Advance From Multichannel to Omnichannel Strategy

ComScore recently reported that 67 percent of consumers start shopping on one device, but complete the purchase elsewhere. In another survey conducted by TapAd and Forrester, more than 70 percent of consumers reported using three or more devices during their purchase journey.

In a world where consumers have so many choices and access to endless information, marketers must organize brand experiences so that they are tailored to the omnichannel customer.

Rome Wasn't Built in a Day

Most retailers have taken the first steps towards omnichannel marketing by implementing digital strategies alongside more traditional forms of selling products and reaching audiences. But before marketers can begin to address big hurdles such as cross device brand experiences, personal marketing and ensuring information related to inventory and products are relevant and updated in real time, they must ensure that their multichannel strategy is sound and in place.

Multichannel marketing can serve as the foundation for taking your brand omnichannel, but using so many channels in unison effectively is a tough nut to crack. Most retailers simply don’t have the software and data infrastructure to power awareness across channels in a manner where nearly every consumer touch point connects to another. It’s best to start small and evolve your marketing to be omnichannel over time.

Build a Digital Foundation

Digital is the channel in which retailers engage and remain connected with consumers, so your online storefront -- be it mobile web or website -- should be optimized. This includes testing the conversion path, optimizing landing pages and creating a social strategy that supports traffic and engagement to these environments.

Once your landing pages are in place, start with search engine marketing. GE Capital Retail Bank’s second annual Major Purchase Shopper Study showed that 81 percent of consumers go online before making a purchase. Judging from my own experience, consumers are asking marketers to respond to their searches.

Search strategies can help drive more visits to your website or store and influence consumers at the beginning of their purchasing cycle. While many tend to consider organic search before paid search, they significantly affect one another and should go hand in hand.

Activate Display Advertising with Intent Data

If consumers are searching for your product and visiting your website, use those website visits and your entire CRM database to kick-start your retargeting efforts. Site retargeting enables brands to re-approach customers by reaching them with ads related to their on-site behaviors.

As a marketer, you know a lot about your customer and have first party data that should provide you with the means to create custom ad experiences. Using intent from third party data related to your customer’s journey, such as search activity and keywords, is another way to capture, attract and influence during the path to purchase. Use search data as an indicator of consumer intent. For example, if I searched for “men’s suits,” it would make sense for a retailer such as Brooks Brothers to reach me in the search engine, with display ads as I move across the web, and then as I read content on my tablet. Search retargeting is a powerful digital marketing strategy for acquiring new customers and moving them along in the funnel.

Connect Across Screens

Many marketers tackle real time engagement through programmatic buying that uses first and third party data for ad targeting on the mobile web and other points of brand engagement. This includes using data within mobile apps, which help drive up brand loyalty, or for personalized offers based on location and store proximity. Retailers can also leverage data to deliver product recommendations right to your mobile device and link online and in-store traffic.

Where should a marketer start? First, establish your mobile presence with an app and mobile optimized site. Next, begin testing data-driven advertising on the mobile web and then begin to layer in features that satisfy the demands of your customers such as QR codes or showrooming.

Macy’s and Best Buy are two great examples of retailers adopting omnichannel strategies. Macy’s continuously encourages shoppers to scan products via their mobile app while shopping in brick and mortar stores. Macy’s annual digital plan focuses heavily on mobile and seeks to “close the gap between store, desktop and mobile.”

Another example of Macy’s mobile focus is its deployment of a touchscreen shopping option within the handbag department to let consumers self-checkout. A concurrent TV campaign is also running, in which the commercial messaging drives viewers to download the retailer’s app.

Best Buy’s omnichannel strategy centers on adding value to brick and mortar retail stores that were, for a time, threatened by e-commerce competitors. Adding a “Store Pickup” option within its online shopping process turned out to be a major win for the brand. Although many shoppers compare products and buy online, some still prefer to pick up goods in person from a physical store.

Omnichannel is a natural progression from multichannel marketing and will continue to become widely adopted as consumers’ engagement across devices increases. The retail industry will also change as new technologies influence the customer experience and close the gap between channels. In this omnichannel world, attribution becomes more important than ever before.

As you steps towards creating awareness throughout channels, implementing data strategies, and syncing up offline and online, make sure you take a coordinated approach that provides real results to help plan the future of your marketing strategy, and even better, overall business.

Title image by lincolnblues (Flickr) via a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license