The challenges of marketing are ever present and never more so, than today, with the advance of technology and change in how customers now choose to interact with businesses.
The way consumers shop has changed from browsing shelves in store, to being able to research and purchase online, through to today, where consumers have multiple touch points to research, browse, connect and purchase through mobile devices. The majority of consumers now use a multi – device path to purchase. So what does that mean for us marketers ?
The change in behaviour of how customers engage with businesses has driven the need for omnichannel marketing. Marketing that understands how customers interact with you as a business, through which channels and touch points and how best to engage and communicate with them.
So what is omnichannel marketing and how does it differ to multi-channel marketing?
The rise of technology within our lifestyles today has led to multi channel revolution where consumers now have a wide range of options or technological touch-points to satisfy their shopping needs. Today’s customers are connecting with us through a number of channels, whether in-store, online via phone, email, webforms and on different devices; web, tablets, and mobile the options are vast. Behaviours are changing so that rather than a couple of channels, customer may be using three or more channels to research, engage and finally make a purchase.
This media convergence is driving companies to use an omnichannel approach where campaigns are delivered across all channels, in a seamless manner, for a good consumer experience. When customers contact your company by phone, email, in-store and online, they expect the same experience and treatment even when they switch between channels. Elias Parker (UX Magazine) states that “91% of customers want to pick up where they left off when they switch between channels, customers don’t view the channels separately”
So how does omnichannel differ to Multichannel? Multichannel marketing provides different channels for a customer to engage with you, whereas an omnichannel approach is making sure that those channels all work together. Often multi channel marketing strategies focus on each channel in silos or separately but customers don’t see each channel as separate and demand a seamless experience switching simultaneously between channels, see the diagram below. The customer is at the centre of an omnichannel approach .
A good Omnichannel strategy ensures that you have a consistent relationship and message across all channels. A good example is a customer pulling up a coupon on their phone and then showing the coupon to the sales clerk at check-out. Done right, an omnichannel strategy can greatly increase customer loyalty.
Stacy Schwartz, a digital marketing expert, consultant, and adjunct professor at Rutgers Business School states "The difference between multichannel and omnichannel really comes down to a company's approach to digital channels," , Companies that focus on maximizing the performance of each channel-physical, phone, web, mobile-have a multichannel strategy. They likely structure their organization into ‘swim lanes' focused on each channel, each with their own reporting structure and revenue goals. An omnichannel approach puts the customer, not corporate silos, at the centre of its strategy,"
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!”
Companies now need an omnichannel strategy to succeed in the marketplace, but apparently only a small percentage of marketers feel able to deliver an effective cross channel marketing strategy.
With more options to engage and connect with a customer there are more opportunities available and more data to analyse, but this also makes it harder to achieve. Keeping interactions consistent across multiple platforms providing the same customer experience is a new challenge for us marketers.