The State of Retail: Omnichannel marketing. What it is, why you need it, and how to do it right.

By Bita Taghavi-Stevens

In the first and second parts of our The State of Retail series, we looked at how you can deliver a killer CX strategy and increase brand loyalty, respectively.

To achieve both of these things, you need one key ingredient: omnichannel marketing.

For retail and eCommerce brands, omnichannel has the power to transform – and futureproof – your business.

But it’s far from easy. It comes with significant challenges and complexities – enough to put some companies off completely.

With more retail and eCommerce brands investing heavily in omnichannel strategies, if you don’t get omnichannel-ready – or don’t do it right – it won’t be long before you lose customers and struggle to reach new ones.

According to Google Think, omnichannel customers generate significantly more revenue, with a 30% higher lifetime value than single or multichannel. And more than 90% of customers use numerous channels to make a single purchasing decision.

Here’s how you can harness the power of omnichannel to drive CX, brand loyalty, and convert more leads into sales.

 

Want to fire up your marketing? Join one of our upcoming Masterclasses and get ahead of the latest trends, tech, and solutions.

 

What is omnichannel marketing?

 

We know you know, but just in case… Let’s start with what it isn’t.

 

Is omnichannel the same as multichannel?

No. Multichannel marketing is the strategy most businesses use – and it isn’t the same as omnichannel.

The multichannel approach is built around segmentation of customers. You have multiple channels of reach (email, social, phone, web, physical stores) but they’re all isolated from each other – they’re not integrated.

You might have an amazing website, award-winning mobile marketing, and be hitting thousands of views on social media, but if they’re not designed to be seamlessly integrated, you’re not offering an omnichannel experience.

Multichannel creates silos, giving you clear separation between various channels. The big positive? Having separate strands makes this strategy relatively simple and easy to manage. But who wants easy when you can have omni?

 

So what is omnichannel?

 

Omnichannel incorporates multiple channels, but (unlike multichannel) all of them – across all devices and platforms – need to be working in synchronicity. They need to effectively be ‘speaking’ to each other.

The objective is to give your customers connected, seamless interactions at every touchpoint so that their experience is continuous, no matter where or how they’re interacting with you.

When your marketing, sales, in-store, and customer services are all interconnected, your customer can hop from medium to medium, find what they want, get assistance if they need it, and complete their purchase.

 

Why do you need it?

 

Omnichannel marketing is about nurturing engagement – and making it as easy as possible for customers to buy. It’s the beating heart of CX and customer loyalty.

In the retail and eCommerce space, it’s easy to see how this is a game-changer. Having an omnichannel strategy in place (or not) will have a direct impact on every part of your funnel – including the crucial part: how much you sell.

This is a marketing strategy that places your customer at the very centre of everything you do, opening up a whole new world of marketing potential.

 

Greater reach and communication

 

With omnichannel marketing, your customers don’t need to search to find you. You orbit around them, meaning you can reach and assist them wherever they are. You remove the barriers to engagement so that your products, content, and customer support are one click, email or phone call away.

And because everything’s connected, it’s designed to incorporate as many communication channels as possible. From push notifications and emails to targeted social media posts, all of your channels work together to create a complete ecosystem of communication. The result: greater reach and more targeted, relevant communication.

 

Personalisation

 

According to a recent study by Epsilon, 80% of customers are more likely to buy from a brand that gives them a personalised experience.

With an integrated approach, your channels are constantly gathering data and analysing it to gain a better understanding of your customers. This gives you the ability not just to personalise – but to hyper-personalise.

If some customers regularly abandon their shopping baskets but often make purchases that are on sale, you could send them an exclusive, time-restricted offer giving them money off their order. Or you could create hyper-targeted content for social media, based on customer tastes and preferences.

But even if you don’t do any of this, just being an omnichannel brand will give your customers a personalised experience; they can get what they want when they want it.

Let’s say a customer is in a physical store and they want to find a product that they’ve seen on your Instagram or Facebook ad. If your business is omnichannel, they can ask a member of staff to locate it in store or order it for them. The end result: they get what they want, make the purchase there and then – and most importantly, walk away with a positive impression of your brand.

 

Our knowledge-exchange events are all about helping you find solutions. Find yours by joining one of our Virtual or In-Person Masterclasses

 

Better Engagement

 

A key metric in any marketing campaign is customer engagement. And omnichannel certainly creates higher engagement.

A study by Aberdeen Group found that companies with strong omnichannel customer engagement retain around 89% of their customers, compared to just 33% for brands with weak omnichannel customer engagement.

It’s simple: if you can offer value, personalisation, and continuity at every touchpoint, your customers will naturally be more engaged with your brand.

 

Increased Customer Loyalty

 

What do customers want? Ease, accessibility, great customer service.

What don’t they want? Frustration.

Omnichannel is the key to brand loyalty. It allows you to provide a personalised, customer-centric experience, which, in turn, keeps your customers happy and loyal.

 

How to create an omnichannel experience

 

Creating an omnichannel strategy is challenging. It takes time and all sorts of resources – money, people, analytical tools, tech, and more. But it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Here’s how to get omnichannel-ready by building it into key parts of your business.

 

Who are your customers?

 

All marketing strategies start in the same way: by defining who you’re trying to reach.

Omnichannel marketing is all about giving your customers what they want, when they want, how they want it. So, what do they want?

The only way to find out is by investing in customer research. This will allow you to create specific personas and build a targeted strategy to reach them.

For example, the way Gen Z interacts with your brand will be different from Gen X. Some of your audience will prefer bricks and mortar, some will be exclusively digital, some will want a mix of both.

Within your digital audience, some might use TikTok but not Facebook, and some will go directly to your website. Some will click through on emails and others won’t even open them. You get the picture.

To build a sound omnichannel strategy, you need to first understand the needs and behaviours of your entire customer base.

 

Get the basics right

 

Omnichannel won’t be built in a day. And it doesn't need to be. Getting the fundamentals right will allow you to develop a strategy that you can build on. To begin with, focus on reducing barriers to buying and creating a smoother journey.

Start with your website and social channels. Is your site connected to your social channels in multiple places? When your customers see a product on your Instagram or Facebook, how many clicks away are they from buying it? Is your content optimised for all screen sizes?

If a customer is looking at your website on a mobile and they have to keep zooming in and fiddling, you’ve broken the omnichannel spell. The entire point of omnichannel is ease of use and the ability to switch fluidly between channels.

Another key factor is how much you post and actively engage on social media. If you respond quickly to comments on Twitter but take days to reply on Instagram, you’ll look unprofessional and lose engagement. This type of inconsistency can damage people’s perception of your brand, diminishing your credibility and their trust. That’s why it’s crucial to keep your messaging and frequency consistent.

 

Are you a marketing decision maker? Boost your omnichannel knowledge at one of our DTC & eCommerce Masterclasses. Click here to book your complimentary space.

 

Start mapping

 

You might know which channels your customers prefer but do you know their entire journey to making a purchase?

Mapping buyer journeys helps you pinpoint areas where the process slows down or stops completely. It’s precisely these sticking points that can be improved with an omnichannel approach.

For example, you might notice that a number of customers drop off just after they do a final review of their basket. Are they struggling to edit items out? Do they want to add something last minute but can’t work out how?

Now imagine you had a live chat option on this page. A support agent could give your customer the help they need in real time to solve their problem and complete their purchase.

 

Get the right support 

 

You can’t do omnichannel without an omnichannel customer support strategy.

To do this, you’ll need to make sure all of your contact centre employees are trained to give customers the help they need. You’ll also need the right tech. If you’re using video calls and live chat, they need to be perfectly synced with other channels like email and phone. If a customer speaks to an agent, how is their interaction logged and integrated so that the next touchpoint starts where they left off?

Problem solving, offering the right support at the right time, and full integration are the key components of an omnichannel experience. That’s why your people and tech are crucial. Carefully selecting tools that complement your existing tech stack will help you build strong foundations to support your strategy.

 

Don’t forget about post-sale

 

While most brands focus their resources on the beginning and middle parts of the customer journey, for an omnichannel experience, post-sale should be just as important.

For example, what happens when a customer wants to return or exchange an item? UK retailer, Oasis, is a perfect example of a brand that’s created a complete 360 omnichannel experience.

Their website uses integrated data to show customers which stores stock the items they’re looking for; in physical stores, staff carry iPads so customers can pay without having to find the till; and when a customer wants to return a product, they have five different options to choose from – including being able to return online orders in-store.

 

 

For retail and eCommerce, omnichannel is the future. Although it’s been on retailers’ radars for years, the inherent challenges mean that many brands are sticking with their multichannel approach. But it doesn’t have to be zero to a hundred. With a few strategic adjustments, you can slowly start to build omnichannel into the pivotal parts of your funnel. By investing in yourself, keeping your market and customer knowledge up to date, and choosing the right tools, you can begin to give your customers a more seamless, friction-free experience.

 

 

Are you looking for omnichannel solutions? Our In-Person and Virtual Masterclasses are designed to help with all of your marketing challenges. If you’re a marketing leader, register today, free of charge, for one of our interactive events.

Virtual DTC & eCommerce (North America, 14th June

In-Person DTC & eCommerce (London, 15th June

Virtual DTC & eCommerce (North America, 13th July

With special thanks to: