Today’s shoppers demand convenient, streamlined and consistent experiences across all channels. For brands, that means turning to omnichannel strategies.
In recent years, an omnichannel approach to marketing and sales has shifted from cutting edge to essential.
Customer experience, technology and increased consumer awareness have converged as core business priorities. And customer behavior has transformed to demand full integration between in-store and online.
Enter the omnichannel solution, whereby CX is intentionally consistent no matter which medium consumers prefer.
Target, in 2020, discovered that the use of omnichannel strategies led to increased sales, with omnichannel shoppers spending up to 10 times more than those who only bought in-store or online.
And a report from Omnisend found that brands using three or more channels (compared to those with two or fewer) see a 90% higher customer retention rate and 250% higher engagement and purchase rates.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what omnichannel is, how companies use it and how you can capture the benefits, too.
What Does Omnichannel Mean?
Omnichannel is the integration of the different channels a business uses to interact with clients. It includes physical locations (a store) and digital channels, like social media, email, websites and apps.
One of the biggest drivers of profitability in today’s marketplace is convenience. In a 2020 NRF survey, 97% of shoppers said they’ve backed out of a purchase because it was inconvenient, and 83% said convenience is more important now than five years ago.
Omnichannel retail and marketing maximize a product or service’s reach while making purchases more convenient. For instance, shoppers can choose between buying online with home delivery, buying online and collecting in person or buying in-store.
And omnichannel isn’t only for retail and ecommerce. It’s also valuable for:
Omnichannel gives consumers more choices and access to real-time information. It also puts them at the helm of brand experiences, empowering them to shop in their preferred manner while interacting with brands on their terms. And while convenience drives commerce, personalization drives customer experience. With an omnichannel strategy, you can leverage both.
Omnichannel marketing integrates branding, messaging and a combination of online and offline key touchpoints. It places the consumer at the center of the strategy, aiming to make every process as intuitive, rewarding and consistent as possible.
Core elements of omnichannel marketing include:
- Smart content that remembers past interactions and recognizes the current stage of the customer journey
- Consistent brand imagery, voice, vision and messaging
- Personalized interactions based on user profiles
Omnichannel retail, sales or commerce is an approach to the customer buying journey. Its aim is for customers to enjoy a smooth, cohesive experience across all channels: brick-and-mortar stores, laptops, tablets, smartphones and IoT devices.
Many of today’s consumers conduct research before buying, including watching demonstration videos, reading forums and seeking out reviews. Some shoppers even use their devices in-store to ensure they’re making informed decisions. An omnichannel strategy can help businesses intuitively guide leads to purchase using content and support across every channel.
Therefore, instead of a separate experience on each channel a shopper uses, an omnichannel operation creates a cohesive experience across the entire customer journey.
Related Article: Connected Customers, Connected Data, Connected Journeys
Single Channel vs. Multi-Channel vs. Omnichannel
Traditional single-channel sales involve a single vending location, such as a store or online marketplace. It’s an old-fashioned way of doing business, and operators using this model are likely missing out on sales opportunities.
Multichannel commerce happens across digital and physical locations, but they’re not integrated. You might make decent returns with this approach, but you’re missing vital growth opportunities. Lead conversion, customer loyalty and upselling are all improved by an omnichannel strategy.
When it comes to multichannel vs. omnichannel in marketing, the biggest difference is what’s at the center of your strategy.
- Your brand defines and informs your marketing strategy
- Each channel operates separately
- Marketing channels aren’t personalized for consumers
- Communication is primarily static and uniform across channels
- Channels aren’t automated to update based on user preferences
- The customer is the central focus of your marketing strategy
- Messaging changes according to how a consumer interacts with your brand
- Channels can work together and share information
- Each platform automatically updates based on consumer behavior
- Each channel is highly personalized for each potential customer
What Are the Benefits of Omnichannel for Marketing?
Adopting an omnichannel marketing approach has several benefits. And while companies might not yet deploy it across the board, there’s a good chance that those who don’t will get left behind.
According to a 2021 study on gamified, personalized and engaging experiences, “customization helps consumers fulfill their need for autonomy.” You can empower customers by offering personalized experiences, prompting an emotional connection between them and your business.
Customized omnichannel marketing tailors the buying journey, making it intuitive and smooth for each shopper. The result is improved brand perception, increased engagement, higher spends and more repeat customers.
Better Brand Recognition
Cross-channel consistency — having the same logo, fonts, color scheme, tone and messaging across all channels — strengthens your brand by improving recall. And having a memorable brand is vital.
Research from RebootOnline revealed that a consistent signature color alone — like McDonald’s iconic red and golden yellow — can increase consumer recognition of a brand by 80%. And according to Lucidpress, brands that present a consistent image across channels see an increase in revenue of 33% on average. (Download req.)
Improved Attribution Data
One of the biggest bonuses of omnichannel marketing is the boost it gives your data analytics. It allows you to track engagement across channels to gain an accurate picture of the customer buying journey.
You learn where customers prefer to engage and see which marketing campaigns add the most value. This data can further refine future strategies and set sales forecasts.
Greater Customer Retention
By placing the consumer at the heart of your marketing strategies and empowering them, you improve the chances of them coming back.
An omnichannel approach makes it easier to connect with your brand and streamlines the customer journey. Because you can deliver a smooth and consistent experience, no matter the channel, you negate the primary cause of customer churn: poor customer satisfaction. (Scientific Reports)
Boosted Bottom Line
Overall, all omnichannel marketing’s benefits lead to increased sales and revenue.
Your brand becomes easier to access, thus making it easier to purchase. Because of personalization, the average spend per head often increases. And, with customers walking away satisfied, they’re more likely to return and make future purchases — and spread the good word online and to friends and family.
What Are the Benefits of Omnichannel for Retail?
Many advantages of omnichannel retail and omnichannel marketing overlap. However, understanding the specific benefits of each can help leaders decide which strategies will work best for their organizations.
Meeting consumers where they’re at to make a sale makes the customer buying journey easier than ever. And guess what? The easier the journey is, the more money you’ll make.
Entering details into endless forms and taking the time to seek your brand out are major pain points. By making shopping simpler, customers are more likely to purchase and walk away happy.
More and more businesses crop up every day. Between 2019 and 2021, according to Nasdaq, nearly 170,000 new professional and technical service firms came into existence. This might be the sign of a healthy economy, but it also means business leaders must work harder to attract customers.
Moving to an omnichannel experience is one of the best ways to differentiate your company. It won’t just enhance CX for potential customers, it also improves returning customers’ experiences.
Improved Customer Service
Omnichannel support is one of the defining features of modern customer service. When people need help with a product, being able to reach a customer rep and resolve issues as quickly as possible is paramount.
According to research from Hubspot, 90% of customers will purchase more from brands with excellent customer service, and 93% are more likely to be repeat customers. The more interconnected your company’s channels, the easier a consumer can get help using their preferred method.
In one study of 46,000 consumers, Harvard Business Review found that omnichannel shoppers, compared to single-channel customers, spend 4% more in-store and 10% more online on every shopping occasion.
And to make the case for omnichannel even more compelling, omnichannel shoppers spend extra with each additional channel that’s available. For example, said HBR researchers, “customers who used 4+ channels spent 9% more in the store, on average, when compared to those who used just one channel.”
Optimized Business Processes
Interconnected sales and marketing channels mean interconnected, streamlined data. With a tightly controlled data stream, you get more precise insights into which processes bear fruit and which are less effective. Your website, store, social media and IoT information are combined, giving you a clear picture of the decisions customers make throughout the buyer journey.
You’ll need to take a cross-departmental collaborative approach to optimize your business processes. Each wing of your company will have insights and explanations that can bolster the entire team’s efforts.
Related Article: How to Make Your Customer Experience Better: Be Convenient
10 Steps for Creating and Implementing an Omnichannel Marketing Strategy
To implement omnichannel strategies, you need to go above and beyond the scope of multichannel. It’s not just about offering multiple platforms for consumers to make purchases. Your entire business model requires updating to expand your reach, generate growth and maximize ROI.
For the most part, tech takes the brunt of the work in connecting various platforms. Your job is to prepare teams and business processes to enable omnichannel’s benefits.
Below are 10 crucial steps to take when moving from single or multichannel to omnichannel.
1. Get All Teams on Board
The shift to omnichannel is beyond the scope of your marketing department alone. Organizations should coach every team member on harnessing data and making CX more personalized.
The result? A marketing team that can craft on-trend offers and capture your target audience’s attention. Sales teams that understand the best way to close deals with each type of buyer. And, crucially, customer support teams that know how to make each person feel like the most valued and respected customer you have.
2. Optimize for Mobile
Smartphones are the preferred method of researching and buying for many shoppers. What’s more, younger generations, like Gen Z, rely heavily on social media for shopping inspiration.
As these generations gain an increasing amount of purchase power, the move to omnichannel is a matter of urgency. Mobile users expect seamless UX and UI, which is vital for making the most of omnichannel.
3. Segment Customers
Segmentation can help companies deliver on the personalization that consumers crave. Businesses often approach segmentation by developing buyer personas.
These personas might look at and segment customers by traits like:
- Hobbies and interests
- Values and beliefs
- Preferred method of interaction with businesses
Once you’ve detailed buyer personas that cover your target audience, you can explore ways to personalize journeys for each.
4. Choose Your Channels
With the knowledge of who uses your products or service, expand your reach to the channels they use most — something you can determine using quantitative and qualitative data gathered from analytics and customer feedback.
Be sure to focus on the most profitable channels for your company and those that send the most new customers your way. Invest in streamlining and refining the shopping experience for each buyer persona.
5. Map the Customer Journey
To meet the buyer where they are, you need to understand how they behave. You can do this by mapping out customer journeys.
Keep in mind that shopping is rarely a linear experience. People often conduct research first, and those who research or shop on their smartphones can easily get distracted. The real magic of omnichannel is its ability to recapture the attention of a warm or cold lead.
Be as detailed as possible with your customer journeys so that you can refine every element and resolve any pain points along the way. The better you understand the customer journey, the more control you have over it.
6. Offer Cross-Channel Support
Due to the proliferation of startups since the internet’s beginnings — accelerated by digital transformation — there are more companies than ever vying for people’s attention. And consumers are willing to jump to another brand if they can’t reach or get help from the one they’re currently using.
Cross-channel support maximizes the number of ways shoppers can contact your business. It means they can call, email, DM or @ you on social media from wherever they are and get as near-to-immediate answers as possible.
7. Use Automation Where Appropriate
If shifting to omnichannel seems like a lot of work, it is. But the results are well worth it. To free up time for employees and focus on the move, make as many processes automated as possible.
Consider the following tech to support your efforts:
- Inventory management software
- Social media management tools
- Market segmentation software
- Digital experience platforms
- Email marketing solutions
- POS card readers
- Automated telephone ordering
While automation is essential, don’t forget to personalize whenever possible to retain a sense of genuine connection with customers.
8. Harness the Power of Data
The data omnichannel sales and marketing delivers is quite literally a gold mine. You can see how a consumer behaves and interacts in one medium — social media, say — and connect it to all interactions, allowing for deeper insights.
The omnichannel software you use will likely have built-in data analytics. In combination with surveys, this information can inform future marketing campaigns and help you refine CX at every stage.
9. Personalize, Target and Retarget
The majority of people don’t shop linearly. They might explore their options from a smartphone one day, mull over a decision for a week and then make a purchase in-store.
Staying in touch with customers across devices and platforms — especially in a personalized, relevant manner — keeps you fresh in their minds and increases the chance they’ll make a purchase.
10. Make Continual Improvements
There’s no denying that omnichannel is highly effective. However, you should never stop analyzing available data and using it to refine processes and personalization.
Test everything and test often. Be sure to experiment with different forms of content, formats, headings and subject lines to see what works best. Keep testing market segments and finding ways to add more detail to buyer journeys.
Today’s landscape changes faster and faster, and you need to keep your finger on the pulse of customer demands to remain competitive.
Related Article: The Key to CX Success? Planning the Entire Customer Journey
Common Omnichannel Marketing Issues to Avoid
Some businesses that have adopted omnichannel approaches aren’t making the most of them. Some common pitfalls to avoid:
- Irrelevant content: Don’t play guessing games when it comes to content creation. Use buyer personas, journey mapping and analytics to understand how and why your audience shops so that you can create relevant content.
- Under-using data: Ensure you have a 360°, cross-channel view of data to make the most of insights and improve future successes.
- Measuring success in isolation: The line between online and offline is blurred, so measuring isolated touchpoints is ineffective. Think of all interconnected touchpoints as an ecosystem and measure success in tandem.
- Lack of cohesive strategy: Without a meticulously planned strategy that’s communicated to teams, you won’t harness the power of omnichannel.
- Broad KPIs: Never settle for measuring the results of an entire campaign. Measure KPIs at every stage of the buyer journey to identify pain points, bottlenecks and successes. This informs how you can improve on future campaigns and strategies.
Omnichannel Marketing in Action
Let’s wrap up by looking at some businesses seeing massive success from omnichannel.
Amazon is a pioneer of the omnichannel approach. Its website and app seamlessly sync carts, and the company has opened brick-and-mortar stores in an understanding of the shifting landscape.
What’s more, Amazon support is highly tailored to the individual, with the option for customers to choose the method of contact that suits them best.
The company’s obsession with putting the customer first and continually innovating is the key to its success.
Staples operates in an industry that Amazon disrupted in a big way. To remain competitive, it increased the number of SKUs on its website and pivoted its strategy to focus on B2B sales.
By offering B2B customers the same perks as regular consumers — with Staples Advantage — it established a point of differentiation using omnichannel. It treats each organization that shops with it as an individual customer and personalizes content accordingly.
Business customers can quickly make repeat purchases, view recent items or fast-track buying. And this is true whether they shop in-store, on the web or through mobile.
Last but not least is Starbucks. The coffee chain uses omnichannel marketing to encourage its customers to continue interacting with the brand after they leave the store (or drive-thru).
Customers that sign up for the Starbucks app automatically earn a free app. They also gain access to a store locator, gift card information and reloading, and a rewards program that offers promotions and birthday coupons.
The app keeps the brand top-of-mind for customers, and the data gathered allows the company to offer more personalized incentives across all channels, including email and in-store visits.