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How omnichannel marketing connects experiences to drive better outcomes
September 10, 2021
The term “omnichannel” is ubiquitous in modern advertising, but despite the word’s pervasive use in industry publications and war rooms, many marketers struggle to execute omnichannel initiatives and capitalize on its potential.
The roots of “omnichannel” date back to the early days of the electronics retailer Best Buy. The brick and mortar giant was seeking to compete with Walmart’s electronics department and designed a customer-centric approach that centered the customer both in-store and online, while providing post-sale support after each transaction. This form of assembled commerce was coined as “omnichannel” shortly after the turn of the 21st Century.
Omnichannel marketing shares many similarities with multichannel marketing—both connect with consumers across different channels of communication—but the latter silos initiatives within channels, preventing the integration necessary for personalization. While there are similarities between multichannel and omnichannel, assuming they are synonymous can prevent brands from providing the most value to consumers.
The major difference between multichannel and omnichannel is the level of integration.
For example, say you’re a clothing company and your business has social channels (i.e, Instagram), owned retail stores, third-party stores (i.e., Target, Walmart, REI), and a corporate website for e-commerce. These channels operate like different swimlanes that drive the customer to your product, brand, or service at the end of the lane—they provide multiple ways for your brand to connect with—and market to—consumers. However, multi-channel marketing can be siloed, which means a customer might have a disconnected brand experience if they move across swimlanes.
In contrast, omnichannel marketing operates with existing channels as spokes on a wheel, and instead of driving to a product, brand, or service, these channels operate around the customer, who is at the center of the wheel. This approach means consumers experience a connected and personalized experience, regardless of channel. Omnichannel looks different across various industries, but the pay-off for consumers is the same—a better customer experience through personalization, a more integrated brand strategy, and a more loyal customer base.
The value of omnichannel is clear, but many marketers struggle to make the shift: in a January 2021 study, 42% of US B2C marketers still said they were looking to improve omnichannel communications.
There are a number of common obstacles when it comes to executing omnichannel initiatives, including: activating different data sets in a consistent manner; creating enough content to truly personalize touch points with customized messaging; navigating regulatory and privacy constraints, especially in the healthcare and financial industries.
Marketers facing these obstacles can use creative, data, and optimization to start building a connected experience that can deliver foundational insights for their omnichannel approach.
Leverage and scale creativity
Dynamic creativity is at the heart of omnichannel marketing because, at its core, omnichannel is about reaching the right consumer, in the right place, at the right time—with personalized content that drives them to action. Offering this level of customized experience requires a repository of content that reflects the varied needs of different audiences, channels, and desired outcomes.
Having a large creative repository can feel daunting for marketers new to omnichannel marketing or to those with smaller marketing budgets, with this in mind, start small and simple, focusing on the micro-customer journey. For example, a brand creates three ads: the first introduces the product in an attention-capturing video; the second demonstrates how to sign up and learn more at the site, and the third highlights a discount and provides the registration link.
As ad performance helps optimize creative and when there is a demand for new creative work, start scaling to a bigger “macro-journey,” expanding to multiple channels and integrating all interactions across channels.
Use data to drive integration
It’s not truly omnichannel until data is connected. For true omnichannel success, brands need to map how data will connect through third-party and owned channels. If a customer clicks on an ad to the site, views details about a product, and then moves on, the next email they get from the brand should feature that product--but that won’t happen unless site visitation data is integrated with email data. Every channel has its own ad and performance data, and these data sets are not automatically linked in real-time. This can require a big lift as it requires a multi-disciplinary approach to collecting and optimizing data—but the benefit is worth it.
Data integration enables personalization at scale for each customer across creative and channels. Without that connection, a customer can see the same ad within and across channels, at multiple times, and without acknowledgment of any previous engagement with their brand--which can be tiresome. If these channels were connected, a brand could serve a different ad in a different channel, that’s personalized to the actions that customer took on your website.
For example, data about website visitation can be used to inform email delivery, which then syncs across media channels and is visible at the regional level for sales teams.
A simple place to start is to integrate your website with media channels, like Facebook. 75% of B2B marketers are using Facebook & Instagram to retarget, making it the most commonly used retargeting platform. These platforms enable retargeting based on both a user’s interaction with your website and previous engagement with your brand’s content on Facebook or Instagram. Placing a Facebook pixel on your website can allow Facebook to know when a person using their platform has also viewed a page on your site.
Additionally, by connecting owned property activities (site, blog, content hub) to your customer relationship management (CRM) platform, you can personalize your subject lines, content modules, and call to action based on previous interactions, thereby increasing open rates and driving customer engagement.
Execute, optimize, repeat
Omnichannel campaigns require consolidated data sets, which means paid media (ad spend) and owned performance data (i.e., social channels, website, in-person interactions) need to be monitored and continually optimized. Because omnichannel marketing is customer centric, consumer behavior dictates the tactic used next, with each brand interaction altering the experience, this requires ongoing optimization in order to remain effective.
For example, a consumer sees a Facebook ad for your product, introducing them to your brand. Then, they follow-up and watch a video on your website. Because your channels and platforms are integrated through a Facebook pixel on your website, when the consumer returns to Facebook the next day, the social platform delivers a “re-engagement” ad based on how they interacted with your site. This ongoing optimization delivers a smoother, more personalized customer experience with your brand.
Most omnichannel marketing is more complex than a simple Facebook pixel, which is why executing and optimizing your campaigns require the cooperation of your media agencies. Ensure your media partners can target against identified segments, serve messages in sequence, and retarget based on behaviors or first-party data. Develop your performance and optimization plan with your agencies to track not only your success, but also learnings that will optimize your integration plans.
Develop a shared vision
Omnichannel is more complicated than multi-channel, in large part because it removes siloes and requires high levels of integration across creative, media, and technology teams. The good news is you don’t have to do it all at once! There are many best practices and small steps you can take to get your organization or brand to adopt an omnichannel approach. Start by developing a shared vision across teams, ensure you have the creative work to deliver on experiences, use data to drive integration, and then continually execute and optimize over time.
Connect experiences to drive better outcomes
If you’re in an industry that has a hard time enabling omnichannel, you can still deliver personalized content and build a connected experience. This foundation can prove the value needed to justify integrating data that enables omnichannel experiences. Start small and remember to check in on the progress and optimize throughout.