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Omnichannel marketing in the new digital age

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The pandemic and resulting economic impact have dramatically impacted how businesses are being run and how marketers are approaching a more distributed, remote workforce. Consumers are shopping on screens from home, as are working professionals, increasing the importance of digital channels as part of the customer journey.

Despite an expedited shift towards digital, marketers cannot ignore the importance of a holistic view of the path to purchase, which will still include offline elements. In this article, we explore how to create an effective omnichannel marketing program in a post-COVID-19 world.

The goal of smart marketers is to target prospects and customers with the right message in the right place at the right time to maximize brand awareness, positive perception and ultimately, sales. With the proliferation of smartphones, tablets, laptops and social media platforms, it is becoming increasingly challenging for brands to craft and digitally syndicate a message that will achieve that goal.

One solution to the challenge is omnichannel marketing, defined as a multichannel approach to sales (and marketing) that seeks to provide customers with a seamless shopping experience, whether they're shopping online from a desktop or mobile device, by telephone or in a brick-and-mortar store.

Multichannel vs. omnichannel marketing

Before we go too far down the rabbit hole of omnichannel marketing, we first need to differentiate the term from a related, but distinctly different phrase, multichannel marketing. If you know your Latin, the phrase “omni” means all, whereas “multi” means many.

Consider multichannel as an umbrella term relating to the distribution of marketing messages across multiple channels, which commonly include, but are not limited to: website, email, social media, direct response (mail or email), advertising, public relations and events. Omnichannel, by comparison, focuses on creating a seamless experience across those channels, particularly digitally, where you can more readily identify the recipient by a unique identifier to personalize the message or action.

Omnichannel fundamentals

For those newer to the concept of omnichannel marketing, it may be helpful to provide a bit of background. According to statistics from the recent Marketing Automation Statistics Reports by Omnisend, there are distinct and powerful advantages to omnichannel, as compared to single-channel approaches to marketing:

  • Brands experience a 287% higher purchase rate when using three or more channels.
  • Brands also see a 48% higher conversion rate when involving SMS (text messaging).
  • The average SMS ROI is 2,755%.
  • Purchase frequency is 250% higher on omnichannel vs. single channel.
  • The average order value is 13% more per order on omnichannel vs. single channel.
  • Customer retention rates are 90% higher for omnichannel vs. single channel.

Omnichannel marketing relies heavily on technology to accurately target recipients with personalized messaging. Key omnichannel marketing strategy components typically consist of a single sign-in (which may be powered by an email, phone number, loyalty program number or app), a robust customer relationship management (CRM) platform, personalization, location data and integrated customer service.

Despite the need for an extensive investment in a marketing technology (martech) stack, the end goal is to create a seamless experience for the end user. According to the Simplicity Index, 64% of consumers are willing to pay more for a simplified user experience.

In other words, reduce friction and increase your sales. For example, don’t offer up a sales pitch disguised as help. If a customer or prospect asks for help, provide it in the most convenient way possible, whether it be via phone, email, website, social platform or text. A Zendesk study found 50 percent of customers want to be able to fix their own problems, so be sure to build out an extensive frequently asked questions (FAQ) database.

Creating an omnichannel strategy

With the fundamental framework in place, the next step is to develop an overarching omnichannel marketing plan, complete with key strategies and supporting tactics. Here are a few best practices to consider when developing your omnichannel marketing program:

  1. Take the customer journey. Walk a mile in your customer (and prospects) shoes. Gain insights into major milestones, roadblocks and messaging opportunities to reduce friction and maximize engagement.
  2. Measure twice, cut once. Every step of the customer journey creates an opportunity to generate insightful data, whether by end user, message or channel. Ensure all data is being captured for future analysis.
  3. Segment your end users. Utilize the data you’ve collected to create and refine buyer personas that can then be messaged to by channel, seamlessly.
  4. Create compelling content. This is perhaps the most challenging step in any marketing program. To target recipients based on behavior, you must create messages that elicit behaviors and actions that can be measured and analyzed.
  5. Listen, learn and act. Monitor all primary channels for insights and quickly answer questions to reduce friction. Prioritize channels based on preference and usage to maximize efficiency.
  6. Expand beyond sales and marketing. Leverage the data to create insights across the organization, including market research, product development, customer service and merchandising.

While transitioning to a digitally centered marketing program can be expensive and time-consuming, it provides greater tracking, flexibility and long-term cost efficacy. While omnichannel programs should cover all forms of digital (text, website, search, social, email and virtual events), savvy brands will incorporate offline touchpoints as part of the customer journey. By following the steps outlined above, your business can adapt and adopt a more effective and holistic marketing program that is more recession and virus-resistant.

 

Kent Lewis is president and founder of Anvil Media, a measurable marketing agency based in Portland, Ore. He’s also co-founder of SEMpdx and was named AMA Marketer of the Year. For more information, visit www.anvilmediainc.com.