For business across the world, 2020 was a difficult year. And though many of us are burned out on talking about COVID-19, it’s impact can’t be ignored — namely, that it’s been one of the single biggest factors in driving e-commerce growth

As consumers adapted to the ease and convenience of modern technology, the transition to omnichannel retail was inevitable. But companies that had not embraced the shift to omnichannel prior to the pandemic faced the greatest challenges. 

Fortunately, Extreme Digital — a Hungarian electronics and technology brand — had made the omnichannel transformation, which enabled them to not only thrive during 2020, but also positioned them for continued success into 2021.

During a recent Retail Talks episode, Szilvia Szarka, Marketing Director at Extreme Digital, spoke with Payal Hindocha, Vertical Product Marketing Manager at Emarsys, about how the brand transformed to become a leading omnichannel retailer in order to provide better customer experiences and drive business results.

Here are 5 tips we learned from Extreme Digital’s omnichannel marketing success:

1. Start By Embracing the Quick-Change Nature of Marketing

Retail can be quick-change in nature. Which is why the industry tends to favor brands most willing and able to adapt to changes in the market. When new challenges or innovations emerge, it’s important to embrace them in a way that allows you to better serve your customers and the needs of the business.

For Extreme Digital, the stakes were particularly high, as they not only faced the challenges that COVID-19 presented, but they were in the process of merging with their biggest competitor. Fortunately, Szilvia and her team had the right mindset to handle the difficulties and challenges with flexibility and speed.

“It’s been a very interesting year, and also, considering that Extreme Digital [began] merging with our biggest competitor last year … For us, it was a game-changer situation in that we needed to handle both brands and both companies at the same time, [while upholding] the same values, and in the same circumstances. So it was a very, very interesting and very challenging situation. We got used to [the fact] that our market is changing very fast, and we are facing new ideas and new innovations and new product lines in a very short term. And we [remained] flexible to change in a very, very short time.

Extreme Digital Logo
Szilvia Szarka
Marketing Director, Extreme Digital

2. An Omnichannel Approach Ensures You Stay Connected to Customers… No Matter What

While we may warmly recall a time in history where all commerce happened in physical locations, and the only way to forge a 1:1 connection with a customer was in person, that is no longer the world we live in. 

Successful omnichannel brands realize that commerce now happens across any and all channels, and is dictated by when, where, and how the customer chooses. Moreover, meaningful 1:1 customer experiences can happen online, and loyal, lasting relationships can be forged with customers exclusively through digital channels. 

The value of the in-store experience should never be disregarded. Many of your customers prefer the in-store experience, and as such, it’s a critical channel for an omnichannel brand. But you can’t rely on it as your primary means of staying connected to your customers. 

Retail businesses that moved to an omnichannel approach pre-pandemic found it much easier to continue engaging their customers and move them online once stores shut down during the onset of COVID-19. 

This was especially true for Extreme Digital. Pre-pandemic, the brand relied on their 17 brick-and-mortar stores to generate nearly 60% of all business. But because they already had the right marketing technology in place to be truly omnichannel with their customer engagement, they quickly adapted.

Our businesses always were driven by digital marketing activities, because we were actually communicating on a digital level the most, and also reacting and connecting with our customer on the digital level … Hungarian people really like to go in stores and have a personal look, have a personal feeling, and [a] personal conversation before buying something big for themselves. So when the virus came, it really [had an] effect for us. But [with] our digital conversations and our digital activities leading the business, we were able to follow, and we were able to analyze [historically] how does it affect our online business? Emarsys also helped us on this, because we were able to install all of our offline data into Emarsys … and actually, now we can connect the user experience and the user journey up until the end of the store conversations as well.” 

Extreme Digital Logo
Szilvia Szarka
Marketing Director, Extreme Digital

3. Customers Don’t View Online and Offline as Separate Experiences — Why Should Your Business?

As mentioned, commerce today can happen across any and all channels, depending on what the customer desires. But no matter where they are engaging with your brand, from their perspective, it’s all the same. 

Online or in-store, they expect the experiences to be seamless and consistent. They don’t view these as separate experiences, so neither should you. A customer’s journey can go across multiple channels in multiple ways. 

A customer who is “just looking” and checking out your product in-store might end up buying that product through your mobile app a week later. A customer browsing on your website might visit your store to ask a salesperson questions about a product and complete the purchase then and there. Ultimately, the customer would like this to be one consistent experience with your brand.

Perhaps the most important step you can take to make online and offline experiences seamless and consistent for customers is to unify all your channel data and bring it together into a single, unified source, like your customer engagement platform. This allows you to track your engagement with a customer at multiple touchpoints along their journey, and obtain a complete 360 degree view of them.

Once Extreme Digital unified their data, with all of their offline and online data feeding into a single source, they were able to connect the in-store and digital experience for their customers… and their business. In fact, when opening a new store last year, they saw a 15% uplift on the retail business through their omnichannel promotion.

“Last summer, we opened [a] new store [in] the very center of Budapest. And it’s really our flagship store, new flagship store. We made a launch campaign, and we actually launched a huge digital campaign to introduce the store. And we [could] follow up by the whole end of the user journey and the whole end of the conversations [to see] how [we could] make the impact [on] the actual users. It was very good to see the connections, and good to see the tools that we were using had the effect on the result of the campaign. And that’s why it’s a very successful story for us, [once] we started to shift and started to have all the offline data going [into] the Emarsys system, because it was really a new journey for us to see that connection. Because from the start, we had, like, two separate businesses in Extreme Digital — a digital, and an offline business. And we always just guessed the connections … [but] now we see the actual connections. Now we can see how to communicate for that particular store. It really shows up on that particular store’s results.”

Extreme Digital Logo
Szilvia Szarka
Marketing Director, Extreme Digital

4. Connecting Your Data Allows for Better Omnichannel Engagement and Better Decision-Making

One of the biggest hurdles modern marketing teams face is getting all the data they need, not only for delivering better 1:1 customer experiences, but for helping them decide which business challenges marketing needs to solve. 

There’s lots of good, actionable data coming in about your customer, data that will tell you exactly what you need to know in order to serve them better and deliver more satisfying experiences (which, in turn, means better business outcomes for the brand). The problem is, sometimes that data is scattered, stored in silos in different areas of the organization so that your team can’t readily access it, leaving you with only a few pieces of a much larger puzzle. 

Bringing your data together into a single platform gives you a single view of your customer, and it’s necessary for viewing them within the context of where they are along their journey with your brand. Customer data along with sales data, product data, and myriad other data streams can provide a more complete story about your customer (and your business). 

Unified data also gives you better insight into the efficacy of your marketing efforts. It allows you to get granular when examining the connection between what your marketing team is doing and how your customers are responding. This means, when driving certain business outcomes are a must, marketing will know which levers to pull in order to deliver those business outcomes. 

Once Extreme Digital had the right technology solution in place that allowed them to bring their data together into a single source, they were able to analyze more quickly, and they saw results in days.

“What we did [in the past], we measured the offline data and the online data, and we just followed the liftoff, and we didn’t see the connection. We just [saw] the trend. And what we did is we tried and tested that, if I pulled this trigger, then we had different results. And it takes a lot of time to figure [that] out, [what is] the best mix and the optimal solution for communications flow. Now with Emarsys, it’s much easier because we see the results in a day or two, and we can decide more quickly, and we can analyze the data more quickly. And actually, what we are doing now that we’re using Emarsys as a secondary analysis system, we are putting the data next to our sales data, and we now see the correlation in parallel, like in daily business.”

Extreme Digital Logo
Szilvia Szarka
Marketing Director, Extreme Digital

5. An Omnichannel Customer Engagement Platform Lets You Go Beyond the Basics

Including a customer’s first name in an email really doesn’t mean you’re on a first-name basis. Thanking customers with a non-specific “5% off your next purchase” doesn’t feel like much thanks. And a batch-and-blast email promoting your next sale will probably get blasted right into your customer’s trash folder.

These aren’t exactly advanced marketing tactics. They represent the status quo in marketing. And even though they’ll generate some business when deployed to enough customers at a large enough scale, they don’t represent the type of engagement that will build lifelong, loyal customers that rush back to your stores to make more and more purchases. 

To keep your customers interested and to keep them close to your brand, your marketing team will need to go beyond the basics. That’s why truly personalized omnichannel experiences and meaningful communications — wherever and whenever the customer chooses — are the key to winning a customer’s repeat business and brand loyalty

Extreme Digital recognized that they had to have the right customer engagement platform in place in order to deliver more meaningful, engaging communications and ultimately drive business results. 

“Emarsys brought us a lot of different uplifts in our workflows. We started to use it four years ago, and when we shifted our database to Emarsys, we first just started to use [it as a] personalized email marketing system. And the first year when we moved into the system, actually we doubled the database, and we also doubled the revenue coming from this channel. And we were really able to fix the whole idea of how to handle the email marketing channel because, I think four years ago, that was the point when [marketing] started to change a little bit. It wasn’t enough to reach the people, but it was more important to keep the people interested and keep the people close to the brand. And it was very, very new for us to see the segmentation and see the different kinds of communication which we were able to do with [our] customers.”

Extreme Digital Logo
Szilvia Szarka
Marketing Director, Extreme Digital

Final Thoughts

Last year was novel in many ways. While there were ample new challenges, what remains consistent is that marketing is ever-evolving, as are the needs of your customers. 

Brands like Extreme Digital realized that the best strategy for delivering better business outcomes for their company and, most importantly, satisfying their customers was to have an omnichannel strategy.

Learning from Extreme Digital, it’s clear that having the right technology in place so you can deliver true 1:1 experiences to customers across all channels is paramount for omnichannel success. 

So what — if anything — is stopping your brand from successful omnichannel customer engagement?

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