Alex Macura is the founder and CEO of Your Digital Assembly. A full-funnel agency that supports online businesses with their digital growth.
No matter what stage of a particular sales journey you’re in (and you’re probably part of several, if you think about it), it is likely you have encountered omnichannel marketing from your favorite brands. This harmonious integration of channels is how the consumer and marketer interact with one another. It is the physical store, the ecommerce website, the social media comments, the ad on YouTube, the flyer in the postbox—all of which strive to create a consistent, engaging brand experience and, ultimately, guide the consumer to make a purchase decision.
Whether your online presence is driving people to your physical store or your store is delivering curated user experiences, in today’s economy, retailers need to find whatever advantage they can to be noticed in the noise. Omnichannel marketing is an effective method that changes the way retail does marketing.
How is omnichannel different from multichannel?
I understand the confusion. There is a bit of overlap between the two strategies.
First, let’s understand what omnichannel marketing is. In a nutshell, omnichannel marketing follows the consumer around across their devices, their online channels, and—where possible—their physical spaces.
In the old days, stores were a distribution channel, and online was all about marketing. Now, consumers can buy directly from an Instagram post, and stores are incorporated into delivering powerful, emotional customer experiences.
In this way, omnichannel marketing presents one cohesive brand experience. It considers every time a consumer interacts with the brand—be it in-store or online—as a significant touchpoint along the funnel toward a conversion.
For this reason, omnichannel is super user-centric regarding how you deploy your marketing tactics. Consumers feel that all channels—be it social media, the call center, your brick-and-mortar store, or your website—are all equally up to the task of them purchasing, engaging with, complaining about, and reviewing your brand and products.
So, how is that different from multichannel marketing tactics? Well, while multichannel marketing does understand that marketing requires multiple channels, it typically only maps out a user journey per channel, not across channels. This method is important, make no mistake. But it is not as effective as an omnichannel approach.
Why adopt an omnichannel approach?
While the complexity of creating this kind of strategy can be arduous, the benefits and returns of a multichannel strategy easily outweigh it.
The modern consumer is so used to information overload that their inbuilt filter and radar—not to mention their devices’ AI—help them be more selective in seeing brands that they prefer to engage with.
An omnichannel strategy could be just what your brand needs to stand apart from the crowd. Here’s what we’ve found comes from a good omnichannel strategy.
• It’s better for the user: The focus is on the person rather than the channel or platform. This makes it a better UX for them, which usually translates to better sales. For example, a retailer will sell products on the back of a moving user experience in-store.
• It’s better for your brand: Your brand is easily identified across channels when you create a unified strategy. Crafting a user experience that spans all channels means everyone, every channel, every touchpoint sings from the same hymn sheet.
• It’s better for the bottom line: Channel diversification gives you greater reach and engagement. For example, Heinz brilliantly used omnichannel recently with a campaign involving a pop-up event in Santa Monica, livestreaming of the event linking back to the website, and distribution of the livestreaming across multiple social and online channels. The results were through-the-roof engagement levels, high video views and tremendous brand exposure.
How do you start your omnichannel marketing?
This is not a focus on a specific channel but on the overall user experience. With that in mind, here are five points that are important to keep in mind when planning your strategy.
1. Understand your customer.
This is number one. Always. If you can get this right, then I assure you, your marketing campaigns will succeed.
To do this, first review your CRM platform, your online reviews and your existing data to understand your customer’s demographics, similarities, emotions and pain points. Understand what their challenges are and how your product or service solves this. Then create customer personas and honor these in your messaging—every channel, every touch point, every time.
2. Collect and understand the data.
Data is the best way for you to understand which channels, which times and which devices your consumer prefers to interact with you and your brand.
Even if all you have is Google Analytics for your website and the inbuilt dashboards for your social channels, that’s a good start. To be honest, we have more data than we know what to do with. The real challenge is understanding the data and getting actionable insights. Use your data analysts, business intelligence software or marketing resources to make sense of the data so that you can optimize live campaigns and meet your consumers where they’re at.
3. Map the customer journey.
Review the steps your prospective customers take between discovering your brand for the first time, considering alternatives, purchasing from the brand and remaining loyal. Then, outline these for each customer segment.
4. Stick to the brand.
The physical shop is also a media channel, and digital media is also the shop. Use your brand guidelines to keep messaging and creatives consistent so that your customer recognizes you no matter the channel or stage of the funnel.
5. Test and optimize.
I have found that the only way to continually get the most out of an omnichannel approach is to test, test, test. Do AB testing with CTA, headline, image or product placement changes. See which get the best result per channel.
This can seem like a lot. However, if you integrate your offline and online channels, keep the customer at the apex and craft how best to reach them, then you can be effective in omnichannel marketing.