Recently, I met with an owner of a small chain of boutiques. Although she is successful in her brick-and-click stores individually, she's having a difficult time with brand fragmentation and is trying to integrate both the offline and online channels. Her offline customers have access to different information and levels of customer service than e-commerce customers have, and oftentimes, neither source is completely accurate because there's no infrastructure in place to manage multichannel campaigns.
If you run marketing for a small brick-and-click business, you're likely struggling with a similar issue - how to put all of the pieces together to create a unified brand experience for customers, regardless of whether they come into your store, search online, or see the product of their dreams on Pinterest.
When you connect with, and recognize, that your customers' lifestyles incorporate offline and always-on digital technology, then delivering engaging brand experiences across those channels becomes possible. You and your staff interact with customers from a place of empathetic engagement. You have more credibility with customers. You strengthen customer loyalty and, ultimately, profits.
So, for a small company with limited resources, here are the three top ways to unify your brand experience in multichannel marketing.
1. Start with a strategy. The key to an effective and compelling brand experience across channels starts with a strong integrated marketing strategy. Strategic planning in today's world doesn't require the massive amounts of time it did just a few years ago. It's vital to create a lean and agile process. Customers are getting more tech-savvy, and in that process, demand that merchants quickly respond to their needs online or offline. So, developing your strategy begins with:
2. Choose the right tools. Small businesses have more choices than ever when it comes to single-point-of-access tools, but the glut of new tools may be overwhelming. The fact is that you only need a few things to successfully unify your brand experience across channels. For example, the boutique owner I wrote about at the beginning of this column was experiencing pain, in part, because of not having the proper tools in place. A good solution for her would be a hybrid infrastructure to manage both on-premise sales, inventory, promotions, customer information, etc., and e-commerce. Take the time to investigate single sign-on, powerful analytics programs, and localization tools. A combination of these tools can help you strike the right balance with your content in various channels.
3. Train your employees. Consistency in your customers' brand experience isn't just a matter of planning and tools. Even with a flawless strategy and powerful tools, poor customer-employee interactions can short-circuit even the best brands. Consistency in brand experience is strengthened when companies devote a great deal of time and energy to training employees so they reflect the brand's core values and know how to express that to customers.
Not only does a consistent brand experience result from employee training, but profitability also increases. In-store employees who seamlessly integrate the brand's e-commerce selections into their sales process simplify the selection process for customers, and make it easier for them to buy.
A Consistent Brand Experience Buys You Credibility
Your customers have become masters of getting their needs met in digital and offline worlds. They use digital media to search and compare, read reviews, chat with peers, and interact with your customer service representatives. A large percentage of customers research online and buy offline. It's really all about the customer. Unifying their brand experience across channels is one of the currencies that buys credibility for your company, and helps you meet company goals.
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Ghennipher Weeks has spent the past 13 years as a marketer working closely with IT teams to increase cross-functional collaboration, and helps teams excel in delivering great results quickly.
With deep expertise in creating conversion-driven and insightful search engine marketing and social media strategies for national and regional brands since the late 1990s, Ms. Weeks has increased online revenue for Philips, Wells Fargo, The Women's Information Network, The Allegis Group, TotalGym, Overstock.com, TigerDirect, LeoSchachter Diamonds, and others. She excels in formulating SEO, conversion, social marketing, and value-creation strategies. Ms. Weeks says, "Integrated marketing strategies are more effective, but much more difficult. Agility in execution requires measurement, accountability, and an unwavering customer focus to deliver value that makes both customers and business stakeholders happy. This raises customer, as well as shareholder value, or in relevant corporate terms: increases profits."
She actively contributes her expertise and thoughts through presentations, industry appearances, articles, and her upcoming book on integrated digital marketing.
Ms. Weeks has spoken at SES, Webmaster World's PubCon, EVO, WITI, Blissdom, Social Media Club, Agile Roots, Blogilicious, and other conferences. Notably, she is also certified in Agile methodologies as a CSM and CSPO. You can find Ms. Weeks online on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or on her blog, and a myriad of other social media sites.