With the explosion of e-commerce and online retail, customers now expect the shopping experience to be cohesive and connected. The industry buzzword for a seamless shopping experience is ‘omni-channel marketing’. The omni-channel customer expects everything to be readily available at his or her convenience. Fortunately, retailers are recognizing that omni-channel is an opportunity to deliver products and promotions to their consumers when they want them. Omni-channel businesses are focused on serving the customer – seamlessly – both in-store and across all digital channels. This customer-centric approach creates a unified brand experience.
This is a transformation in marketing – enabling customers to convert on any channel. Each customer has or her own preferences, purchase history and unique relationship with the brand. Omni-channel embraces personalized messages to the consumer. As a result, longer-term loyalty and value is fostered. The customer will benefit from some of the following omni-channel capabilities:
- Quick and easy product browsing on smartphones
- Endless-aisle à locating sold-out products in nearby stores or online
- Ability to save products in their shopping cart across multiple devices
- Personalized recommendations based on preferences and history
- Discounts and promotions in appreciation of customer loyalty
The omni-channel experience is critical in today’s marketing landscape because – without it – there is a noticeable disconnect, or friction, in the path to purchase. The customer does not think in terms of channels, so there is a frustration when a promotion offered online is not honored in the store, or when the website promises that a product is in-stock, but it turns out to be inaccurate information.
So how should a brand implement its omni-channel strategy? Six7 Marketing recommends that a business organize a budget for its entire marketing strategy, rather than separate budgets in silos. The goal is to deliver all aspects of marketing communication together as a unified force. There also must be the organizational structure to support the omni-channel initiatives – this requires close collaboration between the online and in-store marketing teams. A brand should identify its most valuable omni-channel shoppers and their online-to-store behavior. Then, all messaging and sources of data need to be synchronized across the multiple channels. This establishes a single user identity. In addition to a fully optimized marketing campaign, the result is a unified data set across all of the company’s consumer touch points – including customer service and delivery.
A customer may take for granted the back-end sophistication involved with prompting a coffee shop exactly when to restock their favorite latte, or emailing a special discount for the computer model that they were considering purchasing at the store. However, as e-commerce grows, so does the need for the omni-channel approach. It is critical for brands to deliver seamless and personalized marketing messages to their customers. Omni-channel is an investment in both time and resources, but the results can have a profound impact on both customer experience and the bottom line.