Omnichannel Strategy: Opportunities and Challenges
There is now little distinction between going out and shopping in stores and the world of e-commerce. When customers want a product, they’re able to use various channels to find what they need; they can read emails, check reviews, use social media, head to the high street or look at apps.
Consumers will use different channels to make their purchases — all of which need to be optimised in order to catch attention and convert it. To do this you need to 360° look at the customer journey — you need an omnichannel marketing strategy.
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What is an omnichannel marketing strategy?
An omnichannel marketing strategy is one that bridges the gap between the online and offline shopping experience. From searching for a product online, to visiting the website, to signing up for a newsletter, to searching for physical locations and either buying online or in-store, an omnichannel strategy creates a holistic and connected approach to the consumer journey.
Omnichannel vs. multichannel strategy: What's the difference?
Many companies manage multiple sales channels at once, all of which will accompany the customer from the presale all the way through to the post-sales phase. An omnichannel marketing strategy creates a fully integrated shopping experience, touching on several points throughout the customer journey.
Many e–commerce merchants no longer limit themselves to just a website and a few social media posts; but will create and manage a few channels at the same time — however this does not automatically mean they are implementing an omnichannel strategy.
They could be using a multichannel marketing strategy. This kind of strategy also uses various media channels; social media, website, emails, newsletters, physical advertising, etc; to reach their customers but they might not necessarily look or feel similar. A multichannel strategy puts the product or service in the centre and each of the channels will work to deliver their message individually.
An omnichannel marketing strategy, on the other hand, places the customer at the centre of its activities. All channels will be integrated to meet the customer at various touch points both off and online; creating a holistic consumer experience which leads the customer from the curiosity phase of their journey all the way through to the purchase and loyalty phase.
What are the benefits of omnichannel marketing?
Which strategy you choose to use will have benefits, but there are several more specific to omnichannel marketing.
By accompanying the customer through all phases of the purchasing process using many of the channels they already frequent, you will be able to consistently touch base by offering new releases, updates or other perks. Your customers will recognise your brand easily and know exactly what you’re selling. This builds trust and recognition between your business and your consumers.
A customer-centric approach
An omnichannel marketing strategy focuses on the customer; their needs and desires. Unlike other marketing strategies, this strategy meets your customers where they are — perhaps they’re already researching your products on Instagram or window shopping at your store. This differs from direct advertising, which focuses more on what the business can offer rather than what the customer needs.
Guides data-supported decisions
There is a huge amount of data you can gather through a successful omnichannel campaign. For example, those who reach out for information, follow and interact with your social pages, those who tried to make a purchase on your e–commerce but abandoned their cart at the last minute — all of this is valuable data that could become part of your omnichannel approach. This data helps you gather customer interest to better target your campaign to the right consumers.
How to develop a great omnichannel strategy
The next step once you have decided you want to implement an omnichannel marketing campaign is to get it off the ground — but where do you start? Here are a few tips to get started.
Understand the four pillars of a great campaign
When it comes to omnichannel strategy, there are four areas to consider.
- Visibility: Who is going to see your marketing, and where? Use the single view of the customer to guide them through their buyer's journey.
- Measurement: How will you measure success? What metrics will you use?
- Personalisation: How will you make your marketing unique, targeted and personal? Develop your one-to-one campaign in real time.
- Optimisation: How can you make your campaign the best it can be to reach your desired customers? Adjust your strategy based on real data and performance.
Tune in to your customer’s needs
The goal of omnichannel marketing is to bridge the gap between physical and digital retail experiences, so you need to learn what’s valuable to your customers so that you can offer them the best experience of your brand. Do they prefer to purchase online, or do they need to see the product physically before purchase? Most of the time customers are looking for speed and convenience, so how can you provide that?
Develop the right tech
Having the right tools in place to nurture, track and optimise your strategy is vital to its success. Your omnichannel marketing automation, retargeting platform, CRM, social media analytics, predictive analytics and other solutions should all work together to support the customer journey but also offer complete visibility so you are able to optimise performance and adapt to developing customer habits.
Offering free wifi in-store, integrating social media into the brick-and-mortar experience and providing that link between offline and online all create a holistic omnichannel experience.
What makes omnichannel marketing so powerful is that it sends a consistent message across all channels to support the customer through their journey. This integrated consistency builds consumer-brand trust and takes your strategy to the next level.
Diversify where you sell
These days when consumers shop they hop between various channels; social media, websites, e-commerce platforms (Etsy, Shopify), retailers that sell your brand, the physical store, etc. It's important to be easy to search and find as the buyer moves through these platforms. However, not every single platform will be necessary, and will depend on the business.
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3 excellent examples of an omnichannel strategy in action
The Swedish brand does not only stand on the outskirts of large cities, but for years it has had a huge online presence. In 2017 it took the step towards an omnichannel approach. IKEA created an augmented reality to plan the arrangement of their furniture and products in a space, and use their blog to provide ideas for furnishing your home.
Their entire online presence does not only aim to create sales, but to deliver an experience online to compliment and drive the experience of visiting a store offline — not to mention the bonus of the famous IKEA hotdog and food court!
Velasca was born online and opened its first physical store a year later in 2014. However today most of their customers will have already had an online experience with the brand before visiting its offline store. In other words, these are “webrooming” consumers who carry out online searches first, become informed and then buy offline.
Given this strong virtual presence, the same salespeople are trained to accompany the potential customer to purchase without ever forcing him. Velasca is well aware, in fact, that those who enter their store usually already know what they want – this is an excellent example of how different channels coherently work together to guide the consumer to the purchase. In addition, the brand’s relationship with their customers is such that sometimes members of the Velasca team personally sign their customer service emails and regularly organise in-store events.
Adidas’ goal is to be constantly present online without forgetting the shopping and entertainment experience offered in its physical stores. In fact, according to Adidas, the physical store must increasingly be a place where you can find what you have spotted online — even if you aren’t going to buy it. Adidas’ omnichannel strategy offers the option to buy online and pick-up in store. This link between online and in-store drives footfall to Adidas stores, which offers the opportunity of increased sales.
Challenges of an omnichannel strategy
While omnichannel marketing is a fantastic way to monitor customer behaviour and drive sales, it’s not easy to implement. It’s estimated that only 14% of organisations are currently running coordinated marketing campaigns across all channels, with 46% of organisations currently delivering poor customer experiences that end up in cart abandonment. It takes specific requirements to make it work, and work well.
You need to be able to invest in an omnichannel marketing strategy. You will need to build and run specialised software, create content, run an offline store, create apps, CRM, and be able to track and analyse the data all these channels create to optimise the campaign. This takes investment, both in terms of time and money that smaller businesses might not have.
New way to organise your company
Whether you have a small e–commerce store or a fast growing company, you must be able to structure it in such a way that every department — from sales to customer service — is integrated into the omnichannel process, so that everyone at every level knows how to best respond to customer requests and concerns. For this you may need software that optimises the shipping process, sends emails, builds and helps you retain customer loyalty
Focus on smartphone commerce
If you have limited resources, it might be best to focus on the smartphone experience. Millions of people use their smartphones every day to make purchases; they Google keywords, visit online stores, scan QR codes, search for reviews and follow social media platforms. Developing a strong online presence will bring huge value to your brand and sales.
Omnichannel Strategy FAQ
What is an omnichannel strategy and why is it important for businesses?
An omnichannel strategy is a marketing strategy that leverages numerous marketing strategies to bridge the gap between the online and offline shopping experience. For businesses it’s an important part of the customer journey, and is great for increasing brand awareness and customer loyalty.
How does an omnichannel strategy differ from a multichannel strategy?
An omnichannel marketing strategy is different from a multichannel strategy in a couple of ways. Firstly an omnichannel strategy puts the customer first, creating several linked touch points for consumers throughout their journey, creating a fully integrated experience. Multichannel marketing on the other hand also leverages many different channels to reach their customers but they might not necessarily look or feel similar. A multichannel strategy puts the product or service in the centre and each of the channels will work to deliver their message individually.
What are the key components of an effective omnichannel strategy?
An effective omnichannel strategy needs four things: good visibility, strong ways to measure success, a personalised experience and ways to optimise the campaign.
How can businesses integrate online and offline channels in their omnichannel approach?
Businesses can integrate online and offline channels in their omnichannel approach in a number of ways, including making the most of smartphones to scan QR codes on-the-go, offering online-exclusive items in-store or creating viral online campaigns that drive traffic to offline locations. Businesses should aim to create strong digital touch points both in-store and online.
How can businesses effectively manage inventory and fulfilment in an omnichannel environment?
In an omnichannel environment it can be hard to manage inventory and fulfilment, but there are several ways to effectively help. One way is to implement a centralised inventory management system that integrates all sales channels and provides real-time visibility into inventory across the entire supply chain.
You can also leverage historical data, market trends and predictive analytics to accurately forecast demand for each sales channel. Lastly, provisioning cross-channel inventory visibility enables customers to view and purchase products from any channel while also allowing them to access inventory information (such as product availability) regardless of the sales channel they use.
What role does data and analytics play in optimising an omnichannel strategy?
You need strong metrics to make an omnichannel marketing campaign successful. Data and analytics help businesses assess how well the strategy is doing and where it can be optimised. Data is especially helpful in gathering customer interest to better target your campaign to the right consumers.
How can businesses measure the success and effectiveness of their omnichannel strategy?
Businesses can measure the success of an omnichannel campaign through a number of KPIs, including social engagement, new customer registration, website visits, running customer satisfaction surveys, membership enrolments, promotional engagement or simply whether or not there has been an increase in sales and revenue.
Leverage the power of ShippyPro to adopt an omnichannel approach
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