What is omni-channel marketing?
The term “omni-channel” is an increasingly popular marketing buzzword, but it refers to an important shift in marketing: marketers now need to provide a seamless experience across every customer touchpoint. At it’s core, omni-channel marketing is viewing the experience through the eyes of a customer, orchestrating the customer experience across all channels and devices so that it’s seamless, integrated, and consistent.
Note: a touchpoint is any point of contact between a buyer and seller.
The buying cycle has evolved, thus omni-channel was born.
Customers interact with companies through an increasingly complex spider web of touchpoints and research before making a buying decision.
Let’s count customer touchpoints in a hypothetical example:
It’s the year 2000 and you’re shopping for a new washing machine:
- You go to your local retailer and browse the washing machines.
- You ask the sales rep some questions about the washing machines that are in-stock and then purchase the machine that’s the best fit.
It’s the year 2015 and you’re shopping for a new washing machine:
- You Google “washing machines” to find out what kind of products are out there.
- You check Consumer Reports’ website to check out the latest and greatest machines, noting a few washers that look good.
- You visit two more independent review websites to find more info about washing machines. You find the washer that’s the right one for you.
- You see an ad for 45% off of a washer/dryer combo, click it, but decide that it’s not the right washer for you.
- You browse a big-box retailer’s website to see if they have the model you’re looking for.
- You do some price-shopping, looking at Amazon.com and other e-retailers to find the best price. You discover the model with the best price is at your local big-box retailer.
- You visit the retailer’s website to confirm that the model is in-stock at your nearest location.
- You arrive at the retailer a few days later and find your washer.
- You ask the salesperson some last minute questions about the washer.
- You do a last-minute price-check online to make sure that there isn’t a better price on Amazon or another e-commerce website. There isn’t.
- You buy your washing machine.
The theme here is that in our increasingly connected and digital world there are many, many customer touchpoints.
With all these touchpoints, omni-channel marketing isn’t easy.
For omni-channel marketing to work, every touchpoint along the consumer’s buying journey has to be addressed from a technology, messaging, and logistics perspective. If any of the touchpoints or messaging doesn’t follow the consumer’s buying path, or isn’t consistent, then the effectiveness of the marketing is significantly reduced and there’s an increased likelihood that the customer won’t buy your product.
Consistency is key.
Interaction must be consistent across all channels and touchpoints. Consistency across channels where multiple teams or agencies are managing separate tactics and channels is going to prove to be a logistical nightmare for many companies, and this is where many companies are going to get omni-channel marketing wrong. If the messaging is not consistent across say, paid search vs. social media advertising or the website vs. mobile app or e-mail messaging vs. phone support then omni-channel won’t work. For some businesses there will be simply too many moving pieces to align and (especially within large organizations) getting buy-in across all departments is both difficult and crucial.
There’s a difference between multi-channel and omni-channel marketing.
Omni-channel marketing is often confused with multi-channel marketing, though they’re separate strategies. Think of multi-channel as swimming lanes; multi-channel marketing is utilizing multiple channels simultaneously to drive conversions, focusing on the effectiveness of each individual channel.
Omni-channel is a spider web, consisting of multiple touchpoints during the customer’s experience that all influence their buying decision. An omni-channel approach places the customer as the focal point of the marketing strategy.
How to started with omni-channel marketing.
The first step is to fully understand your customer. Omni-channel won’t work if you don’t have a thorough understanding of your target market and why and how they buy.
The next step is to ensure that your messaging and branding is consistent across every channel that your customer could find you through, including your brick-and-mortar location.
You’ll need to have data from every offline and online channel and then identify every possible touchpoint that exists with your target customer. You’ll then need to identify any roadblocks that could hinder the integration of data points into your marketing strategy, including logistical issues like outdated POS systems or untrained staff.
Then, patterns need to be developed. Look at how your customer buys, and outline every possible touchpoint from touchpoint “A” to touchpoint “Z”. Then, formulate strategy and tactics to ensure that you’re consistently delivering messaging that is both timely, highly-relevant, and in the right place across every one of these touchpoints.
Importantly, you’ll need to keep in mind that what works for your competitors likely won’t work for you. Every business is different, and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to building an omni-channel strategy.
Interested in learning more about Omni-Channel Marketing? Let’s chat.
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