The Definition of Omni-Channel Marketing – Plus 7 Tips

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Posted: April 1, 2014 | Modern Marketing

Marketing is undergoing rapid and major changes. We’re moving away from mass, “push”-based marketing, and towards more personalized, 1:1 communication with consumers, through the many channels and on the many devices they use. The effectiveness and ROAS (return on ad spend) of print media, television ads, and batch and blast email campaigns are on the decline.

Unfortunately, when it comes to omni-channel, multi-device marketing, consumers today are way ahead of most marketers.

What is Omni-Channel Marketing?

First of all, what is omni-channel marketing? The term “omni-channel” may be a marketing buzzword, but it refers to a significant shift: marketers now need to provide a seamless experience, regardless of channel or device. Consumers can now engage with a company in a physical store, on an online website or mobile app, through a catalog, or through social media. They can access products and services by calling a company on the phone, by using an app on their mobile smartphone, or with a tablet, a laptop, or a desktop computer. Each piece of the consumer’s experience should be consistent and complementary.

So what does that seamless omni-channel experience actually look like? In the words of John Bowden, Senior VP of Customer Care at Time Warner Cable:

“Multi-channel is an operational view – how you allow the customer to complete transactions in each channel. Omni-channel, however, is viewing the experience through the eyes of your customer, orchestrating the customer experience across all channels so that it is seamless, integrated, and consistent. Omni-channel anticipates that customers may start in one channel and move to another as they progress to a resolution.  Making these complex ‘hand-offs’ between channels must be fluid for the customer.  Simply put, omni-channel is multi-channel done right!”

Here are my seven recommendations for any marketer looking to implement a more omni-channel, multi-device perspective:

1. Walk in Your Customers’ Shoes

Regularly review the experience your customers go through in order to research, purchase, and connect with your products. Test the experience by placing orders, interacting via all available channels, submitting a support case, and more. If possible, these tests should be performed by external and internal testers. Does everyone have a delightful experience? Are there any unnecessary barriers?

2. Measure Everything!

Data is everywhere (and apparently very “big” these days), and marketers are becoming increasingly savvy about the best ways to leverage it without becoming invasive. Julie Bernard of Macy’s summed things up at last year’s Data Driven Marketing conference:

“We can now measure success in terms of the response of real people over time, in addition to measuring individual campaigns.  We have enough data at the customer level to see how she interacts both online and in the store, so we can tailor messaging and offers to her appropriately by channel. We strive to balance the use of customer data to inform content relevancy with the use of consumer insights to ensure that the relevancy is coupled with a sense of discovery and inspiration.”

3. Segment Your Audience

Understand which data points are useful to you, and segment your audience accordingly. Which data points actually help you better understand your audience? Using marketing automation, you can capture this information to build very rich profiles about your customers and the customer journey – you can even partner with companies like Acxiom or DSPs to enhance your data with more intelligence.

This kind of rich data can be translated into customer use cases, and also used to build buyer personas. For example, male iOS users who work in the tech industry and are between the ages of 25 and 35 are more likely to buy based on technical specifications. If you discover you are marketing to that audience, you might highlight technical specs in your landing pages and nurturing strategy.

4. Develop Content/Messaging that Addresses Use Cases and Behaviors

Content and messaging is key. If a customer has previously engaged or purchased your product, you probably want to consider that in your marketing. If a customer has put something into a cart, but hasn’t yet purchased, use your content to reference that intent.

In my sixth recommendation, I discuss the great content that Zappos creates to address use cases. I’ve also received emails from Bonobos referencing previous purchases, and recommending complementary products.  This type of content and messaging makes consumers feel personally spoken to, and helps drive much higher engagement, loyalty, and purchases.

Here’s an email I received from Bonobos, recommending a shirt to pair with jeans I’d recently purchased through the site:

bonobos jeans tshirt rec

5. Don’t Limit Use Cases to Marketing/Sales

Consider how listening and responding can help your support team, product team, merchandising teams, and even your customer service efforts. In a recent article on Digiday.com, GM’s head of global social media strategy was quoted as saying:

“A lot of it is about being able to provide a better service for our customers. If we can plug social into all the other CRM [Customer Relationship Management] data we have, then we have a full portfolio on the customer. If we know their VIN [Vehicle Identification Number], if we know their name, if we know their Twitter handle, and we know whether they like to go to the dealership or they don’t like to go the dealership, this helps us treat them in a way that they want to treated.”

6. “Listen and Respond” on Preferred Channels/Devices

Increasingly, people use multiple devices during a single transactional process. Make sure that you are able to listen and respond to these interactions. For example, an e-commerce retailer should strive to preserve items in a cart across devices – if you add an item to your mobile shopping cart, it should still be in your shopping cart when you log in on your desktop computer.

Recently, I added a pair of shoes from Zappos to my shopping cart, using my mobile phone. Later, I viewed the same shoes on my laptop at home, but didn’t purchase. Finally, on a weekend afternoon, I got an email from Zappos with the subject line “You snooze, You Lose”. Inside the email, the big bold header said “Don’t miss out!” There was an image of my shopping cart, the shoes, and a bright orange tag that said “Only 1 LEFT!”  Needless to say, I bought the last pair of shoes. Zappos had just made my buying experience as easy as taking candy from a baby.

I was inspired to write this blog post after hearing Neil Mohan, Google’s VP of Display Advertising, speak at a recent conference. Neil said, “If you’re just focusing on mobile, you’re solving yesterday’s problems.” Throughout the day, Neil explained, consumers are flitting back and forth among many devices, from smartphones to desktops, and from laptops to tablets to TVs. “90% of consumers start a task on one device and finish it on another,” he noted. “Consumers are way ahead of where advertisers and publishers are.”

Here’s a chart from Telco 2.0 Research, illustrating the frequency of multi-device paths to purchase:

telco multipath

7. Start Today!

Even though I’ve quoted several mega-brands, platforms like Marketo make these approaches accessible to companies of all sizes. There’s too much at stake in your business to delay taking that first step any longer. Consumers may be ahead of many marketers now, but this soon won’t be the case. Those marketers who thrive will be the ones who can deliver on the promise of a personal, omni-channel experience.

Related Resources

Mike Stocker heads up Marketo's B2C Partnerships. Mike has successfully founded and sold three digital marketing startups, including Kenzei- a SaaS email services company focused on shopping cart abandonment and upsell/cross-sell. Mike has held senior business development, strategy and media buying roles throughout over 15 years in digital marketing. Mike is passionate about helping major B2C firms improve the customer journey. Mike is a graduate of UCSB.

Read Mike's Blogs

Is your marketing #omnichannel and #multidevice? 7 tips to make user experiences seamless.

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