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In the strictest sense, omnichannel marketing means offering customers a seamless brand, message, and experience across every channel (including print, email, online, and in-store). Customers might interact with a brand via a blog or a tweet or SMS or a Facebook post. Across all touchpoints, the messaging must be brand consistent and should provide a seamless experience. As a customer moves from a print ad to a social media platform, or an email to a webpage to a brick-and-mortar store, or an AI chatbot to a phone call, every experience must be as consistent as every branding and message.
Moreover, if it’s not, customers might dump a brand in favor of another one that does offer unified browsing and buying experience.
You might wonder how we got here to the place of seamless experiences and exceptionally high customer expectations. Well, it starts with those customers. They started hopping from device to device and online to in-person and back again. And as they did so, retailers had to learn to keep up.
It used to be that people either shopped online or in-person. Now the new normal is to browse online first, with no intention of buying online but as research before going into a brick-and-mortar store. Alternatively, it’s also perfectly normal to shop at a physical location and then go online to buy. It’s even common practice to be online while in a brick-and-mortar location: Research shows 72% of U.S. smartphone owners use their phones in-store to check prices, look up product information, and find a specific item.
However, that’s not the real reason to develop an omnichannel marketing strategy. There’s also the payback for doing so: Businesses with omnichannel strategy see 91% greater year-over-year customer retention rates compared to businesses without such a strategy.
If you’re considering omnichannel for your brand, and you’re wondering how to go about it, note that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Different companies also differ in how they go about it based on their industry, target audience, and goals.
Target partnered with Pinterest to integrate Pinterest’s Lens into their app so people can use their smartphones to snap a photo of something they like and have the Target app show them a similar item available for purchase. It was the first time Lens was integrated into another brand’s app. As an example of omnichannel marketing, this is a way to offer a seamless experience for a customer who sees something they want to buy and they can immediately discover whether or not Target sells something similar—and order it right then and there. Moreover, using this strategy Target was able to increase its sales to almost 10%.
It’s not only retailers (or e-tailers) who can become masters of omni experience but aviation companies as well. Singapore Airlines sets a good example of offering a seamless experience to their customers. They have always been lauded for their innovation, and for a while, they are creating a powerful, customer-oriented Omni experience. This flagship airline is partnering with AOE integrated airports and shopping malls by fusing online and offline experiences. With this partnership, the customers can easily shop, pre-book, enhance in-flight options and earn loyalty in real-time.
Zumiez is an omnichannel digital marketing master is proven by its top ranking with Total Retail. In the 2017 “Top 100 Omnichannel Retailers” report, Zumiez got the top rank with 100 points in seven criteria including offering an omnichannel experience. This apparel retailer lets customers effortlessly cross over channels with combinations like buying online while picking up in-store, earning loyalty points across channels, offering multiples ways to reach out to customer service, and even providing more than one way to return merchandise.
Sephora makes many of the lists of best omnichannel marketing retailers because they blend the online and in-store experiences so well. While in a brick-and-mortar location, the brand experience is consistent with beauty tips, informed salespeople, free makeovers, and of course, products to try. Online, customers can use their Beauty Bag accounts to track purchases (“What color was that lipstick again?”), scan items while they are in the store, see tutorials, keep a wish list, and much more. Offering this experience to their customers helped this #1 beauty retailer to gain an approx. 100% increase in mobile orders.
Value City Furniture has mastered omnichannel digital marketing priorities by realizing the conundrum faced by customers who want to shop online but also want to take furniture for a “test drive” before buying. They offer an “Easy Pass” platform that lets customers build a shopping list online then head to a nearby brick-and-mortar location. There, a sales clerk can pull up the list and show the customer the furniture in real life. While at the store, people can also start a wish list and find additional product information online. By offering ease in shopping, this furniture company was able to increase 55% of its overall shopping engagement.
Many believe that omnichannel marketing is for retailers (e-tailers) only. However, this fact stands corrected as omnichannel is becoming a way of life for customers (and will soon become one for marketers too). Fintech companies especially need to offer a seamless experience to their customers whether it is a physical bank transaction, online transaction or an ATM withdrawal. The Bank of America (BOA) has been utilizing omnichannel experience for its customer for a long time—from allowing them to hook up to free Wi-Fi and continue bank transactions while waiting in a branch to offering tablets while sitting in a kiosk with a bank manager. However, they went a step ahead and started the ‘Robo-branch’ initiative where customers don’t need to wait for a teller to get free instead can share their grievances with a machine. The conversation, issue handling, and experience are all the same.
You can’t read about omnichannel marketing without reading about Disney. They have set the bar so high it’s what other retailers aim for. As Hubspot describes it, “Disney gets omnichannel experience right, down to the smallest details.” A visitor’s experience starts with the website, then moves on to the My Disney Experience tool that can be used to plan every detail of the trip. Once at the park, a visitor can use the app to figure out the rides and attractions and even see the wait times for popular rides. But that’s not all: The MagicBand is a wristband that lets visitors:
And every aspect of it is consistently branded, effortless to use, and an example of omnichannel taken to new heights.
If you’re not yet doing omnichannel marketing, you soon will be if for no other reason than your competitors already are. But—as these successful brands show—you are free to figure out what will work best for your brand and your bottom line.
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