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Email can be a great call to action for multichannel customers, particularly in retail but also in B2B marketing.

We all know that email can play a powerful role in turning Web researchers and site browsers into buyers. In fact, more and more of our retailer clients are building a specific segment of in-store buyers—and getting results that blow away store managers.

Lessons learned in these B2C experiences can also be applied to B2B, especially with the advance of more strategic account management approaches that cross business and geographic boundaries.

First lesson: turning your email program into a multichannel messaging program adds new complexity for tracking and measuring subscriber behavior. Be sure to involve both IT and store management in a cross-department effort.

And, the key in retail is that everyone, in every department, has to have a shared goal, or it will never work. Store managers, email program managers and ecommerce have to work together to server customers.

Frankly, ignoring the customer experience in all this makes the whole effort pointless anyway. From a subscriber standpoint, the email and the Web site and the store are all the same brand. Same is true for B2B—no one wants more than one sales rep or account manager just to accommodate internal divisional lines.

Be sure that your promotion, merchandizing, and product up-selling reflect a cohesion and symmetry that makes sense to customers—regardless of your internal structure.

Consider these ideas when trying to strike the right balance between your sales goals and your marketing message:

Be specific. Send product-specific email offers to Web site visitors who have requested product information or added items to the shopping cart. Track clicks from your emails and trigger offer-specific messaging to make future emails more relevant. Create a distinct look and feel for in-store messages and help store buyers feel special.

Make it easy for email subscribers to find your stores. Don't assume that subscribers will dig around your Web site for the store locator. Make sure they know you are there to serve them.

Localize the content. Make the messages as personal and local as you can by mentioning the store location and reflecting local weather, season, and tradition. Even if there is generic, global content, a few well-placed customized notations in each message can make the whole message feel personal.

Encourage cross-channel behavior. Make it easy for customers to engage with you whenever and wherever they are. Gift registries that are developed online but accessible in the store, online order with "ship to store" pick-up, email messages with printable coupons, and store manager specials that are also redeemable online are great ways to solidify a cross-channel brand experience.

Similarly, online B2B resource centers are great opportunities to track interests and understand when clients are in market for up-selling or new features.

Tell a story. Think in campaigns. Your weekly newsletter emails can be telling an ongoing story that educates subscribers about product utility and benefits. Thus, your newsletter is like the online research phase of the buying cycle. Subsequent promotional emails promote purchase or a conversation with a sales rep.

Make an offer they can't refuse. Use email to follow up on local store events. Collect email address and permission at the door or register, offering a 5% in-store coupon for use that day.

Never let them go until they buy and buy again. Trigger custom email for Web site browsers who do not complete a transaction. This technique is especially effective when trying to re-engage with customers who abandon shopping carts. You can also send coupons for related products that can be used either online or at the store.

Don't sell all the time. Offer research opportunities in the email itself. Even a little bit of content (e.g., tips, factoids, product-use ideas, testimonials, up-sells) can turn a pure promotion email into an engaging subscriber experience.

Measure multichannel. If email is driving purchase and engagement through multiple fulfillment channels, be sure to track it that way. Track behavior across channels for clues on content and cadence strategies. For example, don't drop non-Web buyers from your email program if they are buying in the store.

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Matching relevant offers to your members is paramount to achieving subscriber engagement. Using behavior data and info from sales reps, get to know each subscriber and generate content based on their habits.

No matter where they complete the sale—via phone, lengthy contract review, a shopping cart or at the register—the important thing is to make sure you create meaningful relationships with customers that will result in increased response rates across the board.

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Stephanie Miller is vice-president of market development for Return Path, Inc. ( Reach her via Twitter (@StephanieSAM) or