Omnichannel marketing is the process of driving customer engagement across all channels with seamless, targeted messaging.
Omnichannel marketing requires brands to understand how how their customers interact with their brand throughout an array of touch points in the customer journey
If data and teams are siloed, brands can run into problems with messaging frequency and a lack of personalization.
Omnichannel marketing is necessary because customers tend to spend more money when they have interacted with or researched a product across multiple channels.
Erin O'Connor is a product marketing manager for Adobe Campaign. She originally started at Adobe in sales for Adobe Experience Cloud, and then she moved into a product marketing role. On the Adobe Campaign team, Erin works on a range of projects, from Adobe Summit to win-loss analysis to sales plays, competitive intelligence, and enablement.
Q: What is omnichannel marketing?
A: Omnichannel marketing lets marketers create seamless, integrated customer experiences spanning both online and offline channels to connect with customers as they move through the buying cycle. Omnichannel marketing focuses on the life cycle of the customer. For example, when a customer is in the acquisition phase, the marketer will send a different type of message compared to a loyal customer
Omnichannel marketing is similar to cross-channel or multichannel marketing, but omnichannel is more of a holistic approach in the sense that it's looking at all of the potential touchpoints customers can use to communicate with brands, both online and offline. Multichannel marketing is more focused on individual channels and how they may intersect, but it doesn’t look at the full picture.
Q: What tools are needed for omnichannel marketing?
A: Companies need an analytics tool to measure the campaign ROI of all of these interactions and to understand who the customer is and what their preferences are. Analytics tools show companies how customers behave when interacting with a brand on all these different channels.
You also need a personalization software that enables the marketer to make sure that the content they are sending to their customer is personalized based on all the data that was derived from the analytics software. That could be something like if a customer speaks Spanish, so the email they receive has Spanish content. And then you need a delivery engine to actually deliver the messages.
It’s incredibly important for the marketer to have the customer profiles to fully understand who their specific individual customers are, as well as their interests, preferences, languages, demographics, and behavior throughout the campaign. And once they know those individual attributes or how the customer has behaved, they can then reach out to a group of customers with similar behavior, like cart abandonment, and send them a message based on that action. Once marketers understand their customers, they can cluster all that information into segments and deliver a piece of content that's relevant for each specific segment.
Q: How can companies implement an omnichannel marketing strategy?
A: What a marketer really needs is the ability to connect the dots easily and quickly between data, content and the delivery of content across channels to orchestrate the optimal experience. For example, marketers need a single accessible customer view and easily accessed content to orchestrate a meaningful on-boarding experience that starts with a welcome email, followed by a subsequent email promoting other channels (a common tactic – channel activation).
Marketers need to be able to connect all of this data throughout each system to be able to fully understand how many messages they're sending to these customers and how the customer behaves when receiving these messages. And if they don't have that level of insight, they can't amplify their customer experience. Having that technology stack integrated so they can see all the customer data in one place is really important in creating a personalized experience.
Companies also need to make sure their marketing teams aren’t siloed. Teams need to speak to each other to ensure the brand remains consistent. When working together, teams can ensure all the messages are on brand and that the customer isn’t receiving too many messages across the various channels.
Q: How does an omnichannel approach benefit a company?
A: Customers who use multiple channels to interact with a brand spend on average 15 percent more than customers who use only one channel. Customers rarely walk into a store and buy something anymore — they look up a product online, they research it, they maybe go in a physical store to talk to someone, and then they end up purchasing online.
From a revenue standpoint, omnichannel is definitely impactful, but it also helps from a customer loyalty and retention perspective. When the customer is having a seamless, meaningful experience that remains consistent throughout all of the purchases they make and throughout all of the stages in the life cycle that they could move through, they naturally are happy to come back and experience it again.
With omnichannel marketing you're also about to limit customer fatigue from sending too many messages, because you have the data and insights in regard to how these customers are behaving on each channel.
Q: How do companies judge the effectiveness of an omnichannel strategy?
A: Companies look at the ROI of the marketing campaign and how well it achieved the goals established in the beginning. For example, did the customer buy a product or create an account? Whether the customer converted is usually the biggest KPI of an omnichannel marketing campaign
Q: How do companies optimize an omnichannel campaign?
A: One of the big things companies need to consider is the frequency of messages being sent to each device. If you’re managing an email campaign, you don’t send a customer three emails in one day. The same principle applies to an omnichannel campaign — you need to keep track of how many messages you send across all channels. You want to make sure not to overload the customer on either one channel or on all channels combined
Q: What challenges do companies run into?
A: The big challenge is when companies are using disparate data solutions. If data is all over the place, they won't be able to create that seamless omnichannel experience, because they don't know who the customer is and how they're behaving. The email team may collect data on the customer and not be able to share it with the social team, so the social team lacks information that could be helpful when trying to reach out. With disparate data, the message will also not be appropriately personalized because the marketers don’t know who the customer is or how they’re behaving.
Omnichannel marketing also can be expensive to implement. To map out a strategy, bring the technology up to scale, and overcome problems with siloed data requires a lot of time of resources.
Having a centralized campaign that connects the different channels and combines all the necessary data into one area can help companies overcome these challenges.
Q: Which marketing channels are the most effective?
A: It’s different for each industry and across different companies and markets. For example, we're seeing a lot of people in India use their mobile phones more often to connect to brands compared with customers in the United States, where email is still primarily the main channel. In general, though, email tends to be the main channel that brands start with when launching a campaign.
Q: How has omnichannel marketing evolved?
A: A few things have evolved over time. The first one is campaign orchestration. Marketers being able to deliver relevant messages across channels is something that they didn't even think through years ago. Marketers are getting asked to do things that they didn't even know were possible four years ago, and they're getting asked to do things a lot faster than ever before. Time is of the essence because marketers only have a short window of the customer's attention span to convert them, or the customer could get lost to a competitor because of market saturation.
The second one is journey management. Not only providing one-to-one interactions to customers but doing that across or throughout the customer life cycle and through those different phases.
Another factor involved is real-time interaction at scale — how customers are behaving and responding to these messages in real time to make sure that the marketer can follow up or interact with the relevant message. Personalization at scale has changed as well. Customer bases are growing immensely, and companies have had to adapt to keep up.
A final thing that has changed omnichannel marketing is mobile. Mobile is something companies didn’t consider much four years ago, and now it needs to be first and foremost in marketers’ minds. Thinking through how mobile's going to play into the customer experience is incredibly crucial, whether that means enabling beacons, SMS notifications, or push notifications, to name a few. And how brands can really use these technology advances to create more loyal customers is also really important.
Q: What mistakes do companies make with omnichannel marketing?
A: There's a ton of pressure on a marketer to provide omnichannel experiences, but I think where marketers are kind of falling short is if they buy a software or find a solution, they think the job is done. And maybe the software will fill the void for a short-term problem, but they're not really thinking long term about how the internal business needs to evolve and how the customer is evolving. Often, marketers focus on the short-term buy because they want the results, they want the ROI now — but in reality that's not always the most beneficial for the company and the customer.
Q: How will omnichannel marketing continue to change in the future?
A: Artificial intelligence and machine learning will definitely transform how marketers interact with their customers, as will the creation of new hardware pieces. Voice assistant devices are a great example of how we’re continuing to evolve technology and now we can use this new piece of technology for brands to interact with their customers. So the innovation of new hardware and software in addition to AI and machine learning will definitely continue to evolve the omnichannel marketing space.
Companies can prepare for these changes by investing in AI and machine-learning functionality now, and by constantly making sure they’re targeting customers on the right channels. Marketers need to track how their customer base is evolving with the product to ensure that they're delivering the right message and the right technology to be able to interact with the customer.