all this mean for the customer experience? It means retailers are going all out creating multifaceted brand touchpoints online and off, in their own stores (catalogs and PCs on the selling floor) and through partnerships (e.g., the Banana Republic-Details promotion announced recently). It helps explain why spam has increased, and why more people are on the Do Not Call list. It also helps explain why widgets and contests have emerged as arguably less offensive and more fun means of engagement.

This election season, we’re seeing the same pattern play out in the Presidential campaign. Potential voters who engage through multiple channels appear more likely to actually vote in November – whether it’s donating money, writing letters to the editor of the local paper, to the candidates, or to anyone else, blogging/commenting on blogposts – the more touches, the more committed.

Web-based tools are intended to convert online energy into in-person support. From January to April, for instance, the Obama campaign spent $3 million on online advertising to steer voters to their precincts through polling place locators - online look-up tools that tell people where to go to vote. According to Chris Hughes, a Facebook co-founder who has become an Obama campaign aid, the locators "are hard to build, but once you build them, they have a very high return on investment."

This summer, it was reported that Obama trumped McCain in social networking popularity and online fundraising efforts. The findings were seconded by Pew, which found Obama supporters evangelized heavily across social media.

And as the race grows more intense, it is becoming clear that social media outreach and paid search advertising are going to be key. "Online targeting and optimization will translate to more votes offline," predicts Jonathan Mendez of search engine marketing blog Optimize and Prophetize. If he’s right, we should have one heck of a turnout in November.

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