In the past, people had no other choice but to visit the store in-person to buy something. But now, due to technology, the needs and wants of customers have changed significantly. Conducting business only through a brick-and-mortar store isn’t going to work anymore.
The omnichannel approach to marketing focuses on providing a seamless and consistent user experience across a variety of channels to drive more sales and keep customers more engaged.
The ways in which a customer can interact with a business has become more complicated than ever before. Customers no longer stick to one or two channels. They are everywhere and you should as well.
That’s why the omnichannel strategy focuses on providing a unified consistent user experience regardless of the channel and device a customer uses to connect with you, thereby providing a more personalized experience.
A typical customer channel-hops between physical stores, online stores and social media using devices such as smartphones, laptops and tablets during a purchasing cycle.
Customers are bound to channel-hop when looking up product reviews online while at the store or at home, comparing prices of competitors using price-comparison apps and websites, checking the social accounts of businesses to know how reputable and established they are or looking for a coupon in an online coupon store, just to name a few.
In a fast-paced technology-driven world like this, people expect convenience so convenience you must give them.
Consistency is also very important here. To make your brand more recognizable and memorable, make the user experience consistent across all channels by using the same theme, colors, fonts and etc. You get the idea, right?
Omnichannel marketing is indeed expensive but the return on investment will outweigh the expenses. To sum it all up, be everywhere your audience is and deliver a consistent user experience.
According to new research, 90% of the people who own multiple devices use an average of three per day to complete their daily tasks, including purchases.
That, by itself, hints at the massive potential increase in sales you are likely to receive if and when omnichannel marketing is implemented correctly.
According to Rakuten Marketing’s 2015 omni report, out of the 122 B2B and B2C chief marketing officers they interviewed, only 45% had implemented omnichannel marketing in their business.
A year later, when IBM and the CMO Council carried out a survey of 198 marketers regarding their adoption to omnichannel, a whopping 89% stated that they have or are planning to implement it in the near future.
This upwards trend from 45% to 89% didn’t stop there. According to research done by the CMO Council and Netsertive in 2017, 94% of marketers agreed that omnichannel strategies are crucial for the success of any business. The best thing is, it’s still growing.
People often tend to use the terms multichannel and omnichannel marketing interchangeably but in actuality, they are not the same.
Multichannel marketing represents the distribution system of a business. In other words, it represents the various avenues businesses use to get the word out about their products and services. Since those avenues are used independently, it strips the customer of a seamless and consistent user experience.
For example, a business may promote a new product via a blog post, email newsletter, social media post, or in-store promotion. Even though the motive is the same, the user experience and message is not.
Omnichannel marketing, on the other hand, is much more complex. Rather than just pushing stuff out, it focuses on bringing everything together and connecting them in a way that the user experience is seamless and consistent across the board.
Here, all channels work together in harmony, each contributing to drive more traffic and engagement to your business.
Let’s take a retail shop as an example. Its omnichannel strategy may include a price comparison app, coupon app, in-store pickup facility, in-store price checker, in-store product review checker and etc.
A new trend called showroom-only storefronts has emerged in the clothing industry and it’s gaining a lot of traction among online retailers.
Here, instead of allowing customers to make in-store purchases, they give you the opportunity to try on items and order them online at a later date.
If you require complimentary style assistance, you would need to make an appointment online before arriving at the store.
I heard that Samsung caught on to this trend and opened their own showroom-only storefront in Manhattan just last year.
A buyer persona is a made-up representation of your ideal customers. When creating one, consider the age, demographics, buying pattern, income, goals and etc.
Why do you need one? It helps you create content and promotional campaigns that are appealing to your target audience. So the more detailed your buyer persona is, the better.
Next, you need to gather information about your customers. For example, a retailer may use his e-commerce platform to gather information such as number of items sold, most sold items, least sold items, traffic sources, page views, unique visitors, bounce rate and etc.
What’s the point of collecting such information?
If you know from which channels and devices the majority of your traffic are coming from, you could focus on making the interface more user-friendly and responsive.
If you know what items are being sold the most, you could feature them in your home page and focus on creating similar products.
If you know who abandoned their carts recently, you could send them an email reminding them of it. The list goes on and on and on.
You should focus on the in-store analytics as well. Nowadays, most POS systems allow you to track sales, busiest time of the day, number of recurring and one-time customers, volume of sales your online ads and loyalty program brings in and much more.
Next up is customer surveys. They are more flexible since they allow you ask custom questions from your customers. To avoid overwhelming or annoying your customers, limit your questions to the most prominent ones.
Ask what they like the most and least about your business, what’s missing, whether they would like home-delivery and in-store pickup facilities, whether they would like a rewards program, which channels they use the most and etc.
Once you gather data from all 3 sources, you will have complete understanding about the buying patterns and preferences of your customers, including which channels they use the most and what products they are willing to buy the most if prices are dropped.
A successful omnichannel strategy requires some building blocks to be already in place. First of all, you need a beautiful mobile responsive website. Then, focus on SEO to make your site visible and crawlable to search engines.
Next, apply for free listings in online business directories to make sure your website gets in front of as many eyes as possible.
If you want traffic fast, invest money in SEM or Search Engine Marketing, where you place ads in Google and Bing. Last but not least, set up your social media accounts.
Choosing the correct social networks is also important. For example, if your business promotions are image-based you may consider creating an Instagram, Tumblr and Pinterest account. For video-based promotions, consider creating a Facebook, Twitter and YouTube account.
One major roadblock for implementing omnichannel marketing is siloed organizational structure where there are multiple departments, each handling different operations.
Having separate departments for marketing, customer service, event planning, product development and etc often leads to lack of communication among departments. If they can’t work together, an omnichannel approach is not possible.
Now, businesses are taking steps to either increase the interaction between departments or merge them together as a more broader department. Another solution is to restructure the reporting system in a way that all departments can access the necessary information of other departments.
If you are planning to merge all your departments and let a single team manage everything, consider hiring a chief omnichannel officer.
Coordination among departments is key to omnichannel success. Each team should understand how their data fits in the puzzle in relation with others.
You may have tons of ideas but I doubt you’ll have enough resources to implement them all. Start small by implementing the easiest and cost-effective omnichannel strategies you can think of.
For example, if you own a brick-and-mortar store and you find out that almost all your customers are looking up product reviews online before making their purchase, you could add touchscreens throughout the store so that customers can look up product reviews right then and there.
This will make their shopping experience more delightful and memorable, and will drive more sales to your business.
Let’s look at one more example. If people are abandoning their online carts due to high shipping fees, provide an in-store pickup facility. It will not only save them their shipping fees but will also increase the foot traffic to your brick-and-mortar store.
In-store pickups have a great ROI since there is a good chance that your customers may buy something else when they see it in your store.
Don’t think about implementing everything. That’s not practical even for some well-established businesses. Instead, focus on implementing the easiest and cost-effective strategies. You can then work your way up in time.
There is no auto-pilot option when it comes to omnichannel marketing. You have to gather data and analyze the results of your new strategies constantly. If a certain strategy isn’t working as expected, remove it or fine-tune it until it does.
Keep in eye out for new trends as well. The sooner you implement them, the better.
Now that you know how much time and effort you need to put into omnichannel marketing, you may be wondering whether its really worth it. But trust me, it is.
Otherwise, why do you think well-established companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars re-structuring their operations from being siloed to coordinated?
According to a study done by the IDC, customers that shop using multiple channels have a 30% higher lifetime value than those who stick to just one channel.
By implementing omnichannel marketing strategies, your customers will not only be able to choose a channel of their preference but will also start to spend more.
Don’t believe me? A study of 46,000 shoppers done by HBR shows that multi-channel customers spend 4% more each time they visit a store and 10% more in online purchases than single-channel customers.
In short, the more channels your customers use, the more they will spend.
Are you convinced about omnichannel marketing? Are you planning to implement it in your business? Let me know in the comments section below.