Retailers and marketers understand the importance and potential of multichannel marketing, but implementing it is the hard part.
According to Nicholas Kontopoulos, global head of fast growth markets & marketing innovation, SAP hybris:
The challenge is to strategically collect, consolidate and use customer data, including real-time signals, in a way that is still not typically being captured today.
He says only a minority of marketers currently have the capability to capture customer intent and deliver real-time, behavior-based marketing across all channels.
A December 2014 SAP multi-country survey found that 74% of businesses increased sales with a multichannel strategy, 64% increased consumer loyalty/acquisition and 57% reported better customer experience.
However just 16% said they were currently meeting all business and analytical needs for consumer experience via multichannel.
It means that for many businesses, managing multichannels isn’t always the strongest strategy. The key, according to the report, is how to apply data gleaned directly from consumer interactions (such as from online purchases or social engagement) to improve the consumer experience.
Elisa Harca, global client partner and regional director Asia, Red Ant:
Multichannel is already there, but now it’s about omnichannel and connecting with the consumer across multiple touchpoints.
Harca doesn’t believe any brand has ‘nailed’ omnichannel just yet as it requires significant transformation. Established brands have legacy challenges, such as integrating CRM and point of sale (POS) systems, and assimilating it across all departments – from retail, to warehousing, to ecommerce and across management teams.
Retailers need to think about how they centralize their stock – should the ecommerce business be set up separately? Should it have its own warehousing? How is the backend set up?
Here are four brand examples of multichannel marketing:
It’s no coincidence that Apple is the world’s most valuable brand according to Millward Brown’s annual list.
When the results were released last year, Ann Green, senior partner, Millward Brown, said Apple’s lead was driven by its ongoing commitment to innovation and making life fun and easy for consumers.
If you look at these brands, they are all successful in making themselves relevant to people’s lives, providing a point of difference in a sea of sameness and amplifying what they stand for in a meaningful, clear and consistent way.
And it’s all in the marketing. Apple’s multichannel retail strategy unifies the customer experience across all channels and platforms, to create a complete end-to-end journey for each purchase.
This even includes the product packaging which helps achieve the overall style of familiarity.
Apple’s bricks and mortar stores are designed to show people how they will feel when using Apple products rather than emphasising what the product itself does (although it does this well too).
Stores are an interactive experience between would-be purchaser and product. Research the product online, but come in-store and use the merchandise, book a free appointment with a customer-service representative or take a class.
The relationship doesn’t end with the purchase of a product – really, it’s just the beginning. Buy music, entertainment and apps through an iTunes account. Purchase additional merchandise online and have it delivered.
Similar products might be cheaper elsewhere, but consumers buy from Apple because the whole process is easier, faster and simpler.
In omnichannel lingo – Apple’s purchase journey between touchpoints is seamless.
2. Rebecca Minkoff
An industry leader in multichannel marketing is fashion retailer Rebecca Minkoff.
As a relatively new player in the market, this business has had fewer legacy issues. As a brand, it has evolved alongside new marketing strategies and has enjoyed a stronger flexibility to more easily and more quickly invest in evolving digital platforms and new technologies.
This video explores the online and offline investments that make up Rebecca Minkoff’s multichannel strategy:
One of the best examples of brands in Asia that have achieved success in multichannel retailing is Burberry.
It has incorporated both of these popular Asian messaging apps into live-streaming and real-time engagement with its fans. This video shows how the brand used WeChat to engage consumers for a live Burberry event in Shanghai.
In other markets, Burberry has experimented with Snapchat and Periscope for real-time engagement.
The brand’s success with multichannel strategies in China and Japan however, are now being used as models in other markets.
These include collect-in-store and experimenting with fulfilment of ecommerce orders in both local distribution centres and in-store to improve stock availability and lower delivery times.
Burberry has also invested in improving its mobile site and payment methods.
It has stores on a number of ecommerce platforms, including Alibaba’s Tmall in China.
Uniqlo has an established history of embracing new technologies. It was one of the first fashion brands to embrace a virtual dressing room when it launched its Uniqlo Magic Mirror in 2012.
In China, where mobile plays an integral part of the multichannel customer experience it has engaged a number of O2O strategies.
The Uniqlo app allows consumers to check the availability of stock in its online stores, but also offline stores within the closest proximity to the user.
Uniqlo’s “Style Your Life” campaign in 2014 was aimed at increasing its WeChat followers. (Followers grew from 400,000 to 1 million during the six-month campaign).
In-store shoppers could try on outfits in front of screens with global city backdrops. These images were then sent to the WeChat account where users could share the image with friends. Fans could also send a selfie if they couldn’t make it to a store.
The WeChat account is also used to send followers coupons which can only be used in Uniqlo’s offline stores.
Defining multichannel in China is complex. An app like WeChat goes hand-in-hand in driving customers both online and offline.
The use of QR codes in physical stores in China is just one more example of this.
Consumers are on the web, on their mobiles and in physical stores – which means they are already multichannel buyers. The challenge for brands is how to get that experience between touchpoints as seamless as possible.
A recent Red Ant / RSR study of marketers from 22 of the United Kingdom’s largest retailers found that while many did not have a clear roadmap for innovation, they did have an understanding of what they needed to implement it.
Reducing the time to market for innovation projects and removing, or making up for, legacy challenges topped the list.
Ultimately, the future of commerce is all about selling smarter through omnichannel capabilities and contextual marketing.
When this is achieved, retailers can fully understand their customers’ buying habits, preferences and become more aware of their position in the buying journey. That can help them to actively leverage all sorts of data in determining their consumers’ propensity to making purchases.
In years past, the big challenge for businesses was understanding how to build a website. Then it was learning how to turn that into an ecommerce site.
Today, organizations understand the concept of multichannel marketing but are grappling with the implementation.
Brands like Apple and Rebecca Minkoff, who, as newer players in the market have been able to quickly and effectively evolve their multichannel strategies as new technologies are born, will be the leaders to watch as best practices for this channel develop.
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