Multi-channel businesses by definition offer their core products or services across multiple platforms. The core challenge of a multi-channel business is the fact that each platform is like a mini business by itself and demands dedicated attention and nurturing for it to flourish and succeed.
This means multi-channel business owners are perennially over stretched with their attention split between the various channels and their diverse demands. Many businesses try to overcome this problem of being stretched too thin by employing parallel teams handling the same function across different channels e.g. a separate marketing team for the digital channel and another one for the traditional in-store channel, separate inventory systems for online and offline sales and so on.
This model however, results in gross wastage of a company’s resources. There is definite merit in unifying key functions of the businesses across all channels. This is completely achievable with the right tools and a ‘can do’ mindset.
Some of the key areas that multi-channel businesses struggle with include:
- Analytics – Every channel has its own metrics. Staying on top of each one requires a huge extra effort
- ERP – Managing multiple functions within a regular business is hard enough. Now multiply that with the number of channels a business operates in and you get a taste of the ERP challenges of multi-channel businesses
- CRM – You may target the same customer segments across multiple channels, but the service issues for each channel are unique.
- Social Media Management – Social media is usually handled by just one team for both mono-channel and multi-channel businesses. But in the case of multi-channel business, the social media team has to be adequately trained to know the nitty-gritties of each channel, to be able to represent them holistically to customers.
Let’s take a look at the top 4 multi-channel business tools that address these key problem areas.
An analytics package that straddles two very different platforms – mobile and web – with equal ease, MixPanel offers you user level analytics instead of page level data. In their own words, they believe, “Actions speak louder than page views”. It gives you deep insights into how visitors engage with your mobile site or website, which page elements drive clicks, which calls to action are most effective and so on.
Mix Panel allows you to segment customers and analyze the behavior of individual segments without complicated SQL queries. It allows you to track SEM, PPC and email campaigns and measure their impact on conversions, visualize sales funnels and pin point areas where customers are dropping out, using MixPanel. Grow customer retention by tracking and working on data like the number of returning visitors that convert into customers in a given time period or test the stickiness of repeat clients using MixPanel. Most interestingly, unlike other analytics tools, MixPanel helps you send out triggered communications based on customer behavior on the site.
Pricing: For businesses with up to 25000 visitors per month, the package fee is zero, zilch. As the visitor numbers keep growing the fee keeps getting more expensive, capping off at $2000 per month for the enterprise option.
A true blessing for the multi-channel businesses, Agiliron is a smart combination of an ERP with a CRM tool. Whether your business works across the web, mobile, physical store locations, Amazon stores or more, Agiliron is fully equipped to handle it all with grace.
From building your website using the various built-in e-commerce platforms on offer to creating a live product catalog to pricing, order management, lead management and inventory management on one hand; Agiliron also effectively tackles email marketing, customer service, QuickBooks integration and business intelligence and reporting on the other hand with equal ease.
Pricing: Agiliron is light on the pocket, considering the huge variety of applications that it single handedly offers. Starting at $49 per month for a basic version, Agiliron can go on to $199 per month for a top of the line, full featured beast.
Salesforce is hands down the most popular CRM tool available today. It automates four clear functions in a business, namely – sales, marketing, customer service and digital platforms – into a single, comprehensive SaaS tool. Each function is handled by a different module and is priced separately.
Salesforce helps you attract visitors, qualify them as leads, track the leads through the sales funnel all the way till they turn into actual customers. It generates a unified profile of each customer from the time they are visitors to the time they become repeat customers with detailed information regarding their browsing habits, click behavior, purchase history, service requirements and more.
It helps in creating and executing dedicated email marketing campaigns to customers based on the data captured in the system. The unified customer data can be shared with customer care teams along with data sharing on customer resolution management to enable handling of service tickets effectively.
Salesforce allows businesses to branch out into the mobile platform by offering mobile development apps, plugins and support infrastructure. It also boasts of a robust App Exchange that hosts a range of free and paid apps that integrate into the Salesforce system and perform various functions that Salesforce itself may not, in its pure-play avatar.
Pricing: As mentioned before, each module of Salesforce is priced separately. The sales and CRM module starts at $5 per user per month and goes up to $300 per user per month, based on the number of users, number of customers, complexity of features etc. the customer service module begins at $65 per user per month, the development platform comes at $25 per user per month to $150 per user per month.
Try as we might to ignore social media and its constant chatter in our personal lives, no business, especially multi-channel business – can afford to ignore social media and its huge potential for marketing the brand to customers.
Sprout Social is one of the leading social media management platforms on the web that lets you stay on top of the four largest social media channels – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus – in one great unified dashboard. It allows you to understand your fans and followers a lot better through the information they share on social media. Tailormake content on Sprout Social, publish it, schedule it, reply to customer conversations all in one place.
Sprout Social offers detailed social media analytics and lets you track the ROI of your social media marketing campaigns across various social networks. Sprout Social allows you to listen into conversations regarding your brand on social media platforms and find your social score with specific important keywords, it allows multiple users to share responsibilities and access the system simultaneously. Want to offer really mind-blowing customer care via social media? It is now possible through Sprout Social.
Pricing: Sprout Social comes with a 30 day, no credit card required, free trial. The base edition is pegged at $59 per user per month and goes up to $1500 per user per month based on the complete set of features used and level of support desired from Sprout Social.
Multi-channel businesses are exciting, challenging and straddle the old and the new with consummate ease. Running a multi-channel business can be truly demanding, but in this ‘app-a-minute’ world, there’s always help right around the corner.
Take advantage of the number of resources available to make entrepreneurs’ lives easier and create more time for yourself to focus on the things that will grow your business to the next level.