Omnichannel is not just a fancier name for multichannel. It represents a truly new methodology that is customer-centric and non-linear. I believe that what makes omnichannel marketing different is not the number of channels used, but that it puts the customer at the center, and puts the campaign at the service of the customer needs and desires. In fact, this methodology recognizes that the customer is ominichannel, not the marketing.
This matters because marketing today is more about outcomes than interactions. Popularity measures in social are a good example – you know, all the “like” metrics. According to a recent ANA study, more than 80 percent of U.S. marketers rely on popularity-based metrics, such as likes and shares, to measure the effectiveness of their social content. However, popularity is no substitute for strategy. What matters is not how many people like your pictures of kittens, whitepaper downloads, or clever tweets, but the outcomes of those interactions – usually sales, loyalty, product reviews, upsells, etc.
Outcomes are what omnichannel marketing is all about – putting the customer at the center of the brand experience so that engagement turns into revenue and loyalty. Good examples are abundant in retail, where consumer expectation of consistency of message and service across channels has resulted in a lot of omnichannel innovation and investment. The retail experience has evolved to provide price harmony between on- and offline channels, recognizing loyal customers on devices and in store, and aligning communications and offers to the customer behavior. It has even been said that a “poor man’s” test of omnichannel success is if you see ads on the website for a product you already own.
No doubt about it – there are major people, process, and technology challenges with moving from multichannel to omnichannel. That is not trivial, so it requires a real focus and commitment. First, there has to be company-wide endorsement and buy-in, including removing channel-specific goals which only motivate marketers to keep customers in their own swim lane. Start by defining what omnichannel means to you – what does a customer-centric experience, over time, really look like? Some of your most loyal customers are already showing you – listen to them, watch their behaviors, see where your own well-intentioned channel marketing is getting in the way. Remove those barriers to success. If not, then you will end up with a lot of motion, but little progress.
There are ways to bring your marketing more into the customer-centric omnichannel approach without boiling the ocean. Try these four:
- Be more aware of how customers are interacting with your brands, owned, paid, and earned media, and customer service centers today. Are there simple opportunities to listen more strategically and respond to customer input and interaction? Focus on the channels where you have the most control – search, display, email, customer support – and slowly work your way over to a more holistic strategy. Tackle one set of synergies at a time. Typically, digital channels like mobile and email have high synergy, but so do display and direct mail and email. The right combination will be unique to your business.
- Get serious about attribution for all of your channels. Without it, omnichannel strategies will always overemphasize the last touch. I’ve written about the power of fractional attribution here before.
- Start with mobile. It is the common denominator for nearly every customer contact – and is increasingly these “lean in” experiences that both introduce consumers to a brand or offer, and engage them in loyalty activities.
- Think about interactions, not journeys. Customers may already be interacting with your brand across channels, and most likely they are not doing it in a linear, neat, and streamlined way. Branded interactions are more like “shared experiences” than they are a step-by-step process. Map out those customer interactions – they will be best outlined by circles and matrixes, not straight lines.
We’ve known for years that marketers are no longer in charge of customer connections, but we are in charge of the opportunities we create for branded engagement. A highly integrated campaign to put the same message in every channel at the same time might demonstrate your technical prowess, but it may annoy people and not be an enjoyable customer experience.
Marketers must move to a more customer-centric approach in order to stay in the game. What are you doing to move your organization in this direction? What data points do you think are good indicators that your customers are engaging without roadblocks set up by siloed marketing campaigns?
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