Omnichannel is an example of the age-old evolutionary mandate in action: marketers have had to figure out how to do what they do better, faster, and smarter to meet customer demands. We first adapted our strategy to a multi-channel environment in response to the continuously shifting communications universe. Now we’re taking that philosophy a step further down the continuum. With omnichannel we have the opportunity to transform our customers’ entire brand experience across multiple channels—and increase our chance of survival in the long run.
Successful omnichannel marketing both utilizes and generates data, which helps marketers back up the business value of their programs. It requires that your integrated touchpoints are personalized, optimized, and smart. Knowing where customers are enables marketers to target spend and we’re all in luck: with potential customer touch points at an all-time high, so is our ability to acquire meaningful data. Consider a hypothetical path for one customer, which could include but isn’t limited to:
1. Receiving a direct mail piece about a sale in a brick-and-mortar clothing store
2. Entering a brick-and-mortar
3. Pinning the store website image of jeans or a sweater on Pinterest
4. Adding the brick-and-mortar’s social app
5. Participating in brick-and-mortar’s Facebook survey to become eligible for free merchandise
In a multi-channel approach, this retailer has covered a lot of marketing bases—but it hasn’t necessarily created a holistic customer experience. An omnichannel approach seeks to blur the line between all these touchpoints to produce a cohesive, seamless “moment” between customer and brand. Let’s get started making the most of these moments for your business.
Marketing programs walk upright with more data.
The difference between multi- and omnichannel is in the data, not just its existence, but the way that the marketer opts to leverage it for increased customer insights and program refinement. For many marketers, multi-channel marketing remains cumbersome, with its emphasis on consistent brand projection across all channels, online and off. Multi-channel marketing is difficult to sustain because marketers know their message is being delivered, but have no way to measure whether it’s actually being heard.
First, while omnichannel is about far more than standardizing a brand across multiple channels, the consistency requirement is an important component for marketers to master. Omnichannel marketers must evolve to become:
· Homemakers The goal is to make customers feel at home however and wherever they may be interacting with your brand. For example, retailers should maintain consistent merchandise categories between brick-and-mortar and online inventory. And while not all messaging translates precisely across channels, it’s critical to make creative, graphical, and conceptual themes a common thread that weaves them together.
· Realists Opportunities abound with omnichannel, but it’s just as important to recognize the constraints. There are some elements of a physical store that cannot be recreated online, and vice versa. Tagging with dynamic navigation, for instance, makes inventory infinitely more searchable and relevant to the customer than showcasing products on a store shelf. Every channel experience need not be identical, and probably cannot be, but it should be familiar.
· Quality controllers Brand familiarity builds trust. Every touch point needs to feel like it is a fully integrated part of a retailer’s brand, so attention to details including fonts and imagery is crucial. Regardless of where a customer chooses to browse, learn or purchase, a retailer’s identity must look and feel familiar, whether on a mobile device, computer, or in-store.
Secondly, tech-enabled data collection obviously plays a huge role in facilitating an omnichannel strategy. We must nurture and analyze data at every channel to create an incredibly individualized experience for customers. With the ability to track customer movement, preferences, and responses, brands can sell to customers in a way that doesn’t feel like they’re being sold to at all. While it demands a higher level of foresight and commitment on the part of the marketer, it ultimately gets brands further down the customer engagement path more quickly, not unlike the efficiencies realized when our ancestors first mobilized themselves on two legs. The omnichannel marketer must also evolve to become the following:
· Planners Planning is critical. If marketers aren’t taking the time to lay a foundation for omnichannel, from goal to objectives to strategy to execution, it’s a shotgun approach at best and the result will likely be diluted results and an uneasy customer experience. Testing and learning–before a full-scale omnichannel program launches–is advised. Getting to know your customers in the channels where they interact, and gauge their response to messaging, themes and incentives, allows marketers to ease into a campaign and make necessary refinements before investing in a comprehensive omnichannel program.
· Detectives Omnichannel marketers don’t just receive information; they wring every ounce of insight out of that data. Not only does customer data enable the brand to track and appeal to the shopper on a customized level, but it also empowers marketers to re-evaluate and recalibrate an existing approach based upon learnings in the field.
· Reporters Back-end reporting is so important, yet so often a big fail in omnichannel. A consistent dashboard and frequent reporting provides that 360-degree view and allows for real-time adjustments. To do this effectively, marketers need to adopt more sophisticated measurement processes that go beyond impressions to evaluate clicks, traffic movement, and behavior.
Marketing has come a long way since the days of mass direct mail pieces and websites that are no more than online billboards. Today’s customer expects not to be sold to as much as listened to and understood. Omnichannel is the next generation of marketing, an intuitive response to customer demands–that if executed with due thought and skill–helps brands ensure survival in the modern marketplace.
Steve Muran is the director, customer & CRM practice at Slalom Consulting.