Consumers today have continual access to content across devices and channels, making it hard for marketers to cut through all the noise. Creating a quality product at an affordable price is no longer the only factor in a customer's purchasing decision. Brands need to meet customers where they’re at — wherever that may be.
To put the customer at the center of your strategy, you must foster positive, consistent, and integrated experiences at each and every touchpoint along the customer’s journey. And if you’re not already, you must become more sophisticated in the way you engage and serve your audiences. This can look different for every organization, but the savviest marketers are adopting tactics, strategies, and tools that support what’s known as omnichannel marketing.
In this article, we’ll discuss:
- What omnichannel marketing means
- How it differs from multichannel marketing
- Why an omnichannel experience is important
- Examples of omnichannel marketing in action
- The strategies and tools needed to succeed in an omnichannel world
Ready? Let’s dive in!
What is omnichannel marketing?
Omnichannel marketing is a strategic, multichannel approach that provides your customers with a unified brand experience across all customer touchpoints. Its goal is to create superior, high-quality connections that propel your customers to take action. It’s about meeting your customers, no matter where they are or where they go, with a consistent brand face, message, and all-around experience. And even if your customers jump around from channel to channel, device to device, or person to chatbot, they can easily and seamlessly do so because you’re providing them with one connected, shared ecosystem.
Is omnichannel marketing the same as multichannel marketing?
While omnichannel marketing is a multichannel approach, it is not synonymous with multichannel marketing. The biggest difference is that multichannel marketing puts the channel at the center of your efforts, as opposed to the customers themselves.
Multichannel marketing speaks to the tactics of reaching customers on multiple channels. It focuses on letting customers choose how to interact with you, whether via website, chat, app, phone, store clerk, or other. Whereas, omnichannel marketing is all about creating and nurturing “the experience” across all of these channels.
In other words, strategic omnichannel marketing elevates multichannel tactics by finding experience-enhancing ways to connect each and every interaction you have with your customers.
Why is an omnichannel experience important?
In a recent study that looked at consumer expectations, 87% of shoppers say they want a “personalized and consistent shopping experience across all shopping channels.” In other words, they want an omnichannel experience.
The importance of an omnichannel experience is that customers remember how they feel after encountering a brand at various connected touch points. Regardless of time, place, channel, or number of engagements, the whole of their experience with a brand leaves them with a positive, memorable impression. This feeling is important because it is exactly what compels customers to take action, purchase a product, or even tell their friends about it.
There is a lot of research to support this relationship between experience and action. For example, this same study revealed that the majority of consumers (56%) say they are “likely to shop at a retailer that offers a shared cart across channels.” Furthermore, 60% say they are “likely to choose a store if it offers inventory visibility across channels.”
Given this information, how are brands leveraging their marketing and channel strategies to deliver these winning customer experiences?
Examples of how brands deliver an omnichannel experience
When we think of omnichannel marketing and the companies that do it well, business-to-consumer (B2C) examples likely come to mind. And this makes sense. B2C brands were the first to really feel the effects of consumer behavior shifts in the early e-commerce days. As a result, they had to quickly figure out how to navigate the blurring lines between digital and brick-and-mortar shopping experiences.
However, business-to-business (B2B) marketers are not exempt from delivering these same seamless, effortless, and connected experiences. B2B buyers are also consumers. They have grown accustomed to the omnichannel experiences in their personal lives, and have carried these higher expectations over to the workplace. Early on, they may not have blazed the trail but they are holding their own now.
The omnichannel experience is important for all marketers, so let’s dive into some examples of how both B2C and B2B brands deliver a winning omnichannel experience.
Disney: The omnichannel marketing giant
No matter where or how you engage with Disney — be it at a theme park, in a store, on their website, or other — the experience is always consistent. Everywhere you turn, you’re greeted with uniform branding, messaging, and content. From Mickey Mouse ears to your experience at a Disney property, every interaction is completely integrated. While your Disney app helps you strategically navigate the parks, check on wait times, and make Fast Pass reservations, your wristband (aka Magic Band) gets you into your hotel room, allows you to purchase food, and even gives you access to photos taken throughout the day.
Netflix: Seamless personalization from anywhere
Netflix creates a truly personalized, unique experience for each of their 182.8 million subscribers. And what’s more, they manage to do it across a bevy of devices and customer touchpoints. Whether a subscriber logs in from their laptop, phone, TV, or gaming console, they are greeted with customized movie and tv show recommendations. Netflix even elevates the omnichannel experience one step further by sending personalized content recommendations right to a subscriber’s inbox, where they can click to view, share, or download it instantly.
Hootsuite: B2B omnichannel marketing with heart
Hootsuite is a social media management software company that helps other businesses scale their omnichannel marketing efforts. However, they are also winning at delivering an omnichannel experience of their own. Hootsuite has a clear brand mission: to keep human connection at the heart of what they do. No matter where their audience encounters their brand — whether in the Hootsuite platform, at an event, on a social channel, via a resource download, or other — they are greeted with upbeat, consistent imagery and an overall experience that captures the essence of this connection-centric brand. For more on Hootsuite marketing strategies, this case story shares a bit more about how they achieve this.
Bonobos: An omnichannel experience built around ease
Built on the mission to make it easier for men to find better-fitting clothing, Bonobos does not take the concept of “ease” lightly. Every touchpoint they have with customers is unified around the mission of delivering frictionless, easy experiences. The website is easy to navigate. Their perfectly branded app not only supplies a unified shopping experience; it provides users tools to make their life easier, such as daily outfit suggestions and an outfit-builder. Pair this with their superior “customer service ninjas,” and this is a match made in omnichannel heaven.
How to succeed with omnichannel marketing
Even for brands that have been at it for a while, omnichannel marketing is tough. With so many channels, customer preferences, and unknown variables, it’s challenging to control every aspect of the customer experience. However, armed with a thoughtful strategy and the right tools, your path to success will be that much smoother.
Strategies for successful omnichannel marketing
There’s a lot that goes into delivering an omnichannel experience. As discussed, omnichannel marketing aims to provide customers with a positive, unified brand experience across all customer touchpoints. This looks different for every organization, but always involves a strategy that supports consistency, accuracy, agility, and relevance across your efforts.
Here are a few tips to help you achieve these results:
- Have a strategy. Yes, your strategy should include an actual strategy, or a documented plan that you can share across your organization. A thoughtful strategy will help you and your teams understand the purpose of your omnichannel marketing program, where to focus your efforts, and how to win. For help crafting this strategy, we suggest reading this resource: Omnichannel Marketing Strategy Starter.
- Control your brand. A major part of providing your customers with a unified brand experience is having a consistent look, feel, and voice. Establishing brand guidelines so your teams know exactly how they can and cannot leverage your brand visuals and content helps. It's also a good idea to figure out the processes, controls, people, and tools you need to achieve this.
- Take a crawl, walk, run approach. If it feels overwhelming to revamp your entire marketing program with an ambitious, all-encompassing omnichannel marketing initiative, start small. Identify a specific customer need, such as a more seamless checkout experience, and develop a campaign around it. Then, as you learn and improve, expand your efforts. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day!
- Leverage data. Relevance is a big part of providing a superior customer experience across your channels. If customers don’t care about what you’re sharing or saying, it’s not a good experience. Use content data to understand which message and materials to deliver at what time. Personalize product recommendations by understanding the products your customers care about. And don’t keep this data to yourself. Share it across your organization so that every team can have relevant, more informed engagements.
- Iron out your workflows. Think about the people (both internal and external), processes, and technologies that are currently involved or should be involved in helping you deliver a better, more unified customer experience. Evaluate which creative and marketing workflows are working and not working. And then get a game plan in place to help you streamline inefficiencies, foster collaboration, and get more out of your omnichannel marketing.
Tools for successful omnichannel marketing
When thinking about the tools you need to support your omnichannel marketing efforts, it’s important to consider how your technology choices can provide you with what’s known as a “central source of truth.”
This concept supports omnichannel marketing by ensuring that everyone in your organization has accurate information, data, and assets needed to deliver a consistent, relevant, unified brand experience across every single customer touchpoint. This, in turn, fuels workflow efficiencies, team agility — and you guessed it, an omnichannel experience.
Here a few examples of “central source of truth” technologies:
- Digital asset management (DAM) software provides a centralized library or hub for your brand’s photos, product images, videos, collateral, and other assets or content. It is the command center that allows your creative teams to access the latest version of design files on-demand. It is the automation engine that replaces outdated assets across your digital channels based on the master file housed in your DAM platform. And it’s the data and scale that enables your teams to leverage the best performing assets directly in their other marketing tools, without the painful uploading and downloading.
- Product information management (PIM) software is particularly important for e-commerce brands with a large volume of SKUs or a complex and evolving product catalog. PIM technology provides a single view or hub to collect, manage, and enrich all the information that’s critical to communicating your products, such as descriptions, color options, pricing, feature lists, and more. Once this information is in the PIM platform, that’s it — you can automatically update it on your website and syndicate it to other channels to ensure your shoppers have the most up-to-date, accurate information.
- Customer relationship management (CRM) systems store all of your organization’s contacts in one place and help you track the various sales and marketing interactions that occur between your team and your prospects and customers. A CRM platform is a staple technology for any sales organization and ensures that everyone has access to the latest information about your company’s relationships. This allows teams to work smarter and arms them with the information they need to have more personalized, informed conversations.
Getting the most out of your tools
As you’re well aware, these technologies are just three of the many marketing and creative tools designed to help organizations work faster, better, and more collaboratively. The combination of technologies are right for one organization may not be right for you. The important thing, however, is that the technologies you leverage work together to support the customer experience.
Integrating your go-to technologies is helpful. One way to do this is to place DAM software at the center of all of your tools. This ensures that all of your brand’s visual content and assets power your people and other technologies. For example, let’s say you’re leveraging a DAM, a PIM, and a CRM platform. Your DAM system supplies your PIM software with the most recent, approved product images, which are then accurate and up-to-date across your channels. When connected to your CRM system, your sales teams don’t have to dig around looking for collateral. Rather, the materials they need are right there in the CRM platform, and they can quickly and efficiently communicate with their contacts. Add and subtract other creative and marketing technologies to this scenario, and you’re looking at one well-oiled, omnichannel machine.
Ready to take the omnichannel experience to the next level?
Whether you realize it or not, you may already be creating omnichannel experiences for your customers. Taking this to the next level is often where marketers struggle. At scale, connecting all customer experiences in a seamless, consistent, and effortless way is no easy undertaking.
Luckily advancements in technology have made this easier. Customers expect more from their brand experiences, but brands also have the tools and know-how to meet these expectations.
Note: This article was originally published in September 2018 and has been updated to include additional information.