Cross-Channel vs. Platform Strategy

It’s a fight between online and offline. Amazon is well known for his platform strategy and is very successful with it. On the other site there is the cross-channel strategy which has it’s advantages. Some voices say that a platform strategy is killing offline within commerce. What is the truth? What is the solution?

First of all let’s see what is a cross-channel and what a platform strategy.

Cross-Channel Strategy

Generating leads / customers is expensive, so wee need to build their experience to keep them. Otherwise we need to generate them again and again. It’s brand building through experience. We need to be at the right time at the right place with the right information. Therefore we need an evolution in our channel strategy. Cross-channel is often mixed with multi- or omni-channel. Often companies are stuck in multi-channel or have just the first efforts in direction of omni-channel. Here you see the differences:

Cross-channel is the logical evolution within marketing. It looks perfect in direction of Customer Experience (#CX) because we collect knowledge from everywhere to understand the customer, predict his next step(s) / need(s) and make the right communication or better spoken the right interaction through communication, products and services. To do so there is a lot homework starting with the biggest issue to bring all data silos together and make them usable.

We communicate through marketing with our customer, but also through products & services. So we can differentiate between:

  • one-way  communication
  • two-way communication
  • interaction


One way communication like TV advertising is often named as a brand channel. For me it’s less building up a brand, it’s just for refreshing or remember someone for something. The experience takes mostly place somewhere else where we are able to transport more and individual (1:1) information. I’m talking about content marketing (through channels like website, e-mail, retail, newspaper & magazines or influencer for example) or personal experiences with former products & services. This builds the trust for a brand.
Within the journey from multi- to cross-channel we should have a special attention on channels with customer exchange like Social where a customer can post on a Facebook page for example. From my point of view this is more important than display advertising for example.

Platform Strategy

While a cross-channel strategy takes place online and offline. a platform strategy is focussing online with an all-in one approach. It combines everything the customer needs just on one platform.

We all know this big player. They stay for speed, process, community and trust. They build a platform and an experience to retain people in their ecosystem. They understood Customer Experience (#CX) long time ago.

For sure not everyone can build a platform like these 4…. but everyone can take the success criteria and implement it in his digital strategy, in his product & service strategy. If such a platform strategy is big, think about partnerships with other companies, build a network and (maybe) an own combined brand. Think about which products & services would your customer also need or be interested in. Have a look if you can offer it or if you partner with someone. A supermarket which build his own delivery service, doesn’t need own cars and drivers. That’s not his core business. He can organize everything around (order, payment, packing, etc.) and handover the delivery to a cab company or Uber for example. If the supermarket is partnering with other, different shops and include this in one order process and one delivery.. that’s whats customer needs and push the retail business

What’s right, what’s next?

And now? Which strategy should you follow? Both strategies have it’s fighters. On a first view it depends if you have a wholesale, retail or more an online business what you prefer. But is the world black & white? In the previous supermarket example you see that both strategies ca be combined.
Customers are driving the direction and they think just how convenience it is for them… every time and everywhere. What for one customer is convenient isn’t for the next one and vice versa. One customer prefers today one way and tomorrow the other way. Sometimes customer want a platform where they get everything in a broad direction of products and services and the next time the same customer want to go for offline (retail etc.). In times of Customer Experience we need to be flexible, so why do not combine this two strategies?

If we combine both worlds we generate a Customer Strategy where both worlds can benefit from each other and finally the customer benefits most.So let’s put the stakeholder /corporate view aside and think what are the benefits from both strategies for our customers.

Personally I do not like the word channel. Channel is a marketer and a corporate thinking. The customer  doesn’t care about channels, he cares about his needs and the best solution at the right time and place.

There is no truth, no solution. It’s just the direction that we should try to combine both strategies and find our own mix in our industry / business. For one business a combined strategy is working better than for the other….  but it counts for B2C as well as for B2B. Be different, be innovative, be flexible and engage with the customer!

The customer (B2B and B2C) is everywhere. He needs a cross-channel approach but is often happy to have a centralized platform. We need to stop thinking in the “either-or” principle. I highlighted Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon. Are they all 100% online?


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