Marketers today have more customer acquisition channels available to them than ever before.
There’s email marketing, direct mail, TV ads, social media ads, organic social reach, and content marketing.
Honestly, it’s awesome because we have so many areas to reach our potential and current customer base!
This change to our marketing ecosystem has led to a natural evolution right dubbed omnichannel marketing.
When done correctly, not only does the marketing style bring bumps in everything from customer engagement to revenue, it’s also especially good at shifting the needle on meaningful but hard-to-budge numbers like retention and lifetime value.
But actually implementing it…
Well, that’s a bit harder to get right for quite a few reasons.
So in today’s article, we are going to:
- Take a look at what omnichannel experiences are
- What the difference between omnichannel and multi-channel
- How to structure your approach to omnichannel to get the best results
- Examples of some success stories you can borrow from.
What is an Omni-Channel Experience?
Okay, so we have this fancy fangled term “Omni-channel marketing,” and it sounds cool and all, but what’s that even supposed to mean?
Well, it’s more than simply marketing to audiences across all your chosen channels. It’s also about providing the same seamless branded experience across every channel you're on.
So when someone is on your website, then click over to your Instagram or sign up for your email newsletter; when they look through your IG account or open your newsletter, they know instantly that it’s your brand.
They can go to any social site, click an ad, open any email, knowing the experience they’re expecting is the experience they will get.
Again, getting this right can take time to get right. And if you’re both an eCommerce brand with retail location(s), you have a few more hurdles to overcome.
Doable. Oh, absolutely.
And there’s plenty of brands that have managed to get it right.
Omnichannel vs. Multichannel Marketing: What’s the Difference?
This seems like an important question because omnichannel is different from multi-channel marketing despite the fact that some people use the terms interchangeably.
Multi-channel marketing is about building marketing campaigns that communicate with customers on multiple different channels.
Omni-channel marketing does have you on multiple different channels, but the key difference is that Omni-channel is about deciding on branding and messaging, then deploying the same voice across all channels, including:
- Social media
- Mobile Apps
Your customers should get the same experience, voice, and tone, no matter which route they use to contact or connect with you.
How to Create an Omnichannel Marketing Strategy
Creating an omnichannel marketing strategy involves planning backward from your desired outcomes and focusing more on messaging and customer journeys than on channels.
1: Consider a rewards program, especially if you’re in retail
Rewards programs do a lot for helping drive better relationships and revenue for brands — especially those who run both retail and eCommerce stores.
For a great example of a rewards program, Old Navy is a beautiful example. This is actually a newer rollout, but they’ve managed to make it a seamless part of the customer experience.
As part of their omnichannel strategy, they offer people to sign up while they are in stores, directly through their website in the form of various opt-ins and landing pages, and in their eCommerce app.
Retail stores help drive signups to the rewards programs; the program gets people into the retail store. One hand washes the other driving revenue.
Tips for Implementation
You don’t need to have an online presence and a retail store to take advantage of a rewards program. Having even a simple one in place can do a lot for keeping customers coming back.
And studies show that repeat customers spend 67% more than new customers do. (read: less work = more money in the bank, baby!)
You can start by adding a sign-up page to your website and then offering the rewards program to current contacts on your list. If you have a retail store, model things after Old Navy, and offer a sign to every customer who comes in.
Usually, a simple incentive like, “Sign up for free for $X off your purchase today,” is all it takes for people to say yes.
If you’re looking for ideas for great rewards programs, you can take a look at this blog post.
2: Plan out the customer experience ahead of time
Everything is an experience, and experiences give us feelings that guide our thoughts and reactions.
Usually, we tend to think of being on the receiving end of an experience. Providing the experience is very different. While you should let people decide where they fit into the “funnel” of their customer journey with you, all those entry points should have an experience planned out well ahead of time.
Target is a phenomenal example of modern omnichannel marketing that provides consistent experiences that meet the expectations of customers at any given moment. Their reach isn’t average. With 1900+ locations in the US and Canada, they have a far reach in retail alone.
But they also have an online store, a massive email list, huge social media followings, and an app with various shopping experiences.
When you think of going to a target store or purchasing from them, your experience is sure to be consistent. But that consistency takes EXTREME planning.
Take a look at their website, for example. Sure, it’s glossy and responsive, easy to navigate, and features images of products.
But once you’re inside the Pickup and Delivery part of the website or app, it’s an entirely different world.
Now, it’s not a matter of you buying something and them shipping it to you. Instead, they know you’re either planning to come to the store to pick up the items you’re purchased or have them picked out and delivered to you — usually the same day you placed the order.
In anticipation of these more custom customer experiences, the options and how you interact with the brand for these services will change.
For example, knowing that people will come to the store for custom Drive-Up orders, Target planned out the journey to help lead the way to the best possible experience.
Instead of having customers order then show up right away, they tell customers they will get a notification when the order is ready.
After that, they can notify Target when they’re on the way, what parking spot number they are in, or the type and color of car. The order is then taken out to the vehicle and loaded for the customer’s convenience.
Just to recap that Omni-channel flow, all highlighted in bold:
- A customer orders through the website or the app
- The customer is sent a text message or gets a ping through the app that the order is ready
- The customer drives to the stores and uses their phone to call or alert Target of their arrival
- Post-purchase app alerts and emails are triggered after purchase
That’s a lot of switching back and forth between channels, yet everything is all very streamlined. That doesn’t happen by accident.
It’s all thanks to foreseeing the most likely way a great experience can go and then carving that path for your customers to take it all in.
Tips for Implementation
Okay, so let’s be real. You’re not a big corporation like Target. BUT, you do have the power to plan out experiences for customers, everything from how you respond to tweets to your brand down to the experience of unboxing your products when your customers get them shipped to your home.
It’s all in your ball court.
No, you can’t control how your audience starts off their journey with you. But no matter where they are, that experience should be the same.
To start planning out these experiences better, start by making yourself a potential customer of this brand.
Go to Instagram or another main channel that you have a decent audience on, check out your brand’s handle, look around.
- How do you feel when you look at the images?
- Does something stand out to you to click on?
- Is it easy to get your site from there?
Find your way to your site from that channel.
- What is easy?
- Did the site load quickly?
- Did it take you to where you felt you should go?
Take notes on these things. Then try checking out an item. Go ahead and purchase something.
- How was the process?
- Did you even like it?
- And what about post-purchase? Were the emails and shipping data up to snuff with how you as a customer would like it?.
The point isn’t to be pointlessly critical. It’s to put yourself in the shoes of customers. Be honest with how this goes. Then ask:
How could this have gone better? From there, you can start to plan out then execute a better experience for your customers.
3: Match channels to experiences
Not every channel of customer contact can or should provide the same journey or end result.
Prioritizing the channels and experiences customers care about is key. This includes post-purchase customer journeys like help desk and website FAQ usage.
But it should be at the center of marketing: where are people when they experience value, how did they get there, and where do they want to go next?
Let’s look at Peloton.
They are an exercise band, but there’s this thing about exercise…
None of us really want to do it.
Your brain may know it’s good for you, but it’s uncomfortable, so we easily talk ourselves out of doing the logical, healthy thing and get our butts moving.
That makes for a tough obstacle to overcome because, while I’m sure sales for most exercise brands spike around New Years, most people who spend a bunch of money on a product they don’t use end up irritated about the product — even though it’s not the product's fault it didn’t get used.
Peloton tries to avoid this pitfall by helping to sell people on the experience they get with a peloton bike rather than on how great their bike is.
It seems to be working:
Connected fitness subscribers are paying to connect their workout equipment with a Peloton class. This growth is coming from a tightly integrated omnichannel marketing strategy.
For Peloton, their core asset is the workout. But users also get in-app notifications to their phones congratulating them on their success and inviting them to post-workout stretching classes.
They also send out weekly emails highlighting upcoming classes, keeping the brand and activity top of mind, and making you feel like you’re a part of something.
Peloton also focuses on building a community and tailors the channel to urgency: weekly emails are fine, but who opens their emails immediately after a workout? That’s what mobile push notifications are for.
As a brand, they match the channels it uses to where its customers experience value — not just to where it can reach them.
Tips for Implementation
Pelton does a great job of matching the channel to the experience and to where they are in their journey.
For example, if customers need a refund or need to return something, your goal isn’t to sell them something and ignore the issue. It’s to settle the issue at hand and try to make up for the less-than-stellar experience.
Do you find that most people reaching out to you on Twitter are seeking customer support? That could be a key indicator that you need to switch gears here and use that channel to provide support or get them to the right channel that can provide that support.
Run a traffic audit on your site:
- Where does most of your traffic come from?
- What conversations about your brand happen on those channels?
Regrading customer support:
- What are the channels people go to for support?
- Do you offer enough avenues to give a good experience in this area?
This all takes time. One great way to improve in doing this is adding a “Review Request” to a post-purchase funnel or surveying customers with an email campaign every six months or so.
4. Segment and personalize
Personalization is important whether you’re selling to consumers or businesses. No one really likes a one-size-fits-all sorta deal. You don’t like wearing shoes ½ a size too small, and your customers don’t like getting emails or ads that don’t serve their interests.
Segmenting your customer contacts based on interests and purchases can do a lot to avoid the pitfalls of trying to speak to everyone but selling to no one.
Too many retailers segment based on things that just don’t matter, relying too heavily on demographics or location. Sure, there’s value to having a segmented list around that, but it’s not the most valuable list type out there.
Most businesses are putting the famous Pareto principle to shame. It’s like they heard ‘80% of results form 20% of efforts’ and said, ‘hold my latte.’ In fact, many eCommerce businesses are making 30% to 40% of their income from 5% of their customers.
Customer loyalty drives revenue and profitability.
Tips for Implementation
Get yo’self some money-generating segments set up. If you don’t know what you should have, how to set them up, or what makes a valuable segment, then start here:
Our Segmentation Handbook has 12 of the best eCommerce segments you should be running as part of your omnichannel marketing strategy.
5: Choose the right tools and automate
Automating every process can leave you time to handle the things that can’t be set on autopilot.
It’s that whole idea of working smarter, not harder. And there’s only so much time in the day.
Marketing automation is around for a reason. Not just because it frees up your time to do higher-value work that machines still can't do, but because it helps to lift revenue too.
Tips for Implementation
Look for areas you can automate and search for tools that can help those areas.
Be sure to pick tools (*cough, Sendlane*) that play well with each other, whose data is accessible, and can address as many relevant channels and stages of the buyer journey as possible.
Starbucks: A Lesson in Omni-Channel Marketing for Retail
For brick-and-mortar retail businesses, having an omnichannel approach is about building a digital user experience that mirrors your already successful customer experience in your retail store.
And who better to take a lesson from masterfully matching digital and retail experiences than from a multi-billion dollar empire — Starbucks.
Walk into any Starbucks around the world and order your Triple Venti soy two pump chocolate peppermint mocha and you can expect fast and friendly service and drink that tastes exactly how you hoped it would.
That’s consistency. A consistency that adds to a reliable experience you’ve come to trust; it’s entirely part of the brand you know as Starbucks. But Starbucks built out its omnichannel experience as the world went more mobile, and their branding carries across all their digital channels.
For example, look at the consistency between their Twitter account and Instagram.
We see their use of the Starbucks logo but look at the color and font in the image. If you go to their Instagram, you’ll see they use the same colors and fonts throughout their posts on that channel.
That’s consistency. Even their emails loop in the colors they use across their retail stores and social channels.
This email is a great example of how a brand can stand for its values while sticking to what you know them for, in this case, coffee.
And while we love Starbucks’ emails (we even wrote this post covering how great their email strategy is), the point I’m making is that it’s that their experience — no matter which channel or retail store you go into — remains consistent across all of them.
Now that is omnichannel marketing done right!
Even if you’re an eCommerce brand, you can learn this one lesson from Starbucks about omnichannel marketing:
Consistent branded experiences are everything.
Start your omnichannel marketing strategy today
Omnichannel customers have a 30% higher lifetime value than those who shop using only one channel. And brands with powerful omnichannel customer engagement see a 9.5% year-on-year increase in annual revenue and a 7.5% year-on-year decrease in cost per contact. In companies with a weak omnichannel game, those numbers are 3.4% and 0.2%, respectively.
Omnichannel marketing is here to stay, and adapting your strategy, pivoting to this focus is not something you want to be late to the game on.
If you're ready to put your omnichannel marketing strategy on autopilot, sign up for your free, 14-day trial of Sendlane today!