X fac· tor [noun] – a variable in a given situation that could have the most significant impact on the outcome

In the fall, I wrote an article called, “Cookies: Not Part of a Balanced Omnichannel Diet,” in which I discussed the marketing industry’s dependence on cookies to paint a complete picture of a consumer’s online activity. I argued that, in a world increasingly moving toward omnichannel marketing, tracking cookies is a limited approach when trying to get a better understanding of how a consumer interacts with your brands across all channels.

Understanding cross-channel behavior is crucial when it comes to personalizing the retail experience for each unique shopper. In order for a shopper to spend more with your brand, you need to personalize across all channels. Take mobile, for example. According to a new survey from the e-tailing group and MyBuys, 83 percent of shoppers surveyed “saw value” in personalization across mobile devices, but only 23 percent said they thought retailers did a good job of personalization.

And, according to the same survey, 52 percent of shoppers said they “realize that they buy more with cross-channel personalization.” Did you hear that? More than half of your shoppers will consciously buy more if you personalize across channels.

Unfortunately, many retailers have found that creating an omnichannel profile for each customer is not as easy as it sounds. Some are trying to supplement their online data with offline tracking via technologies like iBeacon in order to get a more complete view of the customer and target them while they are shopping in the store. But there has been consumer backlash to in-store tracking (77 percent of shoppers find it “unacceptable,” according to a recent OpinionLab survey), despite shoppers’ claim of wanting cross-channel personalization.

Or, perhaps it’s because they are overlooking one of the simplest ways to market across channels – email.

Why Email Works for Omnichannel

Email is a great near-term omnichannel solution because email addresses are unique and, unlike cookies, follow the user regardless of channel. And email can show immediate value when personalized for shoppers’ unique tastes, behaviors, and more. Just look at the stats:

  • 93% of online consumers have provided their email address to at least one company or brand
  • 88% of U.S. online consumers check email daily
  • More than 50% of consumers make purchases as a direct result of email—it drives more conversions than any other channel (source: ExactTarget)

In a recent ClickZ article, People Versus Pixels, author Dave Hendricks writes:

“…email addresses represent real people. Do you want to follow someone around the Web? Use cookies if you want to do this on one browser, on one computer.

“Do you want to engage someone wherever they are, no matter the device? With their permission? Then ask them for their email address. Then you have permission to reach them wherever they are paying attention.” [Emphasis added]

Email may not be new, but it certainly isn’t dead. And with the retail marketing world shifting to omnichannel strategies, email is your best near-term tactic for cross-channel personalization with the most significant impact.