Omnichannel is the integration and cooperation of the various channels organizations use to interact with consumers, with the goal of creating a consistent brand experience. This includes physical (e.g. stores) and digital channels (e.g. websites). The goal of an omnichannel strategy is to create a convenient, seamless user experience for consumers that offers many opportunities for fulfillment. An omnichannel strategy may give consumers the chance to find and purchase online, in-store, or a combination thereof - such as “buy online and pickup in store”. Omnichannel strategies are popular across verticals, including healthcare, retail, finance, technology, and more.
Thanks to online channels, modern consumers have more options than ever and expect information in real time. Omnichannel enables them to engage with brands on their own terms.
What is Omnichannel Marketing?
Omnichannel marketing follows the same core tenets of omnichannel strategies, but specifically refers to the seamless integration of marketing messages and touchpoints, both online and offline, as consumers move down the sales funnel.
Omnichannel marketing takes a consumer-centric view of marketing tactics. Consumers can now interact with brands on innumerable channels, from social media to customer service hotlines. An omnichannel approach ensures that the consumer has a positive, consistent experience on each channel, by offering a few key elements:
- Consistent, identifiable brand tone and vision
- Personalized messaging based on specific interests
- Content that is informed by past interactions and current stage of the buyer’s journey
An identifiable brand simplifies brand recognition, while personalization based on interests and shopping history makes consumers more likely to interact with branded content across channels.
The Difference Between Multichannel and Omnichannel
While omnichannel and multi-channel are both concepts based on the idea of engaging consumers across multiple platforms, they are not interchangeable. Multichannel looks at the specific channel and how the transaction will be completed there. Omnichannel takes into account that the customer journey may span multiple channels - and looks at how to create the best experience as consumers move between them. Each interaction is a touchpoint on a path, leading to a conversion.
Multichannel is much simpler in its intention, which is to distribute content and advertisements across various channels. A multichannel strategy makes an organization available to consumers online, in print, in-store, etc. The consumer can choose where they want to interact with the brand, however, content and engagements within these various channels are often very siloed. With this in mind, multichannel is more reflective of operations, reaching as many channels as appropriate, while omnichannel is more reflective of experience.
Omnichannel also makes brands accessible across online and offline channels, however, it goes a step further to ensure an integrated, seamless experience across each one. As consumers move across devices and online and offline platforms, transitions are seamless and messages are informed by prior encounters.
The Benefits of Using an Omnichannel Approach
Today, most brands will agree that an omnichannel approach can yield the best results. While implementing an omnichannel approach is far from simple, when done properly it offers a host of benefits. Today’s consumers are accustomed to being bombarded with messaging from various brands, and as a result, they have become increasingly selective of which brands they choose to engage with. Creating omnichannel customer engagements can act as a brand differentiator, bringing the following benefits:
- A Better User Experience - Since omnichannel focuses on the individual experience across devices instead of the channel, the consumer experience (CX) is better. By focusing on the customer instead of the platform, companies can drive more sales and better retention rates.
- Cohesive Brand Strategy & Identity - Creating a seamless strategy across channels means building an easily identifiable brand image and tone. Organizations should base this image on core audience needs and values. By focusing on the overall experience and working within your brand guidelines to target each channel, you will have a more comprehensive brand strategy that will translate into increased loyalty and more targeted messaging.
- Increased Revenue - An omnichannel approach encourages customers to engage with a brand across multiple touchpoints and channels. These increased, diverse engagements at each stage of the buyer’s journey can help increase revenue, as research shows that customers that engage with multiple touchpoints tend to be 30 percent more valuable. This more targeted messaging also builds loyalty, making it more likely a customer will purchase from your brand again. Repeat customers on average contribute to 40 percent of revenue, despite being a smaller portion of your consumer base.
- Better Attribution Data - Going truly omnichannel should not just extend to a user’s experience with your brand, but with your data analytics as well. By tracking engagements across channels, brands get a better understanding of what the customer journey looks like, when and where consumers prefer to engage, and which campaigns have created the most value. All of this data can be put back into your strategy to build more targeted campaigns and optimize media spend.
What is Omnichannel Attribution?
In a world where there are now multiple touchpoints across channels, which should get credit for the conversion? That can be difficult for marketers to answer, without the appropriate attribution model in place. Marketers often rely on multi-touch attribution and media mix modeling (MMM) to understand what led to a conversion, however, these models are not perfect.
- MMM: Media Mix Modeling looks at long-term aggregate data, rather than person-level insights. This allows marketers to see the impact a campaign had on conversions, as well as historical trends, such as times of year when shoppers increase or decrease engagements, but not insight into individual preferences. MMM also uses several year’s worth of data, meaning teams cannot use this model to course correct as campaigns run.
- MTA: Multi-touch attribution offers granular, person-level data in real-time across each touchpoint. When analyzed, teams can use this data to make changes to campaigns as they run, to better cater to consumer needs. The challenge with multi-touch attribution is that it is difficult to determine how much credit each touchpoint should be given for a conversion. For example, was the webinar or the email campaign more influential in moving the consumer toward conversion?
Attribution models no longer have to rely on outdated practices and can now give a more holistic view of the marketing funnel and the buyer’s journey. Just as omnichannel tactics combine online and offline channels, omnichannel attribution removes silos between campaign measurements to understand the role each touchpoint played in the journey.
Leveraging omnichannel attribution offers a host of benefits to brands, allowing them to correlate online and offline measurements, and gain visibility into both person-level insights and aggregate, historical shopper trends.
Creating an Omnichannel Customer Experience
As noted, creating an omnichannel experience needs to take into account how the individual interacts with your brand. It focuses not on the channel, but the experience as a whole. With this in mind, there are a few essentials when it comes to creating an omnichannel experience:
- Data Collection: Collecting accurate, timely data about your consumers is essential to the implementation of an omnichannel strategy. This data will allow you to understand when your target audience prefers to interact with brands and on what devices, which type of messaging they are more likely to engage with, what products and features they are looking for, etc. This data will be the driving force behind omnichannel strategy. Brands need to make sure they have the tools in place to effectively collect this data across online and offline channels. A smart way to do this is with Unified Marketing Measurement (UMM). UMM is an attribution model that combines the person-level metrics of multi-touch attribution, with the historic, aggregate measurements of media mix modeling. This way, touchpoints can be informed by individual preferences as well as historical trends such as regional or seasonal elements that affect engagements / conversions.
- Data Analysis: Data collection is only the first step. Without a team and platform that can translate all of this big data into actionable insights, it is useless. Brands need to deploy an analytics platform that can distill all of this data in near real-time so that teams can course-correct while campaigns run, to meet consumer needs in the moment.
- Customer Journey Mapping: Before launching an omnichannel campaign, organizations should be sure to create customer journey maps for each of their audience segments. The customer journey map evaluates the steps taken between the customer discovering the brand, and purchasing from the brand. Outlining these maps allows brands create more target campaigns, by considering: individual interests, the user experience and interface, and factors outside of the brands control that may impact path to purchase, such as economic factors.
- Brand Guidelines: Be sure to develop a brand identity with guidelines that are adhered to across each channel, to facilitate brand awareness and recognition.
- Testing / Optimization: Continuously test the efficacy of your omnichannel approach to determine ways to improve customer experience and spend optimization.
Examples of Brands That Leverage an Omnichannel Approach
When building an omnichannel strategy, take a look at these brands who have done so successfully:
- Starbucks: Through its mobile app, Starbucks is able to better integrate the mobile experience with the in-store one to put consumer convenience first. Users can reload their cards from their phone or desktop computer. By using the app to pay, they are rewarded with points that can be applied to a free coffee. Additionally, they can skip the morning line by ordering in advance.
- Walgreens - Walgreens created a custom mobile app that makes it easier for customers to refill prescriptions, which they can then pickup in store. Their app also showcases store specific inventory making it easier for customers making a trip to decide which location they should visit.
- Timberland - Timberland is combining the convenience of online with the experience of in-person customer experience through the installation of near field communication (NFC) technology. Timberland created Touchwalls in their store, which leads to further information on their shoes. Customers can then add these to their online shopping list or purchase in store. In addition, Timberland utilizes a product recommendations engine to gain exposure to lesser known products based on user preferences.
Industries Applying Omnichannel Tactics
Omnichannel approaches have become popular across industries as consumers become more empowered, however, they are particularly prominent in these verticals:
- Retail: Retail in particular has faced drastic changes in today's omnichannel environment. With the ability to buy in-store or online and the emergence of social media and review sites, retail marketers need to centralize how consumers are interacting with their brand across a multitude of channels to ensure a positive outcome.
- Healthcare: Healthcare customers generally interact with many touchpoints across various providers, from hospitals, to primary care, to pharmaceuticals. By analyzing data around the customer journey and engagements, healthcare providers can better cater to individuals, providing them with data that matters most to them, while mitigating potential health risks.
- Automotive: Since cars are a long term investment, keeping top of mind and driving customer loyalty are big priorities for car manufacturers. Today’s advertisements may not yield the desired effects immediately, but if they engage current customers and interest prospects, they will impact sales down the line. However, the buying journey, even in automotive has changed with 80 percent of shoppers researching cars online first. Additionally, it is estimated that 4.5 million cars could be sold online only in 2020. Having an encompassing advertising strategy that engages with buyers across all touchpoints has become more vital than ever.
Trends in Omnichannel
As omnichannel becomes more popular, several trends have emerged that can help make these efforts more effective, improving consumer satisfaction and ROI. These include:
- Integration of In-Store and Online - Many consumers are shopping online, only to pick up their purchases in-store. This could be to avoid searching for items in-store or to avoid delivery fees. Today’s shoppers are expecting the ease of their online experience to be integrated with the in-store experience. Almost 70 percent of US shoppers expect a notification that their order is ready within 2 hours of ordering it online. When Destination XL realized this trend, they combined customer location data with inventory to help customers find what they were looking for online to pick it up in-store. Additionally, stores like Kohl’s have created parking spots designed for shoppers who are picking up orders they made online.
- Focus on the Brand, Not the Channel - As the Forrester Report: “Retailers are Starting to Reap the Rewards of Omnichannel Commerce” notes, “Customers believe they are engaging with one unified brand or organization, regardless of the various touchpoints that they use. This means retailers must ensure the continuity of information and resources across digital and store touchpoints — or risk losing customers to competitors that do.” Brands need to provide a consistent identity across channels with messages that resonate with the customer, regardless of platform.
- More Devices for One Purchase - Customers are frequently beginning their journey on one device and making a purchase on another. However, many retailers are struggling to address this element of the customer journey, with 25 to 50 percent of cross-device interactions being unaccounted for. Failing to account for this shift in trends could drastically impact your bottom line and media spend optimization efforts.
- Multiple Channels Mean Better Customers - When tracked correctly, customers who visit your site across multiple devices tend to be better customers. Their product view rate is close to 90 percent (as compared to 58 percent) and their average order value is $130 (as compared to $115).