“Noline” – Why we must break down the boundaries between the online and offline worlds
In too many companies, online and offline marketing processes continue to be less than well synchronized, which means that communication through online and offline media is not connected. Consequently, as users, we find that information offered offline is not yet available online. And promises given online are not kept in the offline world. The result? Frustrated customers.
What kind of situations and challenges are you dealing with?
- Find out whether there is still a divide to bridge between the online and offline worlds in your company.
- Break down information barriers and silos.
- Select systems that blend the relevant customer information, permission-based, and let you evaluate it. Even better if it’s in real time!
- Think, plan and implement “noline” because your customers have been operating in noline mode for a long time.
- The noline approach itself ensures a compelling customer experience.
And as they say nowadays: The experience is the product.
Against this background, there is a special challenge to master when managing customer journeys: I recommend developing the customer journey more and more online and offline and across all devices. Doing so is the only way to achieve the best possible interaction between all your communication activities.
Looking at a typical customer journey shows us the associated tasks. It depicts the online and offline touchpoints available to customers today. The touchpoints shown in Fig. 1 – from touchpoints between companies on the one hand and prospects and customers on the other hand – represent only a selection of the available options, however.
Fig. 1: An example of a customer journey – from online and offline to noline / Source: Kreutzer, Praxisorientiertes Online-Marketing, 2021, S. 10
The illustration shows that the borderline between “online” and “offline” is becoming less and less critical to your prospects and customers. The individuals we target move back and forth continuously between the different worlds, particularly via mobile means.
Therefore, rather than referring to “online” and “offline” today, we should speak of “noline.” Consequently, I propose that you think of, develop and implement your customer-oriented activities, and not only those, in a “noline” format. We need to leave behind the compartmentalized thinking that still prevails in many cases and instead develop concepts and campaigns that prevent discrepancies between our online and offline presence right from the start.
"We should, no, we must plan, implement and manage our customer communication today in a “noline” format. That is the only way to benefit from the synergistic effects of cross-channel communication across devices."
If we fail to develop “noline” concepts, prospects and customers will have to piece together our communication bits, perhaps only to find out that they do not even fit together. In that case, we need not be surprised about losing more and more potential customers from one step to the next in our conversion funnel. Fig. 2 demonstrates the challenges to be mastered in this context. All activities shown there must be based on one another and data-driven to convince customers of our performance regardless of the channel and medium used.
Fig. 2: User activities and their triggers in the conversion funnel / Source: Kreutzer, Kundendialog online und offline, 2021, p. 139
We can achieve consistency in customer-oriented messages and offers only through comprehensive customer experience management. And such customer experience management requires customer-oriented, cross-departmental and cross-functional collaboration. This collaboration requires linking data, systems, and, above all, the actors. In this context, it is crucial to overcome the cognitive firewalls that often still exist – the firewalls in the actors’ minds.
Then, and only then, we will be able to attain the infinite customer journey shown in Fig. 3. The customer’s journey toward you, the company, begins with a want that acts as a trigger to start the journey. We then have to refine the want into a need in terms of brands and possible sources. Now, the online and/or offline search process begins. When customers consider options, reviews and tests are of great importance. Finally, the customer makes the buying decision and receives the product. Now the use phase starts, during which a customer gathers experience with the vendor, the product or service and, potentially, other services.
"The customer’s path toward you, the company, begins with a want that acts as a trigger to start the journey."
Fig. 3: The infinite customer journey / Source: Kreutzer, Kundendialog online und offline, 2021, p. 55
At this point, users might also receive feedback from friends and acquaintances that can affect their further journey positively or negatively (see Fig. 3). Depending on their experience, customers might turn to customer service. They might also share their own experiences with others. Depending on the experience, they might make a recommendation themselves. Subsequent purchases and/or disposal may come next. At that point, either the customer terminates the relationship with your company or a new trigger, based on positive memories, for example, lets the customer journey start all over again – ideally with your company.
It is all about the journey.
It is our task to establish this infinite customer journey with data, software and processes and ensure that our top performers have the right mindset.
About the author
Dr. Ralf T. Kreutzer is a Professor of Marketing at the Berlin School of Economics and Law and an internationally renowned trainer, coach, consultant and keynote speaker. He has published more than 45 books on the central questions of marketing and management.