COVID-19 has separated the leaders from the laggards when it comes to omnichannel marketing and experiences, according to a report from Gartner. Researchers noted in the April report the world health pandemic has “magnified disparities between omnichannel innovators and those preserving the status quo.”

Marketing leaders have made proactive investments in omnichannel infrastructure, have the expertise to pivot their fulfillment model and provide visibility into these new programs by coordinating announcements across sites and email.

What Is Omnichannel Marketing?

How do you build an omnichannel marketing strategy? Understanding what it is a good start. Gartner defines omnichannel as the “synchronization of channels — mobile, desktop and store — to support the purchase process from discovery to conversion, along with fulfillment and postpurchase.”

Omnichannel Marketing vs. Multichannel Marketing

Many marketers use the terms omnichannel and multichannel interchangeably, but that’s the wrong path, according to a May post from Edward Dennis, digital marketing manager at Core dna. According to Dennis, multichannel marketing includes interacting with prospective customers through various channels, including social media, mobile, direct mail, print ads, landing pages and websites. Each channel operates independently from the other marketing channels.

Omnichannel, meanwhile, is focused on delivering a multi-channel approach which provides customers with an integrated experience, according to Dennis. “So, unlike multi-channel marketing where each channel operates separately, the omnichannel approach involves integrating all the different channels together so that it can provide a seamless, connected experience,” he wrote.

Optimize Multichannel With Omnichannel

Omnichannel optimizes multichannel marketing, said Ignacio Pascual, chief information officer at Talos Digital. Connect all channels of customer interaction to offer an improved shopping experience. “If your company has a 'brick and click' business model — it works both offline and online — and you want to optimize it for omnichannel, a key factor is to think about the exit and entry of merchandise,” Pascual said. “Connect the warehouse data with the stocks of your subsidiaries. If your customers can check online if a certain product is available in a physical store, the chances that they purchase it personally or make an express order online are increased. This data synchronization will mean that you do not require an additional warehouse for the online store since the stock will be available to customers in different ways.”

Related Article: Where Omnichannel Experiences Get Stuck

Accelerate Omnichannel Transformation

Getting better at omnichannel marketing means doing things like accelerating omnichannel transformations to meet consumer needs for contactless commerce and rapid fulfillment of essential goods, including enabling same-day curbside pickup during check-out and extending return windows, according to Noah Elkin, vice president analyst at Gartner for Marketers.

Learning Opportunities

Although this is a retailer-specific tip, marketers may be able to generally benefit from the strategy. Elkin suggests shifting digital merchandising and inventory to emphasize viable fulfillment methods like curbside pickup to sustain store sales and differentiate from lagging competitors. “Plan,” he said, “for a contactless future by investing in mobile technology that moves the organization toward contactless commerce experiences supported through mobile payments to both maximize the safety of in-store shopping. After transforming fulfillment models and payment options, marketing leaders must inform customers through dedicated information hubs on their sites and email messages to boost adoption.”

Avoid Operational Silos, Create Revenue Owner

Avoid silos within your internal and external teams as much as possible for large organizations/enterprises, according to Aalap Shah, founder of 1o8. Often, the marketing, PR and ecommerce teams will be doing different things, and their respective agencies are also scattered. “One solution to avoid silos is to create a revenue owner: someone that is responsible for the lifecycle of a brand or product line that has a sole focus to grow and maintain revenue,” Shah said. “With clear leadership and someone who can provide direction, the teams underneath can better work to a single marketing goal. In this way, it could be easier to align everyone to the same interest and work together to meet that goal.”

Related Article: Omnichannel Through the Eyes of the Customer and Its Impact on Martech

Ensure Omnichannel is Customer-Centric

Nicholas Holmes, founder of The Product Reviewer, said omnichannel is all about viewing the experience through your customers' eyes, orchestrating the customer experience across all channels, being seamless, integrated and consistent as possible. “It is essential to center the omnichannel experience around the customers so that the engagement increases,” Holmes said. “Figure out the customers for the most preferred channels, if not then their online presence, including where do they research, knowing their pre-sale questions, and the type of interactions they expect.”

Increase the response time to improve engagement with your potential customers and remember to integrate your customer support channel with the record-keeping system. The recorded data will then help in keeping track of customer queries and will also help in addressing the issues quickly.

“Do not be everywhere, but be there where your customers are and target the important channels,” Holmes said. “Track and use all channels through which your customers prefer to reach you like phone calls, emails, websites, or social media sites. Know where they are more active and respond to their queries there. If you are unable to tackle your customers rightly, you waste your time, money, and efforts.”