Omnichannel marketing is set to take over retail. So what's holding it back? Omni marketing needs smarter solutions if it wants to succeed.
The Omnichannel: perhaps the most epically named of all marketing topics. It does, however, completely deserve this title. It’s very easy to assume omnichannel is just another fad, but for the near and even distant future, it’s going to play a pivotal role in how consumers engage with marketing campaigns.
Note that omni-marketing isn’t just about how marketers would like to engage with customers. It's about how customers really behave and how marketers can offer the solutions they want.
Omnichannel marketing is focused on creating a seamless customer experience, connecting all possible channels to make it easy for customers to move from one to the next and achieve greater success.
Most companies today work with a multichannel approach to customer interaction. Because customers want to use desktops, mobile devices, and even visit real brick and mortar stores, companies are forced to advertise and promote through each of these channels. You may get a special discount while surfing the web that you wouldn’t receive in-store or vice versa.
Multichannel retailing can effectively enhance the customer experience, but there is one ingredient missing: integration.
All of these channels remain separated. What happens on one doesn’t really effect the other. In other words, a customer may be creating a story on each individual channel, but there is no overarching story uniting them all. This means there’s no one, complete image of the customer and their preferences. This is a huge missed opportunity for all parties. More importantly, it’s a method that, in many ways, reflects the past. It reflects the introduction of new technologies and channels, but not the most efficient way to use them. One statistic makes this clear:
Over 90% of retail shoppers use their smartphone in store.
Whether it’s a museum, a shopping mall, or a music festival, customers are all about mobile, all the time. They’re about getting the most up-to-date and relevant information. But the standard for what is "relevant" is drastically changing. It’s not enough to simply know that a user has signed up for a mailing list. It’s not enough to know their gender or age. When your competitors are making offers that directly relate to an individual, you’re going to have to add more, smarter fields to your customer profiles.
Here's where omnichannel marketing shines: it's all about creating the complete, unified story. The information logged in your desktop-browsing is paired with your in-store behavior and matched with your previous purchases. This is the proper omnichannel retail experience.
You enter a store and aren’t entirely sure what you’re looking for. As you approach the seasonal section, you get a message: just a single, well-executed push notification. You’ve been eying a new pair of boots online for weeks and, now that you’re in the store, you receive a discount. You also receive a full list of matching items that fit with your previous purchases. When you have trouble, a customer service representative can quickly identify your needs and get you the answers you never knew you needed.
The numbers show omnichannel's strengths
One study found that only 7% of shoppers shopped only online. 20% shopped only in-store. The remainder? The remaining 73% would use multiple channels. Importantly, these shoppers would also log more in-store visits, purchases, and likelihood of recommending the brand to others.
A survey from Accenture and hybris software, an SAP company, found that nearly 40% of retailers are having difficulty integrating back-office technology across offline, online, and mobile. This should come as no surprise.
It’s somewhat easy to create a multichannel retailing system. You add a department here or a campaign there. Omnichannel, however, requires unification. Everything must work together seamlessly. From the technology to the data and marketing pushes, everything must be planned with a unified objective. It will take time for companies to adequately prepare and master omnichannel marketing. How do you even go from one channel to the other? Perhaps more importantly, how do you go from digital to physical?
Company culture has to change. In order to implement a thoroughly omnichannel marketing approach, numerous departments (if not every last one) has to buy into the new system. Designers and programmers must understand how fluid and directed each channel must be. Marketers must appreciate that each section is as important as the rest. And all of the surrounding teams--and executives--need to respect the required effort in order to achieve proportionate returns. This also means always addressing any silos or bottlenecks. When communication between channels break down, the overall effect is immediately dampened.
Step 1. Push communication between departments
From IT to marketing, successful omnichannel efforts require an amount of fluidity. As users move from desktop to mobile to in-store or the company hotline, efforts must be completely unified and seamless. Each department must understand the customer, the pains and goals, and how everyone is working together to make that experience happen. Strive for consistency.
Step 2. Understand the customer better
Personalizing messages and keeping a customer on track doesn’t happen by accident. Teams must step back and reexamine their users, how they move, and what their needs are. Where does your user need to be spoken to? When are they most receptive and why? It’s possible to skip this step and use generalized messages. However that would completely undermine the power of a fluid, omnichannel system. Outline what your users need and where you should deliver what information to create clear results.
Step 3. Consider context
Where is your user now? What pushes someone to buy at home in their PJs isn’t likely to work when they’re on their way to work in the morning. While this method of communication can be more complicated for marketers, it also supplies more opportunities for high converting messages and actions. By targeting the user’s need based on their actual context and location, businesses can achieve far higher results and also keep customers happier by providing useful, actionable opportunities.
"The real opportunity is mobile leading retail," says Rob Murphy, vice president of marketing for mobile presence platform Swirl Networks. "It's a great connection between the physical and the digital. Most people have a mobile device in their hands. With the technology available in the phone, you know when the consumer is in the store, what items they might like (in-store or online).”
If you think mobile is important now, give it a few more years. Generation Z will elevate the importance of mobile technology to a completely new (hopefully omnichannel) level. The role of mobile, however, is not just to give customers a chance to browse digitally from any location. It’s also not just for sending digital messages. It’s the power of proximity.
After proper back-end integration and planning, proximity to specific products, goods, or services is the key to creating the seamless flow from online to offline. This will be done primarily through technology like Bluetooth beacons.
You’ve heard about them for years. You’ve even heard about their uses in marketing, but it has taken time for businesses to understand how to properly use them. Businesses are beginning to understand that beacons are useless when leveraged improperly. This has been blocking the shift from multi to omnichannel marketing for some time, now. However, more use cases emerging in success, sometimes huge, inspiring success--personal favorite comes from ELLE. It's clear beacons are on the path to becoming ubiquitous with omni marketing.
Beacons are those small Bluetooth-based devices that can communicate with your smartphone. Most importantly, they may say different things depending on where you stand in the physical world. If you’re in a cafe, they may offer you a discount on a slice of cake. If you’re maneuvering a festival, they can offer up-to-date information about shows or even recommend events based on your history. If you visit your favorite store, they can ping you with information about your loyalty points, what you’ve earned, and even replace the physical card itself—so you don’t have to worry about ever losing it, or overstuffing your wallet, again!
On top of simply creating a channel to perfectly and effectively address your customers at the moment of choice, beacons can combine with omni marketing campaigns to:
Okay, we can't quite do omniscience yet. But this free 35-page white paper can get you started with proximity-based messaging methods, use cases, and even 7 steps to implementing beacon notifications.