Omnichannel marketing is a strategy employed by many large organizations around the world, although it is not a term you may frequently encounter. But what is omnichannel marketing, and how does an omnichannel marketing strategy work?
In this article, we will provide an overview of what omnichannel marketing is, covering the definition of omnichannel marketing and the key elements required. We then provide a complete guide on how an omnichannel marketing strategy works and what you need to do to implement one successfully.
What is Omnichannel Marketing – and Why is It Important?
Omnichannel marketing is the cooperation and synergy between the various channels a company uses to interact with consumers. This includes both offline channels (bricks-and-mortar store locations, delivery methods) and online (websites, emails, YouTube channels, advertisements, etc.).
An omnichannel marketing strategy’s ultimate goal is to provide customers with a smooth, satisfying experience when interacting with any facet of an organization, and one that works to their preferences.
One of the most important features of omnichannel marketing is being able to seamlessly switch between channels. An example of this would be a customer placing an order online for pickup in person – if a company’s omnichannel strategies are solid, this ought to be a straightforward and seamless experience for the customer.
Omnichannel marketing is becoming more and more commonplace, and is no longer limited to retail. Such diverse industries as healthcare, finance and tech are all making use of it, and it’s important for the success of any company to be familiar with the various tactics and strategies commonly used to keep customers satisfied.
With the definition of omnichannel marketing in mind, let’s now explore how an omnichannel marketing strategy works and what you need to do to implement one successfully.
What are the Key Elements of Omnichannel Marketing?
The defining characteristic of omnichannel marketing is that it’s a consumer-centric approach to marketing strategies. Modern customers have a wealth of options when it comes to interacting with their favorite brands – and, consequently, they have a wealth of alternate options if they’re not happy with their current product or service.
An omnichannel marketing approach necessitates ensuring that customers are satisfied on every possible front. This requires that a company:
- Has a consistent and strong brand identity;
- Offers personalized feedback and contact based on their preferences and interests;
- Provides content that is informed by a consumer’s past purchasing habits and current consumer journey.
Brand recognition is absolutely key (look at industry giants like Nike, Apple or Microsoft) and personalization increases the likelihood that potential customers will interact with your company.
What are the Benefits of Omnichannel Marketing?
It’s rapidly becoming the consensus that omnichannel marketing is the future, both online and offline. Yet such an effective marketing strategy comes with its drawbacks, as it can be very challenging to implement and maintain an effective and satisfying omnichannel strategy.
Because of the proliferation of advertising (and brand alternatives), consumers have the luxury to pick and choose to which brands they offer their custom. This means that brands must work harder to distinguish themselves from their competitors – something that they can do with omnichannel marketing strategies such as:
- A distinct brand image and identity: a concerted marketing approach across all channels brings with it a seamless, distinct brand identity. By adopting a holistic approach to marketing that takes into account the bigger picture – rather than micromanaging individual channels – a company can ensure a cohesive brand image whether found on YouTube or Google.
- Higher profits: omnichannel marketing gives customers more opportunities to interact with your brand across a more diverse network of channels. More diverse interactions with a customer lead to their being more valuable than a customer who is reached through a more traditional mono-channel result – some sources estimate that omnichannel customers are 30% more valuable. What’s more, it leads to increased customer loyalty – repeat customers can account for up to 40% of a business’ revenue.
- An enhanced user experience: an omnichannel approach doesn’t laser-focus on any one channel but concentrates on the bigger picture. This means that you can take a customer-first approach, and consequently increase customer satisfaction and retention.
- Higher-quality insights and analytics: an omnichannel approach doesn’t just facilitate consumer satisfaction and retention – it leads to better quality feedback in the form of analytics. Because the customer engages (and is engaged) across multiple channels, it builds a more cohesive customer profile, which can be used to fine-tune a company’s approach going forward. See here for our complete guide on marketing analytics and the most important marketing KPIs you should track.
Getting the Most out of Omnichannel Marketing
As we’ve already mentioned, omnichannel marketing requires focusing on the customer (rather than the channel) and working to establish a holistic, macro approach to marketing. Consequently, it is often necessary to adopt a new mindset in order to make the most of it.
Collect Accurate Data in a Timely Manner
Omnichannel marketing simply doesn’t work without precise and timely data regarding your consumer base. It’s important to know when customers interact with your brand, on what device, and via which channels. This data means that you can ascertain the optimal approach for dealing with each customer on a personalized level; what sort of advertising will they respond to? Are they more likely to interact with your brand on a mobile device or personal computer? What good or service are they looking for?
In order to collect this, a company needs to have the necessary tools in place. One of the most effective ways of doing this is with Unified Marketing Measurement (UMM). This attribution model combines two key components of marketing analysis (Marketing Mix Modeling and Multi-Touch Attribution) to bring you the best of both worlds, allowing you to obtain feedback on the micro (customer) and macro (aggregate) measurements simultaneously.
Real-Time Data Analysis
Data collection is only half the battle – it needs to be analyzed before it is of any use. This means a dedicated analysis team that can act on data in real-time to right the ship or steer it in a new direction – all the better to meet customer requirements in the moment.
A Uniform, Consistent Brand Identity
It’s important that all departments and channels are on the same page when it comes to brand identity. This means that guidelines regarding the brand are in place company-wide, and that everyone in the company adheres to them religiously. This ensures a cohesive and consistent brand identity on the customer’s end, which leads to increased conversion and retention.
Track Customer Journeys
Mapping out a customer’s journey – from point of first contact with the brand through to the moment of purchase – can be invaluable in devising future marketing strategies across all channels. Such maps facilitate customer targeting based on personal interests, the user interface/experience, and exogenous economic factors (economic downturns, recessions or booms, for instance).
Omnichannel marketing is not a one-and-done approach; it requires constant refinement and fine-tuning, and any successful company’s strategy will reflect that. Media planning tools and dedicated teams should be employed to constantly assess the efficacy of current omnichannel marketing, as well as deploy hypothetical scenarios that can account for target audience, marketing budget, media mix and multiple KPIs. This will return a detailed media plan that will assist in future decision-making.
Omnichannel Marketing Examples
Omnichannel marketing may be a new strategy, but it doesn’t mean it hasn’t already been successfully deployed. Let’s take a look at some companies that have already been making the best use of an omnichannel approach. These omnichannel marketing examples show that the strategy is very powerful if done right.
Clothing giant Nordstrom has long adopted an omnichannel approach to marketing, and this seamlessly combines both online and offline experiences to deliver a superior customer experience.
Omnichannel marketing means approaching your customers rather than the other way around. It also necessitates the successful management of multiple channels to drive engagement and, ultimately, successful sales. These are all things that Nordstrom has proven itself a master of.
One of the linchpins of Nordstrom’s on- and offline integration has been their partnership with internet image titan Pinterest. Shoppers in bricks-and-mortar Nordstrom stores can scan a Pincode, which takes the user to a Pinterest page with Nordstrom bargains. In addition to being a novel wrinkle in the offline shopping experience, the feature has driven sales via word-of-mouth and subtle suggestive upselling.
Nordstrom hasn’t sat on its laurels, however. The brand has turned its hand to YouTube videos that offer solid, constructive advice and conclude with a perfectly pitched call to action. Other companies would do well to learn from this unique and multifaceted marketing strategy.
Coffee giant Starbucks has enjoyed great success with its own omnichannel marketing strategies in recent years. Similar to many restaurants and cafes, Starbucks has implemented an app through which customers can place orders. Many consumers find this approach impersonal and off-putting, however, preferring to order directly from a human being and eschewing the sometimes burdensome and wearying process of registering in order to buy a coffee.
Starbucks has sidestepped these hurdles with their mobile rewards app. Consumer convenience is prioritized, and users are easily able to top up their card from their computer or device. Customers also earn points by using the app, eventually netting free coffees, and they can skip the line in the morning by ordering via the app. All of this ensures that Starbucks follows the single most important principle in omnichannel marketing – customer convenience.
One-stop super-shopping experience Amazon’s mission statement sums it up perfectly: they aim to be the most “customer-centric company on Earth”. Amazon manages this with their peerless delivery system, but they are increasingly branching out into omnichannel marketing in order to maintain their position as one of the world’s most successful companies. This makes Amazon a great omnichannel marketing example.
Amazon delivers on their promise to focus entirely on the customer. Their ability to personalize their interactions with customers is second to none, and this personalization drives repeat business and suggestive selling. They are also masters of interacting with customers across whichever channel suits them, and maximizing the potential of customer data on the backend in order to bolster customer satisfaction and retention.
Amazon’s answer to omnichannel marketing is blinding in both its simplicity and its brilliance: Amazon Prime.
The reasons for a customer to purchase an Amazon Prime are many, and the service is, in of itself, emblematic of the omnichannel approach to marketing and customer satisfaction.
Amazon Prime is, ostensibly, a sort of ‘discount card’ for the company’s online shopping and delivery service. Membership guarantees fast, free delivery – reason enough for many people to purchase a subscription. Amazon frequently incentivizes new customers with trial subscriptions, even if they’ve had them before, and the convenience of an account soon trumps the monthly fee.
In order to push Prime membership despite increasing costs, Amazon continues to bundle additional benefits. The full list of benefits is extensive indeed, but some of the bigger reasons for membership include:
- Prime Wardrobe: virtually test out clothing before committing to a purchase;
- Extensive discounts on affiliate streaming services (such as HBO Go) and groceries;
- Unlimited Prime streaming video and music.
The reason Amazon provides all of these incidental benefits is simple: it centralizes customer data collection into a single account, streamlining the analysis of that data and fueling the company’s much-lauded recommendation system. It also allows a customer’s Amazon Prime Video experience to feel as seamless and effortless as using Prime Delivery. In short, the company has succeeded at creating a true omnichannel experience that keeps customers spending, and keeps them coming back.
The US drug store titan has created a proprietary app that makes it easier for customers to refill prescriptions and also incorporates health-app-style features (like those you might see on FitBit or Apple Health apps), in order to drive promotions, competitions and leaderboards. This blurring of the lines between drug store and health app raises brand awareness in a non-invasive way, and ultimately drives engagement, sales and retention.
Similar to Nordstrom, Timberland is integrating its on- and offline experiences by having customers make use of apps in-store to drive customer engagement, making it a great example for omnichannel marketing. The shoe retailer uses futuristic near-field communication technology to communicate with customer devices when they are near in-store ‘Touchwalls’, flashing up personalized information regarding various kinds of shoe and sneaker. Customers can use these walls to add footwear to their wishlist or cart, and can then purchase the footwear in-store if they wish. Timberland is also able to use the data collected to recommend more obscure makes of footwear, which leads to an increase in sales for their lesser-purchased stock.
Trends to Watch in Omnichannel Marketing
As omnichannel marketing establishes itself as the future of marketing, certain trends have cemented themselves firmly in any successful company’s marketing techniques. Any business serious about maximizing their ROI would do well to carefully consider the following:
The In-Store and Online Experience Must be Seamlessly Integrated
The success of brands like Starbucks, Nordstrom and Timberland demonstrates that there is no such thing as a purely offline experience in the brave new world of retail: customers frequently order online and arrive in-store to pick up their order, and all retail companies must accommodate this reality. The easier it is to order and acquire that order quickly, the more likely a customer is to choose your brand.
It’s All About the Brand, Not the Channel
If Amazon’s massive, continuing success demonstrates anything, it’s that a brand is more important than any one channel. Customers expect a seamless experience across multiple channels, and they expect convenience. Any brand that can maintain a consistent customer experience, whether they’re engaging via an app, a website or a store, is going to be a winner.
The More Channels Available, the Better the Customer
More channels means more profit. It really is that simple. Customers who can access your brand across multiple channels are estimated to spend 3-4 times the amount that customers who interact with only a single channel.
Multi-Device Purchases are Increasingly Common
By this, we don’t mean that customers buy some things through their mobile device and others through their TV; we mean that a purchase initiated on that mobile device might then be completed on the TV.
While that doesn’t sound like it’s necessarily impactful, it matters more than it first seems. Firstly, if a brand is unable to seamlessly transfer a potential purchase from one platform to another (for instance, by maintaining a customer’s shopping cart from app to website and so on), customers may well abandon that purchase. On the other hand, if a customer becomes distracted and later comes back to the site or app by a different channel, they’re more likely to buy if that item is still in their cart.
Furthermore, tracking across multiple channels means better insights and analytics – and that translates, down the line, to better personalization, sales and retention.
This all means that cross-platform purchases, and the facilitation thereof, are going to be key to the success of any company. If there’s one thing that Amazon’s success shows, it’s this.
A successful omnichannel marketing strategy means going to the customer, rather than their coming to you. It means offering them multiple touchpoints at any given moment, and making that touchpoint as easy as possible to access and interface with. It also means offering a consistent brand identity and user experience across multiple channels, and doing so in a way that’s seamless and intuitive.
If all of this can be achieved, the rewards are obvious – increased brand loyalty, higher sales and ROI, and much-improved customer retention. On the flip side of the coin, getting to grips with omnichannel seems daunting – and it certainly can be – but for those that crack the code, it offers unparalleled customer satisfaction and brand loyalty. Make sure that your company is ahead of the curve by implementing these strategies sooner rather than later.