Omnichannel has been around for a few years now and it’s not just marketing terminology – it’s a marketing objective. If you don’t have a strategy in place, you’re already behind the curve.
Today’s successful marketers all take an omnichannel tack that puts customers at the centre of a diverse network of interactions and engagements. Although these strategies use multiple channels and devices to reach customers, the messaging and overall shopping experience are unified, consistent, and highly personalised for each individual shopper.
But how do these brands establish a successful omnichannel marketing strategy? And what makes it such a popular approach in the first place? Heath Barlow, Emarsys’ Australasia Market Lead, explores.
Why Omnichannel Marketing?
Omnichannel reflects the culmination of traditional marketing, e-commerce, and multichannel strategies, fuelled by the growth of online and mobile app sales. Though many consumers don’t fully understand what it means, they certainly enjoy the benefits of a marketing strategy that delivers unified options and experiences for their researching and buying habits. Where the average consumer 15 years ago typically used two touchpoints when buying a product, today they choose an average of five to six.
For this reason, online and offline channels continue to be tied to each other. For example, 94 percent of consumers conduct online research prior to buying something but will still typically visit a physical store to complete the purchase. Cue Clothing Co’s focus on perfecting its omnichannel strategy demonstrates this tendency, where bricks-and-mortar stores now typically function as distribution centres for the retailer’s online presence. Customers that come in-store to see and feel a piece of clothing need to be able to complete their purchase journey online and vice-versa. Its unified channel has allowed Cue Clothing Co to integrate all the components of this journey and create a frictionless shopping experience from desktop, tablet, and mobile devices, as well as in-store and via its integrated customer care team.
Consistent experiences and interactions across all channels have come to be expected, with many customers even expressing frustration at an inability to easily transfer from one channel to another. Regardless of the reason for these rising expectations, well over half of consumers appreciate having their profile information available across all channels when it delivers a consistent shopping experience. One of Australia’s fastest growing women’s online retailers, Showpo, has experienced strong growth thanks to its commitment to and mastery of the omnichannel experience. The retailer is intent on knowing its customers, which has led it to create a single customer view with their data. This allows Showpo to unlock personalised experiences on the website that translate across email and other channels. Customers are willing to provide personal data in return for exceptional, personalised shopping experiences.
Online and offline channels are only going to become more interconnected and complementary to each other, making omnichannel so much more than just a trend. Yet very few retailers actually take advantage of omnichannel benefits, with a Forrester report finding that only one-third of retailers have mastered the basic operations of in-store pickup, cross-channel inventory visibility, and store-based fulfilment. Toys “R” Us’ decline has been cited as largely a result of the competition it was up against in the e-commerce space, with the entry of Amazon and other large online competitors. As a historically strong player in the bricks-and-mortar space, the retailer’s inability to adjust to changing customer expectations and offer a continuation of the customer experience online meant it struggled to compete.
How Can it be Done? Five Steps to Omnichannel
Successful omnichannel strategies all have one thing in common: they exist to serve the customer. However, very few companies are able to successfully build a complete marketing philosophy all at once. This is why taking a step-by-step approach can be very helpful in building out a successful omnichannel strategy by conquering just one channel at a time.
Step One: Get the Data Right – during this phase, use data to fine-tune your optimisation via email. From then on, data will fuel your company’s omnichannel journey to more effectively personalise communication with customers and deliver a world-class shopping experience. To accomplish this, your database must be carefully constructed, fed accurate information, and meticulously maintained.
Step Two: Email – think email is old news? Think again. There’s nothing boring about the number-one digital channel for delivering marketing ROI. The next closest competing channel is pay-per-click (PPC), which only drives about half as much ROI. Creating an email system optimised to target the right individuals with the most relevant messages and incentives, at the most opportune times, is the most important step you can take toward building the foundation of your omnichannel strategy.
Step Three: Web Channel – with a sound foundation of email and data, you can begin to focus strategically on web as a channel. Here, customer relationships are still built upon digital IDs, but now you’re able to further enrich each customer’s brand journey with customised web experiences and fill the gaps online for personally relevant targeted ads, tailor-made product recommendations, and meaningful incentives. This approach transforms the website into a personalised communication channel, rather than simply a platform to showcase products.
Step Four: Mobile – the mobile channel has exploded over the last three years, continuously growing and offering new ways to engage. Soon, we will be operating in a mobile-only world. A robust mobile channel aligned with email and web channels, and built upon customers’ digital ID, that seamlessly engages with them whenever and wherever opportunities arise to deliver personally relevant messages and incentives, is central to the future of omnichannel.
Step Five: Social Media – social media is one powerful channel, with the capacity to influence an enormous number of word-of-mouth-type purchases, particularly of younger generations. Retailers need to ensure they build a social media presence that creates meaningful interactions that align with the brand’s email, web, and mobile channels.
In a sentence, omnichannel works because it’s built around the digital ID as a keystone and paints a very detailed profile of each customer. Of course, little that’s simply summed up in a sentence about technology is equally simple to implement. The marketers must also consider channels such as messaging, in-store, direct mail, display ads and other channels that their customers use. Regardless, every stage of the omnichannel roadmap requires an in-depth evaluation of where your company is, and where you want it to go, starting with email.