What is Omnichannel Marketing? (+Best Practices for Ecommerce)
Today’s consumers interact with brands across multiple channels and devices. According to a research by Marketing Week, the average consumer interacts with brands across almost 6 touch-points, with more than half of consumers regularly using over 4 touch-points.
While multiple touch-points present consumers with choice, they can easily make the customer experience fragmented, confusing and impersonal for shoppers, which ultimately translates to lost sales opportunities.
The key to preventing this is to provide a unified and seamless customer experience across all channels and devices.
Question is, how exactly do you do this? The answer is omnichannel marketing.
What Is Omnichannel Marketing?
Before getting into what omnichannel marketing is, it is important to first understand what the term channel means.
A marketing channel refers to any medium that facilitates interactions between a brand and its customers. Some examples of marketing channels include social media, a mobile app, a website, email, SMS, face-to-face interactions, print advertisements, and so on.
Omnichannel marketing, therefore, is a marketing strategy whose aim is to create a seamless and consistent customer experience regardless of the channel a customer is using. Omnichannel marketing is based on the premise that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
With omnichannel marketing, all the different channels employed by a brand work together as one, rather than multiple, independent channels.
For instance, let’s say a customer is browsing through your ecommerce site on desktop, where they add some items to their cart. However, for one reason or the other, they are unable to complete the purchase at that time.
When they remember about their intended purchase later, they are away from their desktop computer, so they access your online store through the mobile app.
For brands that have implemented omnichannel marketing, this customer will be able to continue their shopping where they left, because all channels work as one. The items they added to their cart on the desktop site will already be updated on their cart on the mobile app.
Despite shifting to a different channel, the shopping experience remains smooth and seamless for the customer. The customer doesn't have to start the whole process again simply because they shifted to a different channel.
Omnichannel marketing understands that customers won’t always complete their transaction on the same channel they started on, and tries as much as possible to avoid a disjointed customer experience.
Multichannel Vs Omnichannel Marketing: What’s The Difference?
On the surface, multichannel and omnichannel marketing seem like the same thing, because they both involve using more than one marketing channel. However, the similarities end there.
There are two key differences between omnichannel and multi-channel marketing:
1. Integration And Information Sharing
Multichannel marketing aims at providing customers with several options for interacting and engaging with the brand. However, these multiple channels don’t work in harmony.
Each channel operates as a silo and is often in competition with the other channels. In addition, there’s little or no information sharing between the different channels, which can, unfortunately, lead to a disjointed and frustrating customer experience.
For instance, let’s say a potential customer is browsing through Facebook when they come across a post from Company A advertising a specific product. The customer then visits Company A’s ecommerce site with the intention of purchasing said product. Unfortunately, they find that the product is out of stock on the site.
This is an example of multichannel marketing. While Company A provides multiple channels, the channels do not work in harmony, resulting in a frustrating experience for the customer.
Now, let’s say the same customer has come across another Facebook post from Company B advertising the same product. They click on the Facebook post and are directed to Company B’s ecommerce site, where they complete their purchase.
The customer then receives an email confirming their purchase and delivery details. Next time they access Company B’s mobile app, they receive product suggestions based on the product they purchased from the ecommerce site.
This is an example of omnichannel marketing. In this case, company B not only provides multiple channels (social media, online store, email marketing, and mobile app), they also make sure that all these channels are working in sync, providing the customer with a unified and continuous experience through the multiple channels.
The key difference between multichannel and omnichannel marketing lies in their focus. Multichannel marketing focuses on getting the company’s message out to as many people as possible, hence the need to use as many channels as possible. It is all about enabling multiple touch-points, without caring about the interaction between these touch-points.
Omnichannel marketing, on the other hand, focuses on ensuring that the customer has a pleasant and relevant experience while interacting with the brand.
Pros Of Omnichannel Marketing Over Multichannel Marketing
The greatest advantage of omnichannel marketing over multichannel marketing is that there are no redundant processes.
For instance, if a customer starts their purchase process on one channel, they don’t have to go through the same processes again when they switch to a different channel. This is not possible with multichannel marketing due to the lack of information sharing between channels.
The greatest advantage of multichannel marketing over omnichannel marketing is that it allows brands to maximize the reach of their marketing messages. However, this wider reach does not always translate to more sales, because of the disjointed customer experience.
Another advantage of omnichannel marketing over multichannel marketing is that it eliminates inconsistencies.
Since multichannel marketing does not promote information sharing, there is likelihood that customers could receive contradicting information from the different channels, something that can actually be harmful to a brand’s marketing efforts.
With omnichannel marketing, there is no risk of inconsistency, misinformation, or miscommunication, since all the channels are working in tandem. Omnichannel marketing gives customers what they want, the way they want it.
Finally, by integrating data from different channels, omnichannel marketing allows brands and marketers to gain in-depth insights about their customers that they can then use to further improve the customer experience.
This is not possible with multichannel marketing due to the siloed manner with which data and information is handled.
Benefits Of Omnichannel Marketing
According to a study conducted by BRP Consulting, 87% of shoppers want a shopping experience that is consistent and personalized across all channels. However, omnichannel marketing is more than something customers want. A successful omnichannel marketing strategy can deliver tangible benefits for brands, including…
1. Increased Customer Loyalty And Retention
By providing a consistent and personalized customer experience across all customer touch-points, your brand cultivates trust with its customers.
The more customers trust your brand, the more likely they are to buy from you, now and in future. According to a report by Omnisend, brands delivering an omnichannel experience enjoy 90% higher customer retention rates compared to those marketing on a single channel.
2. Improved Data Collection And Analysis
An omnichannel strategy allows you to collect data from various channels and use this data to build a 360 degree view of each customer and gain useful insights into customer behavior and preferences.
Armed with this data, it then becomes a lot easier to make data-driven business decisions that will ultimately lead to higher conversions.
3. Higher Customer Lifetime Value
By focusing on giving the customer the most pleasant shopping experience, an omnichannel marketing strategy essentially puts the customer in the driver’s seat.
With all their needs being anticipated and met, customers are more likely to do more business with your brand, which will in turn lead to a higher customer lifetime value.
4. Higher Customer Satisfaction
Brands offering a well-defined and deliberate omnichannel experience also enjoy higher customer satisfaction rates. This is because an omnichannel experience sets out to make customers’ lives as easy as possible.
An omnichannel experience reduces customer effort and irons out any frictions that could give customers a hard time when engaging with your brand. The result is customers who are happy and greatly satisfied with your brand.
5. Better Customer Service
Today, customers don’t want to wait for hours on end to get assistance from your customer service team. They want answers instantly, through a channel that is most convenient for them.
Having an omnichannel strategy makes it easier for you to engage your customers on whatever platform they want while maintaining a smooth transition of information between different channels.
For instance, if a customer reaches out to your customer service on Twitter, you don’t have to request them to send an email in order for their issue to be resolved.
Since an omnichannel experience supports data integration, your customer service team can access the customer’s data from other channels and provide them with assistance on the channel the customer is most comfortable with.
Omnichannel Marketing Statistics: How Omnichannel Marketing Strategy Works in Ecommerce
We already know that most customers will shift between channels before completing their purchase, and most of them expect to have a consistent experience regardless of the channel they are using to interact with a brand.
The big question is, does providing an omnichannel experience actually impact a company’s bottom line? Let’s check out some omnichannel marketing statistics to answer this question.
According to a report by Omnisend, customers are more responsive to brands that provide an omnichannel experience. The report found that marketers running integrated and seamless campaigns across three or more channels enjoyed 18.96% engagement, compared to just 5.4% for marketers running their campaign on a single channel.
It’s good to note that engagements do not always translate into purchases. However, the same report found that marketers running a single campaign across three or more channels enjoyed a 287% higher purchase rate compared to those running their campaigns on a single channel.
The results don’t end there. In addition to driving more frequent purchases, delivering an omnichannel experience also increases the average order value.
In situations where customers engaged with an omnichannel campaign running across three or more channels, the customers spent 13% more, on average per every purchase compared to customers who engaged with a campaign running on a single channel.
The fact that delivering an omnichannel experience leads to higher average order value is corroborated by data from another study which shows that customers who shop across multiple channels spend three times more compared to those who shop on a single channel.
Providing an omnichannel experience is beneficial for your ecommerce business not only in the short term, but in the long term as well.
According to Aspect Software, businesses that deliver an omnichannel experience enjoy year-over-year customer retention rates of 91% compared to those without an omnichannel strategy.
This is corroborated by the results of another study, which found that brands with a strong omnichannel customer experience have an 89% customer retention rate, compared to a 33% retention rate for customers for brands delivering a poor omnichannel experience or none at all.
With higher engagements, higher purchase frequency, higher average order value, and greater loyalty, it is not surprising, therefore, that offering an omnichannel experience also leads to higher customer lifetime value.
According to Google, customers who shop across multiple channels have a 30% higher customer lifetime value compared to those who rely on one channel. Offering an omnichannel experience allows your ecommerce business to target these high value customers.
Tips for Mastering Omnichannel Marketing
A successful omnichannel experience doesn’t happen by chance. It is the result of a well-thought out and deliberate process. Below, let’s check out 6 tips that will help you develop a successful omnichannel marketing strategy for your business.
1. Think Consumer First
The first step to developing an omnichannel experience is to put your customers at the center of everything you are doing. The aim here is to do everything you can to reduce customer effort. Everything the customer does, from looking for information to making purchases, needs to be as simple as possible.
For this to happen, you need to start by evaluating and mapping the customer journey. What touch points to customers go through before, during, and after making a purchase from you?
Test the kind of experience customers have during every interaction with your brand, from researching products to placing orders and submitting support tickets. Do this for every channel that your brand is using.
After evaluating the customer journey, identify and eliminate any unnecessary barriers or anything that could cause customer frustration, and find ways to make the necessary processes as simple and pleasant as possible.
2. Know Your Customers Intimately
It is impossible to give a simple and pleasant experience to your customers if you don’t know who they are.
For instance, providing an augmented reality platform that allows customers to virtually test products could be a pleasant experience for a young and tech savvy customer, but for a retired grandma with little knowledge of current tech, the same platform could be a cause of great frustration.
Therefore, intimately knowing your customers is an integral part of providing an omnichannel experience.
Understand who your customers are, their demographics, their wants and needs, their preferences, their behaviors, their goals, how conversant they are with each channel your brand is using, the devices they use, and so on.
To gain such a high level of understanding about your customers, you need to take a data-driven approach. Use every channel that is available to you to gather information about your customers. Every touch-point customers have with your brand, from talking to in-store assistants to asking questions on social media, should also be treated as a data gathering point.
By itself, data gathering is not enough. You also need to aggregate data gathered from multiple channels into one database. Combining these disparate bits of data will help you form a better, all-rounded picture of who your customers are and what they need.
3. Get Your Whole Team On Board
A lot of times, businesses wrongly assume that delivering an omnichannel experience is the sole responsibility of the marketing and customer service teams. However, the actions of every member of your team have an impact on the customer, even if the team member does not interact directly with customers.
Therefore, you’ll need to conduct an audit of the role of each team member and understand how each employee influences the customer experience.
When each team member knows their impact on customer experience, they can then align their actions in ways that improve the overall experience for customers.
In addition, you’ll also need to break down the silos between different departments and encourage collaboration and the sharing of customer data between different teams.
The more each employee knows about the customer, the easier it is for them to deliver a better experience to the customer.
4. Keep Your Messaging Highly Targeted
Delivering an omnichannel experience also means making sure that your messaging and all the information you pass to your customers is highly targeted and personalized.
For instance, let’s assume you run a business that sells trendy fashion for both ladies and gents. Now, imagine a guy who is a frequent shopper logging into their account to buy khaki pants, only to be bombarded with offers for sundresses.
Such messaging is not relevant to them, and can make their shopping experience frustrating. It doesn’t put their shopping experience first, and it makes them feel like you don’t know them, despite them having shopped from you multiple times.
Keeping your messaging targeted and personalized helps you to avoid such scenarios. For you to be able to do this, however, you have to start by segmenting your customers into various groups.
You can segment your customers by gender, geographic location, age, previous shopping behavior, previous engagement with your marketing campaigns, and so on.
Once you have created these segments, it now becomes easier to provide a simple yet rich user experience, even when this differs from one segment to another.
For instance, if a customer goes for a period of time without buying from you, you can reach out to them with an offer that is only available to them the next time they visit your online store.
Similarly, if a customer added items to their shopping cart on your mobile app, but then abandoned the cart without completing the purchase, you can send an email to them with an image of their abandoned cart and an option for an express checkout.
Such a high level of targeting helps you serve the needs of that specific customer, while keeping the experience unified across both channels.
5. Upgrade Your Tech
Providing a unified and consistent customer experience can be an uphill task when you don’t have the right technology that allows you to integrate customer data from different channels.
For instance, let’s assume that a customer opened a support ticket via email. After some back and forth, they decide to call.
Without the right tech in place, your customer support team will not be aware that this customer already had an email conversation, which means forcing the customer to explain their issue again on the phone.
If you have the right tech, however, your customer service reps can easily tell that the phone call is a follow up to the email conversation and pick up where the customer left, which translates into a better experience for the customer.
Therefore, as part of implementing your omnichannel marketing strategy, you will need to upgrade to CRM software tools that allows you to manage your multiple channels from one point. This way, when customers shift from one channel to another, you are still able to offer a frictionless experience.
6. Test, Measure, Optimize, And Test Again
Ultimately, a successful omnichannel experience is a dynamic strategy that keeps changing as you learn more about your customers and their expectations.
Therefore, you need to keep testing various approaches and strategies, measure the results, optimize your approach, and then test again to see if there are improvements.
Most of the companies that deliver amazing omnichannel experiences to their customers did not get there with one try. They got there by continually experimenting and improving, and if you want to deliver an equally delightful omnichannel experience, you have to be ready to do the same thing.
Omnichannel Marketing Examples and Case Studies
The best way to understand omnichannel marketing and how it can be beneficial to your brand is to see it in action, so let’s check out 5 examples of brands that are brilliantly using omnichannel marketing strategies to improve their customer experience.
Disney offers one of the best examples of an omnichannel experience that has been wonderfully executed. Disney’s omnichannel experience starts with a wonderfully designed website that works perfectly despite the device you are on.
After booking a trip, a customer is then prompted to download the My Disney Experience tool, a mobile app that they can use to plan all aspects of their Disney trip, including where they’ll eat and where they’ll sleep.
Once a customer gets to the theme park, they can use the same app to find the attractions they want to visit and see how long the queues are for each attraction.
Disney takes their omnichannel experience a notch higher with the Disney Magic Band, a multi-purpose wristband that customers can use to enter the parks, unlock their hotel room, access photos of them taken together with Disney characters, make purchases, and so on.
This omnichannel strategy not only makes the Disney experience incredibly smooth and pleasant for customers, it also allows Disney to collect important information about customer behavior within Disneyland parks. They can then use this data to create better experiences for their visitors and improve their marketing campaigns.
Starbucks did not get to be the world’s largest coffee chain by chance. Their omnichannel strategy is a great example of how much they care about offering a great customer experience.
Starbucks allows its customers to pay for their coffee using various options, including physical card, a Starbucks card, or mobile. Regardless of how they pay, users accumulate reward points which are credited to their Starbucks card.
Starbucks customers can check and reload their Starbucks card via web, via phone, through the Starbucks app, or in-store. Whenever a customer tops up their card, this information is instantly updated on all channels.
The Starbucks app also creates a seamless experience between online and offline by allowing customers to find a Starbucks that is nearest to them, discover new additions to the menu, order drinks online ahead of time and pick them up in-store, and so on.
The Starbucks app also has an integration with Spotify that allows customers to identify the songs playing in the Starbucks store they are at and automatically add them to their own Spotify playlists.
Starbucks omnichannel experience is a perfect example of online and offline channels working in sync to deliver a unified experience for its customers.
Value City Furniture
Before coming up with their omnichannel strategy, Value City Furniture had a huge challenge on their hands. They had a website where customers could make purchases online, but they knew people were reluctant to purchase furniture without seeing it first.
The solution to this problem was the “Easy Pass” platform, which is the basis of their omnichannel experience. This platform gives shoppers a seamless experience by aggregating the shopper’s data in one place.
For instance, if a customer has a digital wish list of furniture they are interested in, they can walk into a Value City Furniture store, where a store attendant will bring up the customer’s wish list and allow the customer to view the product and complete the purchase in-store.
Similarly, if a customer has received a quote in-store, it is added to their online account. This allows the customer to later complete the purchase online and have the item they viewed in-store delivered to them.
Value City Furniture’s “Easy Pass” platform also has a “room planner” feature that allows shoppers to create a layout of their room and virtually try out furniture and see how well it fits in the space.
This allows shoppers to find the right furniture without having to visit a store. A shopper can also save their virtual room and visit a Value City Furniture outlet to complete the purchase in-store.
It is impossible to talk about omnichannel experiences without mentioning Amazon. Amazon knows that what matters most to its customers is the ability to buy conveniently, and their omnichannel experience is a true reflection of this.
Amazon customers can access their profiles and make orders through the Amazon website, through their Alexa devices, through the Amazon mobile app, through their smartwatches, and in-store.
If a customer has made a purchase list through one channel, say the mobile app, they can easily add to the list from another channel, such as Alexa, without much of a hassle.
In addition, Amazon allows its customers to make orders online and choose to either have these orders delivered to their doorstep or pick them at the nearest Amazon store, thus blurring the lines between online and offline customer experience.
French beauty brand Sephora is another company that has aced its omnichannel marketing strategy, with a perfect blend between online and in-store experiences.
When shopping in-store, Sephora customers have access to well-informed sales people, products that they can try for free, complimentary makeovers, and tablets that they can use to view beauty tips.
Customers can also access their online Beauty Bag accounts and purchase items in their wish list directly from the store.
After trying out products at the store, customers can also add these products to their wish list, allowing them to complete the purchase online and have the products delivered to them.
When shopping online, customers can use their Beauty Bag accounts to create wish lists, virtually try on products, complete purchases, view beauty workshops, and keep track of products that they purchased in-store.
For instance, if a customer purchased a certain nail polish in-store and doesn’t remember the specific color, they can get this information online and reorder the product.
In addition, Sephora has a single retail team that handles both digital and physical sales. This allows the sales team to track a customers’ journey, both online and in-store and provide them with a unified experience regardless of the channel they are on.
The data gathered from both online activity and in-store interactions also helps Sephora to form a well-rounded picture of their customers, which they in turn use to target customers with products that suit them best, thereby simplifying and enhancing the shopping experience for their customers.
Omnichannel Marketing FAQ
Transitioning to an omnichannel marketing experience that puts the customer first can be a bit costly and time-consuming at the beginning.
This is because you will need to invest in tools that allow you to collect, aggregate and analyze customer data, develop new systems that provide a better customer experience, and so on.
Done the right way, however, the returns from delivering an omnichannel experience will quickly offset the costs of implementing the omnichannel marketing strategy.
In addition, it is possible to start small, with whatever budget you have available, and gradually expand your omnichannel experience until it gradually covers all customer touch-points.
Omnichannel marketing is better than multichannel marketing because it tries to make customer interactions as simple as possible. Omnichannel marketing aims at providing customers with a unified and seamless experience across different channels.
Even when a customer shifts to a different channel, they can pick up where they left on the previous channel, which means less effort and greater convenience for them.
With multichannel marketing, such seamless transfer is not possible. Whenever a customer moves from one channel to another, they are forced to restart the customer journey again, something that can cause undue frustration to customers.
As more customers become connected, and as they continue demanding deeper connections with brands and greater convenience, omnichannel retail marketing will only continue growing.
Retail businesses will start offering “phygital” experiences. Rather than a distinct physical or digital experience, the two will become fused into one.
With technologies like virtual and augmented reality, the in-store experience will become highly personalized.
Two people walking into the same store will have completely different experiences, and customers will be able to easily start the shopping experience online and complete it in-store and vice versa.
Advanced data gathering and digital shopping assistants available across multiple channels will also improve the shopping experience. These digital shopping assistants will anticipate your needs and make orders for you – all you’ll need to do is to give your confirmation.