Omnichannel Marketing: An In-Depth Guide
You know that spooky feeling you get when an ad pops up for a specific thing that you really need?
Some people think it’s because their phones are listening in on their private conversations.
In reality, you’ve browsed content related to the item being advertised. That’s when omnichannel marketing leaps into action.
Let’s say a customer browses outdoor gear on an e-commerce website.
The next time they visit Facebook, their feed features tailored content from the store about camping trips or adventure holidays, along with product recommendations for outdoor clothing and equipment.
This kind of highly targeted, relevant, and consistent content is an example of omnichannel marketing.
It can really enhance a customer’s connection to your brand.
And – it’s a great opportunity to increase sales and revenue.
According to a Harvard Business Review study, when customers engage with a brand through multiple channels, they tend to spend about 4% more when they visit a physical store and a whopping 10% more when they shop online, compared to those who only interact with the brand through one channel.
Not many brands can afford to miss out on that kind of sales uplift!
So, without further ado, let’s jump into the essential omnichannel marketing guide. We’ll look at what omnichannel marketing is, how it works, and explore plenty of strategies and tools to help you deliver a consistent and impactful customer experience.
What Is Omnichannel Marketing?
Omnichannel marketing is all about taking a ‘joined up’ approach wherever you interact with customers.
Basically, you need to make sure that all the different customer touchpoints act in a unified way. Consistency is key across all channels where people find your brand – on your website, via email and social media, through mobile apps, in physical stores, etc.
Think of it as a flow.
As the customer moves from one channel to the next, they experience your brand in a smooth way. They may engage with your brand in different ways on each channel, but the overall experience is seamlessly linked and consistent.
Flowing, personalized content
For instance, a customer looking to buy a tent visits the website of an outdoor gear brand and clicks on several products. Then, the next time they visit their favorite news website, they are retargeted with a native ad for one of the products.
A week later, they see a Facebook video ad, inviting them to submit their contact details in return for a discount coupon to the store. Two weeks later, they receive an email from the brand, reminding them of the unused coupon. They decide to buy. During the purchase process, they quickly consult with the brand’s online chatbot about tent sizes, and click! The sale is done. Five days later, they receive an SMS inviting them to rate their purchase experience. And in return, they get a voucher for a free camping thermos when they next visit the brand’s physical store.
That’s one example of an omnichannel personalized journey. Here are some other ways that a customer may experience an omnichannel marketing flow:
- Engages with relevant sponsored social media content in their feed
- Sees related native ads and display ads while browsing the internet
- Browses products on your website or social media store
- Purchases the item online or through a ‘click-and-collect’ feature on your website
- Visits your physical store to collect the item
- Gets reminders about complementary products by email
- Accesses loyalty program benefits and discounts across channels
- Sees retargeting ads while browsing the internet and social media networks
Coordination & consistency
For the best omnichannel marketing results, you need to take the time to plan and execute a coordinated and consistent strategy.
Without coordination, customers may get a fractured experience that puts them off your brand.
For instance, their social media feed may be full of content that doesn’t interest them or they get overwhelmed with ads and it feels like they are being stalked. We’ll take a closer look at campaign coordination best practices later in this guide.
Without consistency, customers may encounter problems such as:
- differing prices across channels,
- promotions that are available on one platform but not another,
- or disjointed messaging that confuses rather than informs.
This inconsistency not only leads to a decline in trust but also disrupts the overall customer journey, leaving potential buyers frustrated and less likely to complete a purchase or return for future purchases.
With all this in mind, it’s important to differentiate between omnichannel and another common marketing strategy: multichannel marketing.
Omnichannel vs Multichannel Marketing: What’s the Difference?
Multichannel and omnichannel marketing are often mistaken for one another.
The key thing that separates them?
Multichannel marketing is about casting the net wide. You put your message out across multiple platforms to reach the maximum audience. But each channel is like an island and there are no bridges to connect customer experiences or data.
Omnichannel marketing, on the other hand, is customer-centric. Customers get highly targeted, joined-up experiences on each channel they visit. This creates consistent engagement and trust.
Think of it this way – while multichannel marketing might serve the same digital ad to everyone, an omnichannel approach feels more personal, serving content that resonates with a user’s unique preferences.
Now, let’s return to the same customer who was interested in outdoor gear and visited the brand’s online store to explore tents.
With a multichannel approach, they might just be presented with a generic list of popular tents.
However, with omnichannel marketing in play, they might be greeted with a recommended selection of tents best suited for the terrains they’ve shown interest in, based on their online behavior and interactions.
Perhaps they are targeted with a tutorial video ad on how to set up these tents, or user reviews highlighting experiences in conditions similar to those they’ve previously explored.
With omnichannel marketing, the customer isn’t just being sold a tent – they’re being equipped for their next adventure.
How Omnichannel Marketing Works
In this section, we’ll take a detailed look at several key elements that make omnichannel marketing work.
1. Centralized customer data
The glue that holds omnichannel marketing together is data.
You need to collect and connect data across all the relevant channels to create a 360-degree view of your customers and present them with content that will resonate.
Imagine a customer named Sarah.
Sarah recently bought a pair of running shoes from an online sports store. A centralized database makes a note of this, along with other behavioral data, such as her browsing patterns (maybe she also looked at sports water bottles too) and preference data (she prefers size 7, and her favorite color is blue).
This rich profile ensures that the next time Sarah interacts with the brand, whether it’s through an email promotion, a website visit, or even an in-store experience that she is invited to, the content she encounters resonates with her preferences and past behaviors.
2. Integrated technology
For omnichannel marketing to work, all of the channels need to “talk” to each other.
This means that when Sarah visits the brand’s e-commerce store and puts a pair of trainers in the cart, but doesn’t check out, she gets retargeted display ads or an email reminding her of the abandoned cart.
Or maybe she visits the physical store and scans the barcode of a wearable fitness device on the brand’s mobile app to check reviews, but doesn’t buy it in-store. She may later receive a push notification or targeted email offering a discount on that specific product.
3. Coordinated campaigns
Brands must ensure consistent messaging across all channels.
Let’s say there’s a winter sale campaign.
If Sarah receives an email about the winter sale and later logs into the brand’s app, the sale should also be promoted there. And if she walks into the store, she should see signs promoting the winter sale. This consistency across channels is a defining feature of omnichannel marketing, and it is a key way that a brand keeps the customer engaged and connected.
4. Unified performance tracking
Every interaction Sarah has with the brand should be measured to determine the effectiveness of the omnichannel strategy.
For example, Sarah sees a social ad about a new collection of winter jackets, clicks on it, and browses the jackets, but doesn’t buy one.
A good strategy would be to send a follow-up email a week later, perhaps with a discount on that particular item. The brand needs tools in place to connect these dots, understand her journey, and recommend the special offer.
5. Cross-functional collaboration
It’s crucial for all departments within a company to work in harmony to successfully implement an omnichannel approach.
For example, if Sarah raises a complaint about a product on Twitter, the customer service team needs to address it quickly.
But, more than that, if she later contacts support through the website chat, the agent should already have a record of her Twitter interaction to provide swift and informed assistance.
6. Flexibility to meet customer needs
This is all about understanding and predicting the varied ways customers might want to interact with a brand.
Sarah might prefer to do her shopping online but likes the option to return items in-store.
She might also appreciate a ‘click and collect’ feature, allowing her to reserve items online and pick them up at her nearest store. A good omnichannel strategy will glean these insights and deliver suitable experiences to Sarah, and every individual customer.
Benefits of Implementing an Omnichannel Marketing Strategy
1. Increased sales
One of the most direct impacts of omnichannel marketing is a noticeable uptick in sales.
For instance, let’s stick with Sarah’s journey.
With every touchpoint tailored to her preferences, she’s more likely to make multiple purchases.
Omnichannel shoppers, on average, spend up to 1.7 times more than those who shop via a single channel.
This means brands that efficiently implement this strategy are likely to see high ROI.
2. Enhanced loyalty
Omnichannel isn’t just about getting immediate sales.
There’s more to it than that. It’s about nurturing long-term relationships.
Consistently offering Sarah a personalized shopping experience will make her more likely to return and stay loyal to the brand.
Over time, the effect of these positive interactions boosts customer lifetime value. When done well, cross-channel marketing will help you to get more repeat customers.
3. Competitive edge
These days, consumers have endless choices. For that reason, it’s more important than ever to stand out.
Using an omnichannel approach helps you to cut through the noise. Your brand will keep popping up in front of people in subtle and useful ways, such as tailored content or native ads on quality publisher sites.
This will give you a significant edge over competitors who are still relying on disjointed multichannel strategies.
4. Deeper customer insights
Omnichannel marketing gives you an opportunity to get a highly focused view of your customers.
You’ll get insights that go far beyond transactional data. Insights that paint a vivid picture of customers’ preferences, behaviors, and needs.
For instance, if you were to analyze Sarah’s interactions across channels, you’d be able to pinpoint not just what she bought, but also understand perhaps why she made those choices. This gives you the information you need for even more personalized interactions in the future.
5. Improved efficiency & consistency
When you take an interconnected approach to marketing, you open the door to a more efficient customer experience across the board.
For example, your customer service team, armed with data from various touchpoints, will be able to resolve issues more quickly.
You create a unified experience across all platforms.
Whether Sarah encounters the brand on social media, email, or in-store, she’s presented with a consistent brand image, messaging, and support. This consistency strengthens brand recall and builds trust.
Best Practices for Omnichannel Marketing Strategy
Let’s examine some key tips for creating a successful omnichannel marketing strategy:
- Define your vision: Start by setting out your omnichannel goals. What kind of customer experience do you aim to deliver? How does this align with other business objectives? What measurable results are you hoping to achieve?
- Chart the customer journey: Identify all the different touchpoints across various channels. Take the time to map this out in detail, capturing each point of interaction to ensure consistency.
- Create a customer-first culture: Omnichannel is all about focusing on the customer. You need to embed this philosophy in your organization. Regular briefings and training sessions can reinforce the values of omnichannel service across your teams, ensuring everyone is aligned.
- Seamlessly integrate technology: Integrate your tech systems, from CRMs to e-commerce platforms. This ensures smooth data sharing and lays the groundwork for impactful customer engagements.
- Use data analytics: Each customer interaction provides you with valuable data, so don’t waste it. Use automated tools to collect data and leverage analytics to mine for insights. This will help you gain a deeper understanding of your customers and inform your strategies.
- Coordinate your campaigns: Consistency is key. Ensure all your campaigns have the same look and feel, and deliver a similar message, regardless of platform. This reinforces brand consistency and increases the impact of your messaging.
- Offer multiple engagement options: Remember, omnichannel is all about choice. Give your customers various channel options, including online, offline, and mobile. This allows them the freedom to engage on their terms.
- Personalize experiences: Generic interactions don’t work anymore (if they ever did). Now, you can use the rich data at your disposal to tailor offers towards individual customer interests.
- Adopt a continuous improvement mindset: Omnichannel is a dynamic strategy that’s constantly evolving. Make sure to regularly test your strategies, gather feedback, and refine your approach. This iterative process helps to keep your campaigns on point.
Tools & Technologies for Omnichannel Marketing
Omnichannel marketing isn’t possible without integrated technology and tools. Here’s a breakdown of the must-have omnichannel marketing tools:
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems: Your CRM is the nerve center of omnichannel marketing. CRMs collect, process, and store customer data from every touchpoint, from website visits to in-store purchases. This enables you to create detailed customer profiles and highly personalized marketing campaigns.
- Marketing automation platforms: Automate and coordinate omnichannel campaigns based on specific triggers or behaviors. For example, if a customer abandons their online cart, the platform may send an automatic reminder email or offer a special discount, nudging the customer towards a purchase.
- Point-of-Sale (POS) and inventory management systems: These are especially important for businesses with physical retail operations, providing real-time visibility into stock levels, sales data, and customer purchasing habits. They also ensure seamless experiences, such as informing customers whether a product is available for immediate pickup at their local store.
- Live chat tools: Live chat offers instant support to online customers. It also collects valuable data on customer queries, preferences, and pain points, which can be used to inform broader marketing and customer service strategies.
- Email marketing platforms: Although it’s a relatively ‘old’ technology, email is still a winning channel in the omnichannel mix. Advanced email automation platforms don’t just send out messages – they coordinate them across channels to ensure consistency.
- Attribution modeling tools: Trying to understand the omnichannel customer journey is complex. Which touchpoints or channels contributed most to a conversion? Attribution modeling helps you shed light on this and allocate resources accordingly.
- Social media management systems: Customers are scattered across multiple social platforms these days. This makes brand consistency and engagement more challenging. These systems help to unify social media operations, enabling you to post, engage, and measure performance across multiple platforms from a single dashboard.
McDonald’s Omnichannel Success Story
Over the past few years, McDonald’s has taken an impressive digital transformation journey and created an unparalleled omnichannel experience.
The main goal of McDonald’s omnichannel strategy was to create a seamless customer journey. To achieve this, the brand adopted a three-dimensional approach:
- Web: Optimized their global web presence, making it both a space for online ordering and a hub for all McDonald’s-related content. Digital content adapts according to customer demographics and data.
- Mobile: Developed and launched an intuitive customer-centric mobile app to replace their more marketing content-focused one. The new app provides highly personalized experiences and content. App users also receive location-based offers when near a restaurant.
- In-store: In-restaurant digital kiosks were installed to offer customers a unique, no-hassle ordering experience, bypassing traditional counter lines. The kiosks also use suggested or recommended upselling to increase average order value.
McDonald’s paid particular attention to consistent brand messaging across all channels. To achieve this, they focused on two core principles – ‘Everywhere Commerce’ and ‘Eating Together’.
Everywhere Commerce allows customers the freedom to order food however, wherever, and whenever they want. Whether it’s through the mobile app, web, or at an in-store kiosk, McDonald’s caters to every customer’s personal preference. This goes beyond simply ordering food, as their digital platforms enable exclusive offers and rewards, and a variety of payment solutions.
Eating Together is about enriching the emotional experience of sharing meals. McDonald’s promotes the idea of slowing down even in a fast-food setting and enjoying shared moments of quality time.
The core principles, combined with omnichannel technology, allow McDonald’s to engage customers across channels in a unified and consistent way.
The results are clear – after implementing these strategies, McDonald’s saw a 70% uptick in sales from digital channels in the first six months of 2021.
Omnichannel Marketing FAQs
What is the definition of omnichannel marketing?
Omnichannel marketing is a strategy that engages customers across multiple integrated channels, ensuring a consistent and tailored experience. It’s designed to meet customers wherever they are, whether that’s in a physical store, on a website, through a mobile app, or even through social media, and provide them with a unified brand experience.
How can businesses create a seamless customer experience across multiple channels?
For a seamless omnichannel experience, brands should consider the following:
- Centralized customer data: Have a single, combined view of your customer across all channels. This ensures that the information you have is always up-to-date and can be used efficiently.
- Integrated technology: Use systems that talk to each other. When your website, mobile app, and in-store tech are integrated, they provide a consistent experience.
- Coordinated campaigns: Design marketing campaigns that work across channels, so customers have a consistent brand experience wherever they engage.
- Flexible channel options: Give customers the freedom to switch between channels at their convenience without missing out on any experiences.
- Insight-driven personalization: Use customer data to tailor experiences and offers to specific customer needs and preferences.
What role does personalization play in omnichannel marketing?
Personalization is at the heart of effective omnichannel marketing. By understanding and anticipating customer needs and interests, brands can create tailored offers and experiences across various channels. This boosts customer satisfaction as well as potentially increasing sales. The personalized touch makes customers feel valued and understood, which is always good for brand loyalty.
How to measure the effectiveness of omnichannel marketing efforts?
Measuring the effectiveness of omnichannel marketing can be done by tracking a variety of metrics:
- Customer Retention: A successful omnichannel strategy will see increased customer loyalty and repeated business.
- Channel Engagement: Monitor how often and deeply customers engage with each channel. High engagement typically indicates the channel is providing value.
- Sales by Channel: Analyze which channels are generating the most sales. This can highlight areas of strength and opportunities for growth.
- Share of Wallet: Understand how much of a customer’s spending in your category is captured by your brand.
- Campaign ROI: Examine the return on investment for individual campaigns across different channels.
- Omnichannel Revenue Contribution: Measure how much revenue can be attributed directly to your omnichannel efforts, indicating its overall impact on your business.