“E-commerce activities will be replaced with a total integration of online, offline, logistics and data across a single value chain.” – Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba
Jack Ma’s words are right on target. E-commerce, which oozed ultra-modern just a few years ago, has been eclipsed by a new kid on the block. Its name may be a mouthful, but omnichannel marketing is leading the pack in consumer-led experiences and tracking consumer behaviour.
As its prefix suggests, omnichannel marketing uses multiple online and offline marketing channels, from stores, traditional media, social media and new digital options, blending them together to create a responsive and intuitive service where customers can interact with your business when and where they want, and on whichever device they choose.
If they expect to find you on Instagram, you should be there. If they want to inquire about shipping costs via a comment on Facebook at 10pm, you need to reply within a realistic timeframe. And if they want to provide feedback via a form on your website and continue that thread on Twitter, you’d better be across it.
But tailoring your message for the myriad channels, maintaining a consistent brand and providing genuine responses to customers without repetition can feel like spinning plates. Add to that the need to measure the effectiveness of what you are doing and it can quickly become overwhelming.
But it’s not impossible – and there are added bonuses. By embracing omnichannel marketing not only will you keep up with your competitors, you’ll also gain an authentic, responsive and seamless presence across all your media channels, and insight into customer behaviour and preferences like never before.
The five tips below could give you a head start.
1. Optimise your organisational structure
“Brands that address the challenge of customer journey management with care and precision stand to outpace their competitors and the market.” – Rob Beevers, Ebiquity
Your customers hold little regard for the internal structure of your business, and rightly so. Whenever a customer interacts with a company they think of it as a single, unified brand, not a collection of disparate departments and data sources.
To deliver the seamless experience that customers expect, you need to communicate your products and services in a consistent way, and that consistency begins at home.
Your first step is to get all your organisation’s departments on board with your new vision. Omnichannel marketing is achieved through internal collaboration and requires integrated teams and technologies. You need all your departments to be on the same page, promoting the same brand, the same message and ultimately putting the customer first and foremost.
You’ll also need to have the right people in the right place at the right time. Once you establish omnichannel marketing, you will identify numerous touch points where customers may interact with your organisation, and places that may affect their decision-making and desire to purchase your products or services.
Determine which teams will be responsible for each touch point, how they will track and respond to customer behaviour and how that information will flow through to other teams.
2. Integrate your analytics
“83 per cent of Australian CIOs plan to invest more on big data in 2017, including hardware, software and services.” – The Telsyte Australian Big Data & Analytics Market Study 2017
Data capture and analysis is the canvas that underpins omnichannel marketing. It helps you understand your customers better, identify untapped market opportunities and make smarter business decisions. It allows you to optimise a customer’s interaction with your business by tracking their behaviour and intuitively providing personalised content.
To switch to omnichannel marketing you will need to connect your data streams and manage large volumes of data. If you currently have a handful of disparate data collection systems, you would be wise to replace them with one overarching system that can integrate data from online and offline business areas.
You could start by mapping your current data capture system. Then set up a new reporting structure and ensure each area records data in the same level of detail, in real time and in a way that is easy to analyse. Store the information in a central place. Once set up, you can integrate offsite data such as sales data and stock keeping. This will give you a bird’s eye view of all the different ways in which your customers interact with you.
An example of optimised business operations can be seen in Alibaba’s ‘new retail’ model, which integrates physical stores with online shopping, and logistics systems with communications. The result is an interactive shopping experience for customers and an accurate view of inventory across stores and the web for the retailer.
3. Become customer-centric
“Customer centricity means providing positive customer experiences in order to maximise the firm’s long-term financial value.” – Esomar World Research
Your organisation may need to undergo a fundamental shift in thinking – away from traditional targeted marketing and towards a commitment to customer-led marketing, where consumer behaviour determines how you interact with them. This may mean a change to company culture, a new strategic direction and a willingness to embrace risk and experimentation. Be prepared to make mistakes, but also be prepared to learn from them.
Understanding your customers better and adding depth to your relationship with them will help you identify the most profitable customer groups. You’ll need to be responsive, transparent and connect with them in ways that they initiate, and your analytics will play a key role in this.
Communications content should be tailored to suit the individual behaviour of a customer. Draw a map or calendar of the consumer journey and the decision points along that journey. Create content to suit the different navigational decisions the customer could make, taking demographics and personalities into consideration and examining micro segments through your analytics.
A marketing automation tool can be used to link the content with customer analytics, sending selected content to the customer in response to their behaviour at identified decision points. Individual customer relationships can then be developed through lead nurture and sales triggered at a time when success is most likely.
4. Synchronise your channels
“84 per cent of smartphone shoppers turn to their mobile phone to help them shop while in a store.” – Google Mobile In-Store Research
Recognising the role and benefits each channel individually brings to your business, and the different ways in which the channels can mesh together can help you create both a personalised service and a consistent brand experience.
The ultimate goal is to achieve synergy between each channel, and to do that you need an engagement strategy that provides consistent messaging across all customer touch-points as well as technology that links different devices – such as smartphone, app, tablet, laptop and desktop computers.
An item put in a shopping cart on a home computer should also show up on the customer’s phone app. Or a discount offered online should still be available to the customer if they walk into the physical store.
Linking technology, communications and devices will help you keep track of your customers as well as providing a seamless customer experience. Your analytics will determine where and how customers find information, which devices they prefer and when they are most likely to buy products and services.
You could link different media in creative new ways and widely track the results, use social media engagement to measure the impact of a television commercial for example, or add a hashtag campaign to your events and respond to audience discussion.
AHM Insurance, the Australian Traffic Network and oOh! Media synchronised commercial radio traffic reports with six strategically located digital billboards in Melbourne so that peak hour commuters could see and hear a brand message simultaneously while driving on the road.
5. Move customers closer to your brand
“As retailers adapt to the digital age, the line between physical and digital commerce is becoming increasingly blurred.” – BI Intelligence, The Future of Retail, 2016
With all this activity and multitude of possibilities, you’ll need an overarching and cohesive marketing strategy that moves customers closer to your brand and generates profits.
Your strategy should provide a solid framework for aligned marketing activities and determine your goals and objectives across multiple channels as a whole.
When you write your strategy, anticipate that consumers may start in one channel and move to another. This change must be seamless. Make sure your strategy gives teams direction on how to respond to customer interactions and how to give them a good brand experience regardless of their decisions.
It goes without saying that you’ll need to have the right data systems in place to implement your strategy. Analytics are your backbone and should be used to inform and shape your strategic direction and increase the effectiveness of your strategy.
You can work out ways in which you can leverage customer touch points and turn a ‘cold’ lead into a ‘hot’ lead, identify new market segments and streamline your customer journey. You can also adapt your strategy in response to changing trends.
Steering your organisation towards omnichannel marketing will take a lot of effort, but this style of customer-centric marketing could keep your organisation relevant for a very long time, as well as prepare you for marketing in the future and the bigger data sets to come.
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