There are a variety of challenges for brands that are looking to exploit cross-channel strategies to their best advantage. Much media attention has been directed towards mobile commerce (m-commerce) – which has exploded following the wide consumer uptake of smartphones – and social media, which is increasingly proving its worth as a means of marketing and communication.

To truly embrace the cross-channel marketplace, retailers need to follow the golden rule of direct marketing – go where your customers are and engage with them. Retailers must move away from the sales-focused platforms of yesteryear and build in the ability for users to browse products, share choices with friends, read and contribute reviews and compare prices across multiple platforms and devices.

Awareness of how different channels are used is paramount – consumers move fluidly between them, browsing, sharing and purchasing as they go. As such, branding, presentation, pricing and payment options must remain consistent across channels so consumers build lasting relationships with the brands that they choose to interact with.

The well-publicized passing of the 500 million member mark on Facebook should have quashed any unease felt by retailers about whether or not a presence on social media is necessary. This goes without question, but it is equally important for retailers to rigorously promote customer engagement wherever possible.

This can be as simple as ensuring that sharing buttons are present in messages sent to customers on mailing lists, or including “like” or “recommend” buttons on product description pages. This allows customers to notify their friends on recent purchases with ease, while providing an excellent third-party endorsement for brands or products.

Twitter is also an effective tool for interacting with consumers, particularly if a brand is brave enough to answer questions and criticism, rather than simply use the platform to broadcast a marketing message.

The integration of m-commerce and social media into the cross-channel strategy of modern retailers is vital, but retailers cannot assume that incorporating these specific technologies will prove to be a cure-all for their cross-channel needs.

Instead, retailers must realize that customers use multiple platforms side-by-side, and they need to offer total flexibility, continuity, and ease-of-use to maximize brand presence and drive conversion. Simple and inexpensive steps can and should be taken to ensure that companies maximize the effectiveness of cross-channel strategies.