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Omnichannel marketing in 2021: How to build a strategy that's future-proof

Kaya Ismail

Today customers live in an always-on digital environment. Between smartphones that never leave their side, easily accessible tablets, and smart speakers awaiting the next command, there is a wealth of personalized information at their fingertips. Plus, the advancement of technology means that new use cases that include VR, AR, and more are just around the corner.

Yet, despite the assortment of channels to juggle, eCommerce marketers of all kinds are using omnichannel marketing strategies to reach out to customers and send them timely information and offer to drive conversions.

Our article, “The Modern CMS: The Key to Omnichannel Marketing”, explains how marketers can benefit from enacting an omnichannel marketing strategy. Now we’ll share strategies for marketers to future-proof their omnichannel campaigns and stay current in the changing digital ecosystem.

Section titled What is an omnichannel marketing campaign (and why is it still difficult to achieve?)

An omnichannel experience is one that spans multiple channels, and yet, is seamlessly connected rather than disconnected. Thanks to that interconnectivity, consumers can drift between channels without the brand forgetting who they are or restarting their customer journey.

This is opposite of a multichannel experience, where a brand may have a website, mobile application, and an email marketing campaign, but with no traversable connection between the three channels. The problem with the multichannel approach however, is that 86% of consumers expect you to know them as they switch between channels. To achieve this level of cohesiveness requires an omnichannel approach.

Most brands lack the technological foundation to manage content and customer data across these touchpoints; the efforts to achieve a truly omnichannel campaign often fails miserably.. However, with the right technology in place it becomes possible to unlock omnichannel and understand consumer behavior, based on channels, to implement a truly holistic strategy.

Section titled The difference between an omnichannel and a multichannel marketing campaign

Multichannel and omnichannel marketing are often confused and even used interchangeably, but they shouldn't be. So, before we start with omnichannel, let's dispel the confusion.

  • Omnichannel marketing delivers a consistent, personalized experience for shoppers across channels and devices. Omnichannel is shopper-based.
  • Multichannel marketing delivers content to each channel separately and independent of the rest. Each channel has its own goals.

In short, an omnichannel marketing campaign needs to bridge each channel's gaps and create a continuous experience for the shopper. For instance, if a customer is shopping on a desktop, they should be able to access the same information when shifting to their mobile device. In other words, they should have an integrated shopping experience.

Here’s a handy comparison table you can use to see the differences at a glance:

Integrated channels with seamless experiencesSeparated channels with no overlap
All channels share an overarching objectiveEach channel has different objectives
Transparency between channelsNo transparency between channels
Channels work together Channels compete with one another
Enables customers to swap between the channels of their choice Limits customers to using whichever channel is capable of completing their desired action

Section titled Omnichannel eCommerce - how can an eCommerce brand sell on multiple channels, and keep the experience connected?

Omnichannel eCommerce — or omnichannel retail — focuses on creating an enriched customer experience by integrating multiple sales channels, whether the customer purchases through a mobile device, a brick-and-mortar store, or a voice-activated assistant like Alexa.

According to Invesp, companies with omnichannel eCommerce strategies retain on average 89% of their customers, compared to a customer retention rate of 33% for companies with weak omnichannel customer engagement.

Unlike the multichannel commerce approach, a true omnichannel commerce experience needs to be capable of delivering a consistent, on-brand shopping experience for every customer, no matter where they choose to shop. Plus, omnichannel eCommerce also focuses on building relationships with consumers and transcending communication barriers by leveraging the power of customer data and analytics across the entire customer lifecycle.

Here are some ways an eCommerce store can implement omnichannel retail techniques to create a connected shopping experience:

Section titled Email and web personalization

Personalization is another foundational stone of omnichannel commerce. The first way you can implement omnichannel techniques is by delivering personalized product recommendations to your customers. A modern CMS can help you deliver personalized experiences or enable you to connect with third-party personalization engines.

Section titled Leverage contextual information

Your customer’s data is unique to them. By leveraging your customer’s unique data points and contextual information, such as their interests, you can deliver an agile marketing and omnichannel customer experience. This data, or micro-moments as they’re also called, enables retailers to create context-based experiences for their customers to drive conversions.

Section titled Stay consistent across channels

Your customer’s experience doesn’t end with the purchase. Your channels must deliver a consistent shopping experience and post-sale support to make sure that the customers remember your name and return to your store again. Retargeting enables marketers to leverage data and context to create experiences that follow your customers even after they’ve jumped to a different device.

Section titled Take automation into account

Task automation is always a great idea to reduce the time you and your employees spend on menial tasks. For example, you could integrate a chatbot service to help you answer routine questions and concerns; that way, your people can focus on more pressing issues.

Section titled Common omnichannel marketing mistakes

  • Not creating seamless cross-platform experiences: According to Google, 52% of the users are less likely to re-engage with a brand that delivered a bad mobile experience. The foundation of omnichannel lies in providing a great experience across every channel. If that foundation is flawed, you won’t deliver truly omnichannel marketing.
  • Wrong use of customer data: Your customer data lasts for two years, after that time, it becomes outdated. Also, 37% of people change their contact information within a year, which means that marketers trying to create omnichannel experiences are most likely using old data in their campaigns. To avoid that, unify all your information in a modern CMS or DAM.
  • Measuring traditional analytics and KPIs: Omnichannel marketing is eminently different from regular marketing campaigns. Stores that measure regular KPIs might look unprofitable because marketers aren’t taking the whole lifecycle into account. Measuring the different touchpoints in isolation will give you a flawed picture of your overall performance.
  • Delivering non-relevant content: Content is the lifeblood of your marketing strategy. If you’re showing customers useless content that’s not actionable or unique in some way, your customers won’t likely make a purchase.
  • Not focusing on the customer experience: One mistake retailers make when going omnichannel is focusing too much on the channels and too little on the experience. When that happens, your customer engagement suffers. Focus on analyzing where the overlaps between channels occur and try to reach customers there.

Section titled How to future-proof omnichannel marketing campaigns

Building an omnichannel experience is one thing. Building it on top of a flexible foundation that can withstand the test of time (and market fluctuations!) is something else. Here’s how to build an omnichannel strategy that lasts.

Section titled Start with the right technology

Identifying the tools that will help you drive conversions and delight your customers is a must for an omnichannel strategy. A modern CMS (also known as a headless CMS) that enables a best-of-breed approach to your technology stack can help marketers centralize their operations, bring better business results, and free developers up to create cutting-edge experiences.

Moreover, using a modern or headless CMS ensures that your content remains frontend-agnostic, making it ready to be delivered to any new channel or device that emerges in the market.

Section titled Bring your team on board

With a centralized, API-driven CMS as your foundation, you’ll need all stakeholders and teams on board and in sync. This includes gaining C-suite buy-in from the beginning of your omnichannel journey, ensuring that your CEO, CMO, and CIO see eye to eye regarding the goals of your project.

Marketers and developers in particular need to be on board with the technologies in place, and working together they need to quickly produce content and experiences for each channel.

Section titled Focus on creating reusable content blocks

The omnichannel approach enables marketers to create content that works for every device and platform. Instead of thinking of content as limited for one channel, you can reuse it across channels.

Section titled Leverage customer data

If you don’t leverage the customer data you’re getting from your CMS; your omnichannel strategy is doomed to failure. With a modern CMS that stores and analyzes data, making informed decisions is more straightforward.

Section titled Contextualize and personalize your content

To keep consumers engaged, marketers need to create content that addresses their audience's needs on the channels they’re using.

For instance, when a customer is engaging with a brand via WhatsApp, they don’t want to be bombarded with long, difficult-to-read messages that are better suited to emails. Furthermore, they’ll want your brand to recognize them as an individual across channels, making relevant recommendations based on their browsing behaviour or past purchases.

Section titled Understand your audience

Omnichannel marketing requires a solid understanding of your clients, who they are and what they want. Marketers need to build a complete picture of their potential customers and their preferred communication channels, so that they don't waste time and resources trying to reach them in channels they don't frequently use.

Section titled The anatomy of an omnichannel marketing campaign

The future of marketing won’t be limited to a digital-only experience. For many, brick-and-mortar, and even phone shopping, are still preferable options which means that marketers need a way to make every channel converge into a seamless shopping experience.

An omnichannel marketing campaign needs to bridge each channel's gaps and create a continuous experience for the shopper.

For instance, if a customer is shopping on a desktop, they should be able to access the same information when shifting to their mobile device, enabling an integrated shopping experience.

Marketing user journey

Section titled 3 industry-leading omnichannel campaign examples

One thing that makes omnichannel different from multichannel is that it simplifies the process of going from one channel to the next. With a proper omnichannel strategy in place, consumers can start their journey on one channel, continue it on a second, and complete it on a third.

Let’s take a look at three companies that have succeeded with omnichannel marketing.

Section titled Starbucks

Starbucks provides a classic example of omnichannel marketing done exceedingly well. Their rewards system can be experienced via the web, an iOS app, an Android app, and email. Through these channels, users can check their points and purchase history, update their profiles, and receive special offers.

Starbucks integrates its web and mobile marketing seamlessly

Starbucks also offers a referral program and integrated payments system, allowing users to purchase drinks at their local Starbuck branch before they arrive. With all these integrated systems, it’s highly likely that Starbucks is using a form of modern, headless CMS to get the job done across channels.

Section titled Airbnb

With its visual grid, Airbnb has a customer-centric approach, which is what sets it apart from its competitors, mostly hotels, who offer a different experience focused on the company rather than the end-customer.

Airbnb's customer centric approach on the web

Companies can follow the example of Airbnb and try to tailor their experiences to the user. Don’t talk about what you can do for the user; talk to the user directly and engage it with timely content.

Section titled Amazon

While any company would struggle to mimic the size and brilliance of Amazon’s marketing and sales strategies, it’s worth taking a look at how the retail giant runs its omnichannel marketing,even if it’s simply for inspiration.

Amazon's Alexa as an example for voice marketing

Amazon has taken the term omnichannel and run with it, releasing an array of physical Alexa-enabled smart devices that users can use to ask questions, play games, and of course, place orders. Amazon Go was the company’s first foray into the offline world, where shoppers could shop in-store without even checking out at a cash register. This is all in addition to their industry leading website and mobile application experiences.

Amazon’s focus is on frictionless interactions and maximum levels of accessibility. Notably, they have also enabled other brands to follow suit via Alexa Skills, which users can access through Alexa-enabled devices. The good news for companies looking to follow suit is that an API-first CMS can handle the content for any Alexa Skill just as easily as it can for a website.

Section titled Storyblok: your door to the future of omnichannel marketing

A modern CMS like Storyblok, is the best tool at your disposal to meet the demands of modern consumers. Its decoupled, API-first architecture and visual editor give marketers a solid foundation for delivering content in different formats, languages and to different devices, all from one place.

While traditional CMS platforms are perfectly suited to answer the demands of small online and brick-and-mortar stores that only require a website to function, it simply won't cut it for businesses who are willing to incursion in the omnichannel territory.. Problems will start to show as the business grows and tries to expand to different markets and platforms.

A modern omnichannel platform that scales with you and helps you deliver across devices and delivers globally is practically a necessity if you:

  • Manage a brand trying to establish itself on different devices,
  • Are a business with an extensive catalog of products,
  • Require personalized customer experiences,
  • Are looking at the future of your business,
  • Or produce a large amount of content.

If you're interested in learning more about Storyblok and what it does, don't forget to read our whitepaper Content Management for eCommerce and see what our platform can do for your brand.

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