As a marketer, you’re always looking for a way to broadcast messages across multiple channels. But the problem with multi-channel is that you have to set up every channel in isolation. Each may then be assigned to different departments within your organization, and individual channels may have their own appearance, tone, or goals.

The result is that customers may not recognize disparate channels as part of the same marketing effort, and this can be either confusing, or instill a lack of customer confidence in your company.

Omnichannel marketing offers the most comprehensive way to weave all customer touchpoints into one profile, allowing you to get your message out to the devices and platforms that your customers use. In today’s world, customers determine the devices and channels through which marketers can reach them, then it comes down to whether or not the marketer can put together a strategy that encompasses all of these contact points.

This article covers the five biggest capabilities your company should look for when developing your own omnichannel platform.

Omnichannel Links Offline and Online Channels

One of the great advantages of an omnichannel platform is that it gives you the ability to do away with siloes and unify all your offline and online channels. More channels means more opportunities, which of course results in additional complexity.

It’s a tall order. Whether customers visit a brick-and-mortar store or a website, whether they connect through a mobile app, a printed catalog, social media, or a good old phone call, marketers have to provide a seamless experience, regardless of channel or device.

As offline and online converge, an in-store visit will have some trouble matching an online visit, primarily because the in-store experience is so much more time-consuming and complicated than shopping online. It’s also tough keeping enough stock in-store, and if there’s a long line at the cash register, customers either leave empty-handed or submit to a lengthy wait.

But that will change in an omnichannel world. Brick-and-mortar stores will no longer have to carry a vast inventory. People will still visit stores to make sure they can get clothing in their sizes and preferred colors, or to see what a physical product looks like up close, but we’re moving toward a purchase system without a checkout line, where a roaming store employee will take care of an order when the customer ready. After that, the order will be sent online to a distribution warehouse, and the purchase will be delivered to the customer’s door.

Some companies, such as UK fashion retailer Oasis, have already provided in-store staff with iPads to provide shoppers with up-to-date product information and a lineless checkout system.

Consistent User Experience Across All Channels

Imagine how your website, your mobile app, and your social media presence look from your customer’s perspective. If these channels don’t have a similar design, consistent branding, and message continuity, the customer may not choose you because you look like you’re all over the place.

Worse, what if some of your channels are easy to navigate, but others aren’t? Then you’re probably missing out on customers coming through those less consistent channels.

A good omnichannel strategy ensures that a customer’s cart appears the same across platforms, and if they add an item to their cart while on their smartphone, then that item should still be in their cart when they come back to it later on their laptop.

The best way to handle this is to regularly review and test the experience your customers have as they interact with your company. Search for your products and see what pops up in the SERP listings. Try to place an order through each of your channels, and conduct both internal and external testing to make sure you’re reviewing every possible way customers could be introduced to your products.

The Disney site has been getting omnichannel right for a few years now. It begins the moment you visit the company’s beautiful, mobile-responsive website, and carries through right down to the smallest details across all their platforms. Even their online trip-planning service works well on mobile, and you can sign out of your smartphone and pick right back up with your laptop or tablet and get the same lush experience you would expect from this entertainment titan.

“Effective omnichannel marketing cannot happen in isolation. It depends on seamless integration with other platforms, which can only happen when you have the support of strong and dedicated partners.” – Camille Guillot, Partner Marketing Manager at Emarsys

Increased Customer Engagement

If you want customers to pay attention to you, you must give them something they consider valuable. Sure, your marketing messaging is critical, but not all customers will respond to a vague email or push notification that could apply to anyone. However, personalize that message with data you’ve collected in your omnichannel presence to include substantial content, and the likelihood of your customers responding will increase dramatically.

For customers who have purchased from you before, you’ll want to craft a message that invites them to return, perhaps recommending a product similar to something they’ve purchased before. If a customer has left a product in their cart without purchasing it, you’ll want engaging content to nudge them back to that cart. Anytime you can make your customers feel they’re getting personalized attention, you’re going to boost customer engagement and loyalty, and with an omnichannel approach your options are significantly expanded.

A great example of an effective, engaging omnichannel experience is the Starbucks reward program, where customers get a free reward card that racks up points every time they make a purchase. Starbucks took this a step further, however, and made it so that anytime a reward card changes, the customer’s profile will be updated across the whole channel spectrum, so the rewards app shows the same information on the website as it does on a smartphone or in-store.

“Customers behave very differently according to the channel, both in terms of responsiveness and buying strategy; fitting that into a multi-step communication framework is the challenge many companies currently face.”– Daniel Eisenhut, Head of Professional Services at Emarsys

Understanding of Buyer’s Journey

Marketers have many objectives; chief among them is understanding who the customers are, and the typical buyer’s journey they experience. By understanding the data points that are relevant and useful to your marketing strategy, you can then properly segment your audience. Omnichannel gives you the widest selection of customer data from various platforms and channels, whether offline or online. More data means more analysis, but also more accurate pinpointing of who customers are, what they want, where they look for it, and how they finally buy it from you.

As artificial intelligence marketing (AIM) continues to evolve, marketers have access to more precise tools to capture buyer information and build customer profiles and buyer personas. Automation alone can gather accurate customer journey data, but for a company to truly understand its customers’ journeys, it must abandon a siloed department model and leverage multiple channels in a unified manner to nurture engagement and deliver relevant messages, to the right people, at the right times.

Chart how they behave during the browsing phase, which incentives push them to the cart phase where they reveal an intent to purchase, and then really focus your efforts on the most critical catalyst that will motivate the customer to buy from you. Remember: even if you only recover 1% of the customers who abandon a cart, you can increase revenue by 10%. Beyond that customer’s first purchase, you can leverage your omnichannel presence to turn that one-time buyer into a repeat customer. For example, by using automated follow-up messages across several channels, you can thank customers for their purchases or offer a discount on future purchases.

Big Data Collection

Understanding the customer journey demands a plan for big data collection. Omnichannel is like a giant vacuum cleaner, capturing customer data (email addresses, online cookies, smartphone numbers, mailing addresses, and so on) from all possible touch points. Of course, with larger amounts of data, you need a way to obtain actionable insights. Marketers must also become increasingly cognizant of the best ways to leverage all that data without becoming invasive.

But the benefits are astronomical. By granting a way to see all of a customer’s interactions, both online and offline, omnichannel provides you with a way to measure success in terms of how real people respond to marketing in real time, and even helps you tailor your messaging to the appropriate channel.

“We feed and keep the same database up-to-date. We automate and trigger marketing activities from all channels under the same roof, all pointing to the same information center. This is the most important thing for a successful omnichannel experience: the ease of monitoring those channels and moving between them while avoiding friction.”—Adi Topaz, Business Unit Manager at Emarsys

Final Thoughts

With the emergence of AIM, marketers can now learn more than ever about their customers’ online behavior and purchasing patterns, and then automate appropriate and timely responses, wherever your customers are and via whatever devices they choose.

However, you still need to bring all your channels and platforms under one roof, with one consistent look and an intuitive interface. Where multi-channel is tactical, omnichannel marketing is strategic and one step closer to a true 1:1 personalized customer relationship.

To learn more about the bridge between data and personalization, download our whitepaper on artificial intelligence.

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