What is omnichannel marketing?

The digital revolution has placed the shopfront on the consumer's coffee table.

Consumers have witnessed unprecedented change in recent months. As businesses and consumers adapt to the changing behaviors, omnichannel marketing takes center stage in the new customer journey.

  • Shifts in behavior and demand have opened up new omnichannel marketing opportunities 
  • Existing markets have adapted and/or expanded their offerings
  • The above have triggered an avalanche of products and services

The fast-paced digitalization of the marketplace has freed consumers and merchants from the restraints of proximity; the recent rise in ecommerce continues to transform the way we shop, and with it, drives great demand for omnichannel marketing experiences. According to McKinsley, many brands have this year covered “a decade in days” in the adoption of digital.

There’s no denying that we now live in an omnichannel marketing world. This blog will explain what omnichannel marketing exactly means to consumers and brands in 2020 – and what you as a business can do to adapt.

For even more on omnichannel marketing, download our best practice guide here.

Omnichannel marketing explained

The crux of omnichannel marketing is this: Brands are no longer the designers of the customer journey. Instead, customers take more of an active role in curating their own experience; and brands have a responsibility to meet customers at the right moments in order to forge the best customer experience possible. One that breeds customer loyalty in the long run. The technology at both customers’ and businesses’ fingertips means that flexible, seamless omnichannel marketing experiences should be, and will one day be, the norm. 

The fundamentals of omnichannel marketing

The integration of sales, marketing, and operations are fundamental to the successful establishment of omnichannel marketing in any business.

It starts with data, which needs to flow uninterrupted from online and offline streams via ecommerce and CRM platforms into an omnichannel marketing automation platform. From there, you’re empowered to orchestrate relevant data-driven messages to customers. 

Key capabilities for omnichannel marketing success: 

  • Ecommerce websites 
  • Online marketplaces (i.e. Amazon, Alibaba)
  • Selling on social media (i.e. Facebook)
  • Physical stores
  • Social ads and Google retargeting
  • Personalized email marketing
  • Mobile apps and push notifications
  • Direct messaging (i.e. SMS, Facebook Messenger)
  • Live chat

Omnichannel marketing is the digitalization of commerce

The digitalization of commerce has brought new omnichannel marketing opportunities to consumers and businesses. It’s caused a dramatic shift from one-way marketing to seamless, two-way communications across every channel.

The rapid development in technology, amid higher standards of living, has resulted in a demand for:

  • new markets – driven by customer needs at home or on the go
  • better products and more choice – multiple categories and brands
  • improved methods of selling – i.e. online, mobile, marketplaces 
  • convenience when buying – i.e. guest checkout, live chat, order tracking; all from the comfort of your sofa 

According to Business Insider, ‘nothing can stop the shift to online shopping’, especially in the case of retail where we’re witnessing a mass exodus of department stores. This has accelerated even further in light of the 2020 global pandemic. 

Omnichannel marketing means more choice

Consumers have a near-infinite number of products to choose from and countless brands to buy them from. They’ve also an unprecedented level of control in how to communicate and interact with brands. Similarly, marketers have plentiful ways of delivering the first-class experiences demanded by omnichannel customers.

On the flip-side, whilst technology empowers businesses to market effectively, consumers are empowered to dodge the marketing they’re not interested in. Email recipients can easily overlook or unsubscribe from messages landing in their inbox, while web users can download add-blocking software on their browser.

Customers now seek value from experiences as well as from tangible products; brands need to focus on the online journey in its entirety, making sure each and every touch-point is consistent, seamless, and, above all, relevant. Because with more customer choice, businesses run a higher risk of getting it wrong. Whether that’s the messaging or product, the timing or channel. Paying attention to data, behaviors, and preferences will help elevate the omnichannel marketing experience – and help brands get it right, every time. 

Omnichannel marketing is mobile

Handheld devices have transformed our lives and revolutionized how businesses market and sell their products and services. For the large part, they are responsible for the advent of omnichannel marketing. Smartphones give consumers more flexibility and choice, plus offer brands a direct link to their potential and existing customers. Mobile marketing has such a wide reach that brands can build awareness and cement customer loyalty better than ever before.

Smartphones and tablets are increasingly becoming the go-to devices of communication across many demographics – from teenagers to city commuters to retired couples. For many of us, our iPhone or Android can’t be more than an arm’s length away; as well as being our primary mode of communication, it’s also our morning alarm, music apparatus, fitness tracker and purchasing device.

Omnichannel consumers are ‘always on’

81% of all adults in the UK have a smartphone and the time they spend on it is rising (Comapi, 2018). In 2019, it was estimated that US consumers spent nearly three hours on their smartphones per day. 

Omnichannel consumers rely heavily on their mobile devices. So much screen time means they’re ‘always on’ and highly attentive towards notifications. For instance, 90% of SMS messages are read within 10 seconds. For brands that adopt smart tactics and clever targeting, they can win big on mobile.

Brands need to finesse their mobile presence. While many have adopted a ‘mobile-friendly’ approach (the bare minimum) to their marketing efforts, retailers in particular are championing a ‘mobile-first’ approach. The ‘it works on mobile’ attitude isn’t enough. Being ‘mobile first’ is designing for the smallest screen and then scaling up. It’s the most effective way of maximizing responsiveness across all devices and delivering a positive first-touch experience for mobile users. This helps drive conversion and sets the scene for a great customer journey.

Omnichannel customers call the shots

Omnichannel customers want to immerse themselves in the world of the brands they advocate – and they’ve certainly got the technological resource to do so. Take social media as an example. Each medium provides consumers with a platform of influence where they can conceptualize ideas, create persuasive content and converse en masse.

To leverage the power of social activity, brands need to be at the core of every single conversation. Social content is the new, reinvented storefront; 47% of millennials cite social media as an influencer of their buying decisions. Whilst these ‘social surfers’ might avoid marketing through more traditional mediums, they’re likely to seek advice from their peers (such as friends and family) on the best products and services.

Social proof and trust points

The term ‘social influencer’ was coined to describe individuals who, having attained a large social following, drive the collective opinion of their audiences. The content they create, such as reviews or commentaries, will no doubt affect purchasing behavior. This is especially powerful for brands looking to monetize the social sphere.

Businesses, to gain from this social phenomena, will need to incorporate ‘trust points’ in their marketing practices across every channel. Today, B2C brands share the meaningful experiences of their customers, while B2B companies shout about client success.

In both cases, brands build trust through exhibiting a strong and emotive connection to their customers – your problem is my problem, your success is my success, etc. – as well as a true understanding of their needs. The best way to communicate brand credibility is through authentic storytelling. Prospective customers who relate to these powerful stories will want their share in the winnings.

Start your journey to omnichannel marketing

Grab a copy of our omnichannel marketing 101 guide. It’s loaded with tips on how to become an effective omnichannel marketer. 

Omnichannel marketing guide

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