written by
Stefan Smulders

The Definitive Guide to Omnichannel Marketing in 2021

Marketing Automation 9 min read

“Now, more than ever, it’s important to…” — RELAX, we’re just joking!

No terrible buzzwords here; today’s topic is evergreen, not just a fad. It may sound like one because people tend to use the “omnichannel marketing strategy” phrase to mask the spray-and-pray approach.

This is a plain waste of resources. The great omnichannel strategy does just the opposite by making the best use of the data and paving the way for customers to get to you (and stay with you) easily. Marketers do use every channel at their disposal, but in a way that creates a seamless, pleasurable experience for customers, and turns them into regulars.

And having as many regulars as possible is quite a big of a deal:

Using omnichannel marketing as a customer retention strategy brings amazing results; if it is integrated with your employee management system - it will also empower all of your employees to do their work faster and smarter.

If we’ve tickled your curiosity, let’s dive into omnichannel marketing and lay down the building blocks of a successful approach to it:

  • Omnichannel Marketing explained
  • Omnichannel vs Multichannel vs Cross-channel — what’s the difference?
  • What does it take to build a great Omnichannel Marketing strategy?

Omnichannel Marketing explained

Omnichannel marketing strategy creates a seamless customer experience across all the channels and devices people might use during the customer journey.

Online channels include:

  • Store apps
  • Websites
  • Online stores
  • Social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube
  • Email
  • Whatsapp, Viber
  • SMS

For the offline channels, we got:

  • Brick and mortar stores
  • Call centers
  • TV commercials
  • Live demonstrations, events, supermarket promo stands
  • Catalogs
  • Billboards
  • Guerilla marketing

Take IKEA as an example.

A trip to IKEA is something people plan and dedicated the whole day to because it often includes bulky items, setups and whatnot. For most people, furniture and house knick-knack shopping is tedious, but not here.

Why people love IKEA so much?

Apart from long-standing tradition and impeccable branding, people love it for convenience and uniformity. In each country, the process is almost identical, and shopping is made as convenient as possible.

First of all, the website is exceptionally well-made. It shows exactly how many desired items are left, where to find them and which stores hold them. You don’t have to travel the distance only to find out that it has sold out. If it did, you can get notified by email when it’s in stock again. While you’re there, you can take the catalog and flip it through at home, in case you need some extra inspiration.

At the bottom of the website, the IKEA website shows personalized recommendations. Put a lamp in the cart? You’ll need some bulbs!

If you’re just there to get the job done, not browse, you can pick the “Click and Collect” option, or have the items delivered to you.

Buying from your phone? IKEA has some neat, free apps:

  • IKEA — store app adjusted to your smartphone, just as good as the website
  • IKEA Place — lets you see how the item you fancy fits into space

You get the idea: physical store (showrooms and storage), website and online store, catalogs, apps — they made sure to meet their customers’ expectations in every way imaginable, with online and offline channels.

The main point is to create a frictionless customer journey, no matter how many times they switch from the website to an app, to the physical store!

Omnichannel marketing lets you have plenty of options — and they can multiply and work in each other’s favor when combined the right way!

But, decision fatigue is real. It’s hard enough to analyze and pick the channels that resonate with your target audience, let alone to come up with a way to combine them.

While we’re at combining the channels, we need to agree upon what omnichannel means when compared to terms such as “multichannel” and “cross-channel”. These are often mixed up, but aren’t the same!

Photographer: Emilio Garcia | Source: Unsplash

Omnichannel vs Multichannel and Cross-channel — what’s the difference?

Don’t fall into a trap of using the terms omnichannel, multichannel, and cross-channel interchangeably. While all of them essentially means using multiple channels to win over the customers, each carries a (not so) slightly different meaning.

Multichannel Marketing

Multichannel marketing means that the vendor uses multiple channels to get in touch with customers. However, these channels aren’t connected — they function in isolation and there is no exchange between them.

This implies that messages are different for each channel, which is not only necessary (because of the different formats), but useful at the same time. Different crowds consume these messages in different settings: just compare traditional store catalogs and email marketing and their audience! Multichannel marketing is used to grow the reach, and connect with the audience wherever possible.

On the other hand, using a Multichannel marketing strategy also means that communication is pretty much one-sided: you speak to them instead of speaking with them. This method fails to hear their voices, the most important thing when ensuring customer satisfaction.

The lack of cross-channel communication transparency poses another threat. If a customer gets one discount info on the Instagram page, only to be met with a full price at the website checkout — well, you get the picture.

instagram.com mobile page on a mobile Safari browser
Photographer: Solen Feyissa | Source: Unsplash

Cross-channel Marketing

In this case, the selected customer communication channels are connected.

This brings consistency back into the game! Customer experience stays consistent because the channels are synced, and the messages they receive provide invariable info. Whether the messages will be personalized to the customers or more company-focused depends on individual cases.

Cross-channel marketing does improve engagement and create a better environment for customers, but it doesn’t come without flaws.

Getting back to the “selected channels” part — this marketing strategy cannot unify all channels. It can, for example, tie in the social networks, but leaves the phone customer service separated. This means that consistency depends on the channels connected; while customer experience is uniform, it surely isn’t as seamless as it needs to be.

But you know what is?

Omnichannel marketing

All channels of communication are not only connected and consistent but interactive as well. This makes the customer journey flow smoothly across all devices: instant updates mean that they may expect the same, fresh info on each medium of choice.

Messages are customer-centric, and the end goal is to create a personalized, one-on-one communication process. This undivided attention helps with enticing the customers, sending them to the very end of the sales funnel.

As we can see, all of those have different goals: multichannel for reach, cross-channel for engagement, omnichannel for personalization.

The truth is, omnichannel marketing strategy left these two behind in the dust years ago, and it can be used for everything mentioned.

How to build an Omnichannel Marketing strategy that works?

Now that you know what it is, let’s see how to build the foolproof, omnichannel marketing strategy!

Photographer: Kaleidico | Source: Unsplash

Understand your ICP

This is the base of every marketing activity!

Ideal Customer Profile is a profile of a fictional buyer, whose needs perfectly match your solutions. That’s why the first step is to identify those people you *can* serve, and target them in your efforts. That’s how to separate strangers from leads.

Just a reminder: for B2B, you’re targeting at the company level, the decision-makers in charge; for B2C, you speak directly to the people who’ll use your product/ service).

To create a comprehensive profile, go to great detail and ask:

  • Where do they live?
  • What do they do for a living/ in their spare time?
  • What devices do they use?
  • Which apps do they prefer?
  • Are they a part of some community?
  • What they look for in a product?

The list can go on and on — focus on those questions that serve your strategy and show you how to approach them and hit the sweet spot with your offer.

Use data for personalization

Once you have the ICP, you may start to target people who fit the criteria and collect the data.

Data is gold, or rather — the map that shows the way to the gold. It reveals whether your ICP estimates were right, what to add, and how people respond to your messages and online presence. Not using the data you’re provided with wisely is one of the most common mistakes people make!

Observe their shopping behavior as a whole, where they’re spending the most time, what piques their curiosity and makes them stay the longest, when and why they bounce. The CRM data and their activities on social networks (i.e. social listening) let you see the weak spots, and adjust accordingly.

User Journey Map is also known as Customer Journey Map is a a visualization of the process that a person goes through in order to accomplish a goal visualization of a user/ customer using your product or service. In its basic form, journey mapping starts by compiling a series of user actions into a timeline. Next, the timeline is fleshed out with user thoughts and emotions in order to create a narrative. This narrative is condensed and polished, ultimately leading to a visualization.
Photographer: UX Indonesia | Source: Unsplash

Plan your customers’ journey

Now that you know the road they’ll go, make sure it’s not bumpy or unnecessarily long!

Make these channels flow one into another smoothly. A strong, cloud solution is something to invest in. It is a must for real-time updates and fast data handling — the spine of omnichannel marketing.

Remember that IKEA example we mentioned, with the exact number of items available at the moment of browsing? Well, those are powered by the cloud.

Automate whenever you can

These days, even using LinkedIn for sales on autopilot is possible — but be smart about automation.

There are times when customers will need more than pre-made templates, forms and chatbots, and times where you and your team will need to cut down the manual labor.

This is where automation tools come as a rescue. Tie them in with your CRM and enrich them with a steady data influx. This leaves you with plenty of time to improve the product, while the tool does the tedious part.

Best of all, they cover up our shortcomings: forgetting to respond, call back, or misspelling the names

Customer-centric philosophy

Just between us… Customers aren’t always right.

But, they do have the right to your undivided attention if they’re paying for the product.

This is what you should do to provide them with the first-class experience:

  • Contextualize your approach — if they’ve already purchased a certain product, stop recommending them that same category over and over again; if something’s in their wishlist for months, make sure they know when it’s discounted; personalized messages that take their past actions into account show that you’re doing more for them than just bombarding them with pleads to spend more
  • Improve the customer service — did you know that 89% of customers are likely to come back and purchase again after they’ve had a good customer service experience? Let them know they can count on your help even after the money’s spent
  • Let them have a taste — Sephora is a prime example of a good omnichannel experience, with (among other things) an opportunity to try out the makeup digitally before spending the money on products

Final note

Customers need an omnichannel experience yesterday.

It’s nothing new, and the best retailers worldwide are already providing this to people, winning them over with an extra comfortable shopping process.

To stay at the top of your game and join the winners, you need to create a consistent, personalized experience for every visitor with the help of smart automation and rich data pools.

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