Are you multichannel or omnichannel? Don’t know? Well, one thing is certain: You’re definitely not both.
Although marketers often use the terms interchangeably, multichannel is not the same as omnichannel. Both strategies use multiple media channels to reach potential customers, but each has different goals.
What’s the difference?
Multichannel marketers use various platforms, such as social, email, and web to engage their audience. If you’re multichannel, then your goal is to get your brand on as many channels as possible to reach as many people as possible. But, while all channels are available to your customers, they are not all unified. In fact, many companies manage each channel separately – with separate reporting structures, revenue goals, and processes.
A multichannel approach is based on the view that every customer has his or her own preferred way of interacting with a business: e.g., Katie prefers to shop in store while Ben prefers to shop online.
In contrast, omnichannel marketers take a holistic view of the customer experience regardless of the platform used. This approach is based on the understanding that most customers have an overextended path to purchase – navigating multiple channels before making a single purchase. In this case, a seamless customer experience depends on brand image and messaging that are consistent across channels and devices.
Why take an omnichannel approach?
The fact is, a multichannel approach is outdated. Today it’s easy for marketers to place their content on various platforms. The real challenge is tailoring content to each platform while still keeping brand and messaging consistent across channels.
So if you’re already using multiple channels to engage your audience, you’re on the right track to becoming omnichannel. But as Forrester’s February 2017 “Transition from Multichannel to Omnichannel Digital Media Buying” report concludes, it can be a long road to reach omnichannel mastery. To help you on your way, we’ve put together a 3-point checklist of key components that determine a successful transition from multichannel to omnichannel marketing.
1. Start by embracing data
The first thing you need to unify the customer experience is to integrate data across channels. Unlock a real-time profile of your audience by combining demographic and interest-based data from various platforms with contextual signals, such as location and weather. This will give you a deeper understanding of your audience, which will allow you to deliver more timely and relevant messages.
Also, use the wealth of available data to predict your audience’s next move and to make strategic decisions on spending and messaging. Predictive models integrate data, statistical algorithms and machine learning in order to anticipate customer behavior. It allows you to “create connected ad experiences that are aligned with the customer lifecycle,” according to the Forrester report. This is especially helpful in industries where the purchase frequency is low, such as the automobile and travel industry.
Consider a dealership that wants to determine which customers will make a purchase in the next 90 days. A predictive model can crunch the data (number of sales, repair orders, browsing behavior etc.) and assign a value to each prospect based on how their actions correlate to those of previous buyers. The highest-scoring segment has the greatest probability of purchasing a car within the next 90 days – and are good prospects for a campaign.
2. Connect data to the customer experience
Customer-centricity is nothing new. But lately, businesses have started to shift their focus towards technology and innovation. Granted these are important building blocks for business development, but customers’ needs cannot be ignored.
A customer-centric strategy involves customer listening and personalization – and putting it all together to deliver timely and relevant messages that resonate across evert communication channel.
For example, fashion brand Vince Camuto released a trench coat that was a big hit with customers, but there was one problem: buyers kept losing the belt. In response, the marketing team launched an omnichannel campaign that spanned email, social, web, and in-store promotions. It featured content from three fashion bloggers, a “create a trench look” sweepstakes, and suggestions for how to style the trench coat with other accessories. The Camuto Group listened and responded – turning a problem into a style opportunity.
A customer-centric strategy also includes using data about your customer’s likes and interests to personalize the experience. Eighty-six percent of consumers report that personalization plays a role in their purchase decisions. And 48% say they buy more when marketers use their interests and buying behavior to personalize experiences. As Johnson & Johnson’s Luke Kigel explained to Forrester in the report cited above, “The minutia of data that was overlooked by people five years ago will be an important part of marketing. Analyzing and using that data at speed will be critical for success.”
Amazon is a big leader in personalization. Since 2013, its product curation and recommendation algorithm have made several headlines and case studies. Amazon takes into account your browsing behavior and purchase history to recommend products via email and website.
3. Deliver a consistent customer experience
Today, customers expect an individual experience. It’s no longer an option or ‘nice to have’ item. It’s a must. Fifty-three percent of consumers say it’s important that retailers recognize them as the same person across all channels and devices they use to shop. And the Forrester report urges marketers to “focus resources on components like customer identification and recognition … which refine their ability to recognize customers and tie digital touchpoints to business outcomes.”
One brand leading the way in consistent customer experiences is Starbucks. Their fully integrated mobile app comes with a free rewards card that you can use whenever you make a purchase. But unlike traditional customer loyalty programs, you can check and reload your card via phone, website, app, or in-store. And any change to the card is updated across all channels in real-time. Starbucks makes it simple and easy to collect reward points, it’s no wonder their customers are so loyal.
Bridging the customer experience gap
Multichannel was the right approach for a world where customers were increasingly present on multiple devices and platforms. But now most marketers have developed a branded presence on multiple channels. The next challenge is to integrate these separate channel-specific interactions into a cohesive experience that builds better customer relationships. By focusing on data, customer-centricity and consistency, that’s exactly what an omnichannel approach can enable marketers to achieve.
Do you have any tips for making the transition from multichannel to omnichannel? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.
Published on July 12, 2017