Learn about omnichannel marketing — what it is, why it’s important, and how to start

Learn about omnichannel marketing

As a marketing leader, you’re always looking for ways to improve customer engagement — but somehow it seems to get more complicated all the time. Channels for reaching customers keep proliferating, and it can be difficult to know how to use and manage all of them.

Today’s consumer uses an average of 6 touchpoints when making a purchase, compared to just 2 touchpoints 15 years ago, according to Marketing Week. This means, for example, that a customer might follow a brand on social media, visit its website to do further research, and interact with a chatbot before finally making an in-store purchase with a live salesperson.

Omnichannel marketing strategies help you coordinate channels and streamline your approach so you can deliver the seamless user experiences that audiences have come to expect. Omnichannel marketing is a big topic — but it’s crucial for brands looking to engage a modern audience, and tools and resources are available to make it simple and attainable.

In this guide, you will learn:

What is omnichannel marketing?

Omnichannel marketing is an integrated, customer-centric approach that drives engagement across multiple channels with seamless, targeted messaging. It spans online and offline channels, from social media, email, text, and websites to brick-and-mortar stores and in-person events — all with a consistent customer experience and branding.

Customers today have choices about how they interact with a company, and they often engage in multiple ways before making a purchase. Omnichannel marketing ensures customers have an uninterrupted experience at every point along their journey as they flow between channels and devices.

In addition to providing a consistent brand experience, omnichannel marketing also targets customers with personalized messaging based on their interests and activities. This requires merging data from all channels — including past interactions with the brand, each stage of the customer journey, and other information (collected with permission) — to create a holistic picture of each customer that makes it possible to serve up content and calls to action tailored to their individual needs. In this sense, omnichannel marketing is an ongoing process that spans the lifecycle of a customer.

Omnichannel marketing focuses on the customer instead of the channel or the platform, enabling people to engage with brands at their own convenience and on their own terms.

Benefits of omnichannel marketing

Omnichannel marketing focuses on the customer instead of the channel or the platform, enabling people to engage with brands at their own convenience and on their own terms. This creates a better overall customer experience, which in turn results in a number of measurable benefits:

Omnichannel vs. multichannel

You might think an omnichannel strategy sounds similar to a multichannel strategy — and it’s true that in both cases, multiple methods of communication are used to reach customers and disseminate messaging.

But there are also some key differences that make these two strategies unique. Perhaps the biggest is that in multichannel marketing, each channel functions independently — and there are few connections between them, even when they communicate similar messages. Omnichannel marketing is more holistic in the sense that it connects all the channels and looks at how they can work in tandem with each other.

A deeper look at both approaches can further illustrate what makes an omnichannel strategy distinct.

Multichannel marketing

The purpose of multichannel marketing is to make content available to customers across various channels, both direct and indirect. This originally meant having a physical store and a website, but today the concept has expanded to include email, social media, chat, and text. Even though one organization owns all the channels, they are managed separately, each targeting the consumer in its own way with its own strategy.

This means that in a multichannel approach, silos often form between channels and the teams that handle them. While that might sound like a bug, it’s actually an intentional feature that fosters efficiency and makes the structure easy to manage by maintaining separation between online and offline segments. When campaigns are developed, messaging and assets are pushed to each channel, and teams decide how best to leverage it to reach their audiences.

Omnichannel marketing

Omnichannel marketing starts with the customer and looks at all the potential touchpoints a consumer might use to engage with the brand. The goal of this strategy is to create a seamless, integrated experience across all channels and to follow customers throughout their journeys. As customers move between online and offline channels and various devices, the omnichannel approach ensures transitions are smooth and all messaging is informed by earlier interactions, wherever they might have taken place.

Omnichannel marketing requires a more centralized organizational structure to facilitate gathering and sharing data across teams. It often involves a single platform where all communications originate, which means that each channel has access to what other channels are doing and how customers are interacting across channels. This consistency not only translates into a more holistic customer experience, but it also structures data in a way that makes personalized messages possible.

Multichannel vs omnichannel marketing

While omnichannel and multichannel approaches share some similarities, they are not interchangeable. Multichannel focuses on specific channels and how customers can engage or complete transactions in each, while omnichannel sees through the eyes of customers and aims to create a cohesive journey where every touchpoint is one step on a path to conversion.

In other words, multichannel marketing is organized around business operations, while omnichannel marketing is organized around the overall customer experience.

How to create an omnichannel marketing strategy

Succeeding with omnichannel marketing requires a shift in mindset. Instead of developing a message and pushing it to entire audiences through various channels, you’ll need to start thinking in terms of individual customers and how to personalize content for them.

The following steps will help you make this shift and start developing your own omnichannel strategy.

1. Document the customer journey.

Omnichannel marketing is possible today because, for the first time, we have enough data at the individual customer level to measure the actions of real people over time — rather than relying on data about populations or campaigns. So the first step is to aggregate as much data as possible.

Start by bringing together your CRM data, social listening data, and customer behavior data in one place and assessing what you know — and what else you need to know. For example, do you know what channels customers use and at which stages of the journey? What problems are they trying to solve, and what products and features are they looking for? What kind of demographic and behavioral data are you currently collecting?

Determine what additional data would be useful, and make sure you have the tools in place to collect all the data you need across all channels going forward.

2. Analyze data and segment your audiences.

The next step is to look for patterns in the data and segment your users into different categories based on common characteristics and behaviors. This allows you to create use cases and build detailed profiles of customers. It also sets the stage for the predictive analytics you’ll employ later in the process.

To accomplish this kind of analysis on an ongoing basis, it’s important to have a powerful platform and team in place that can translate data into actionable insights in real time — so you can meet customers wherever they are on their journey with a personalized message.

3. Map the omnichannel customer journey.

With your data in hand, take time to review the customer experience for each persona. Note what channels they use to complete which tasks at each stage of the journey, from the discovery of your brand to completing a purchase. Then use each journey to create a detailed plan of what you want the customer to experience at each of the touchpoints you identified.

4. Develop channel-appropriate content that answers each need.

Before you start creating content for each channel, make sure you have clear brand guidelines that describe how to create a consistent brand experience — including things like style and tone, use of visuals, and other brand-specific stipulations — across every channel.

Next, start developing content that addresses what customers are trying to accomplish at each touchpoint identified in the customer journey above. For example, if users are searching Google for answers to problems, you might consider creating SEO content. If they’re asking for recommendations on LinkedIn, you might develop case studies formatted to perform well on that channel.

Remember to personalize messaging based on customer behavior. For example, you could reference previous purchases, recommend new products or services, or remind customers of items left in an online shopping cart. By coordinating content at this stage of planning, you can avoid inconsistent branding or sending too many messages on multiple channels.

5. Be prepared to respond on every channel.

Because customers interact with multiple channels in the course of a single purchase, you need to be ready to continue the conversation with them on any channel at any time.

That means, for example, that the sales associate working the floor in your brick-and-mortar store must be familiar with online products and promotions. Or if someone adds an item to their online shopping cart from their laptop, it should still be there when they log in from a mobile device. It also means that you have personalized messages ready to target customers who behave in particular ways — for example, abandoning a cart or subscribing to an email newsletter.

6. Test and optimize.

Because omnichannel marketing is data driven, it’s important to continuously test what’s working and adjust your approach as necessary.

In addition to engagement numbers for specific channels, here are a few other metrics to consider:

Omnichannel marketing is possible today because, for the first time, we have enough data at the individual customer level to measure the actions of real people over time.

Omnichannel use cases and industry case studies

The principles of omnichannel marketing apply in any industry, though the specific execution may vary. This section describes some use cases where an omnichannel strategy can have a significant impact.

Omnichannel marketing for retail

The retail industry has been particularly affected by the increasing number of channels where customers can interact with a brand, from online shopping to review sites and social media — making it a prime candidate for omnichannel innovation. And because omnichannel strategy focuses on the entire customer journey, it can improve retail outcomes all along the way — including in the areas of conversions and sales, fulfillment, retention, and agility in adapting to changes in technology use.

Primeau Velo is a Canadian bicycle retailer that struggled at first to compete with new ecommerce sellers. The company decided to implement an omnichannel strategy that integrated all aspects of its business and streamlined the customer service experience across its website, live chat, in-store, and mobile channels. In just one year, Primeau Velo increased its sales by 27%. Primeau Velo also discovered that 20% of its in-store customers had spoken to an associate before their visits, and those who had initiated chat sessions were 30% more likely to make a purchase.

Omnichannel marketing case study

Omnichannel marketing for finance

The banking and financial services industry is becoming more customer-centric as its service model evolves from primarily brick-and-mortar to a digital environment. The majority of active banking customers today use online and mobile channels, and McKinsey reports that 80% of all banking customer touchpoints now occur digitally.

At the same time, these digital channels account for only 25% of sales. It turns out that even customers who enjoy banking through an app still want to meet with a representative face-to-face when it comes to complex products like investments or mortgages. An omnichannel strategy for banks, therefore, redesigns physical spaces to focus on these complex sales while optimizing digital channels for simpler everyday transactions — with personalized messages for customers based on what they’re seeking.

When TSB realized its approach to marketing wasn’t giving a full picture of its banking clients, the company adopted an omnichannel strategy that combined data from its online and offline channels to give a holistic view of every customer that updates in real time. TSB can now personalize messages based on how customers behave online, and the results are measurable. After customers shopping online for mortgages started receiving targeted information about TSB’s offerings, the number of loan applications increased by 400% in just one year.

omnichannel marketing for finance

Omnichannel marketing for B2B brands

In 2016, B2B customers used an average of 5 channels to engage with sellers. Today, they use 10 or more channels, according to McKinsey research. One reason for the jump is that B2B clients increasingly research their purchases online through review sites, webinars, industry reports, and social media content before contacting a sales representative to close a deal. In short, they want the flexibility that comes from combining online and in-person interactions as they progress through the sales process.

Obramax, a Brazilian building materials retailer serving construction contractors, small businesses, and consumers, set out to revolutionize the B2B shopping experience by integrating physical and online hardware stores. Its omnichannel strategy gave professional contractors the ability to create multiple wish lists to use with clients as they prepared quotes and made it possible to both shop and complete sales in person, online, or over the phone with a sales associate. In its first nine months, Obramax processed more than 17,000 orders for more than 21,000 customers and began planning the launch of its second store.

Omnichannel marketing for B2B

Omnichannel marketing tools

With so much data and so many channels involved, omnichannel marketing can seem overwhelming at first. But the right tools can make it simple to implement. First and foremost, you need a centralized platform that can connect the dots between various types of data and determine what kinds of personalized messages should go to each customer and on which channels.

If you’re using disparate data solutions, it’s nearly impossible to create a seamless omnichannel experience. An integrated technology stack that allows you to see all customer data in one place is essential to getting a complete picture of customer behavior and providing personalized experiences. A unified solution that combines all your data and connects all your channels sets the stage for automated, customized messages and campaigns — and makes it easy to measure success.

Some key factors to look for in an omnichannel marketing platform include:

The right platform will allow you to take control of your data, use it to generate personalized messages to customers at all points in the customer journey, improve customer satisfaction, and ultimately increase revenue.

Getting started with omnichannel marketing

A data-driven omnichannel approach can open up exciting new possibilities for customer engagement, satisfaction, and loyalty.

Adobe Campaign is an integrated marketing platform that can help you get started by connecting your online and offline marketing to improve speed, efficiency, personalization, and reporting. Organizations that use Adobe Campaign are seeing up to a 293% ROI and experiencing a payback period of just six months, according to Forrester research.

Ready to learn more about Adobe Campaign and how it can help you develop an omnichannel marketing strategy?

Watch an overview video to explore its many powerful features, or request a free custom demo to see it in action.