What is omnichannel marketing? Definition, examples, and tips
Omnichannel is a holistic approach to marketing that’s inclusive of every channel. The key difference between multichannel and omnichannel marketing is that multichannel marketing includes a limited selection of content channels, while omnichannel marketing includes all of them.
Whether you’re walking into a store or swiping on a mobile app, shopping is a unique experience for everyone. Think about the last time you made a purchase—what sparked it? Did you see a commercial? Receive an email? Walk past a display in the mall? Whether you notice or not, marketing is part of everything you do. Every brand interaction along your path to purchase plays a role in your decision to ultimately buy an item. So how can brands ensure they reach shoppers at each stage?
The answer is an omnichannel strategy. An omnichannel marketing strategy can help you seamlessly integrate all your channels and make your numerous marketing tactics work together effectively and efficiently. By understanding how your customers shop, you can take a customer-centric approach to connecting with audiences on different channels as they’re moving towards a purchase. With even more technology-enabled touchpoints and unique shopping experience opportunities, consumers expect more from brands. That’s why it’s critical to integrate every single one of your brands’ channels into your omnichannel strategy.
Before we go any further, let’s break down what that really means.
In marketing, omnichannel refers to a customer-centric approach that integrates all channels, delivering a unified and consistent brand experience across physical stores, apps, and websites. It ensures customers can seamlessly interact with the brand across different platforms, enhancing their overall brand experience.
“Omnichannel strategy” refers to a brand’s holistic approach to every customer touchpoint across channels. With omnichannel strategies, brands strive to give customers a consistent, cohesive experience across both digital and brick-and-mortar touchpoints. By approaching every channel as part of a single brand experience, all the pieces work together to reach audiences across the customer journey.
In addition, an omnichannel strategy encompasses the entire customer journey, from brand discovery at the beginning of the marketing funnel, all the way through to purchase, customer loyalty, and beyond. A good omnichannel strategy makes the buying journey smooth and frictionless because audiences are having the same experience with your brand, across channels.
While omnichannel and multichannel sound similar, it’s important to understand the key differences to ensure you’re implementing the right strategies for your brand. Multichannel is more of an umbrella term to include any strategy that involves more than one channel. Omnichannel, on the other hand, goes a step further to include or account for every single channel—it’s all-encompassing. Let’s dive into a few key differences that this distinction creates.
First, omnichannel experiences are a bit more complex and nonlinear. They match the nonlinear nature of most modern customer journeys. Multichannel strategies are more straightforward—they create an unswerving line between channels.
Next, while an omnichannel approach can act as an entire business model, multichannel is more operational. Consequently, a multichannel approach may lack back-end system integration - one channel can’t transfer information about audience engagement to another channel. For example, channels in omnichannel strategies can make live updates, such as sending an email reminder of items a customer showed interest in on their website, to enable more useful and relevant customer experience across these channels. A multichannel approach doesn’t allow for this type of seamless experience.
As customers engage with a brand on different channels, an omnichannel strategy gets smarter. Multichannel is static, but omnichannel is fluid. Similarly, omnichannel strategies tend to focus more on customers, while multichannel often puts the brand at the center.
Learn more about the differences between omnichannel and multichannel.
Advertising technology is advancing and consumer behaviors are shifting, so your marketing needs to adjust accordingly. Creating an integrated omnichannel strategy can help you tailor unique messages for your audiences, no matter where they encounter your brand. An omnichannel strategy can also help ensure that your brand presence and messaging is consistent across all your marketing channels.
In addition, omnichannel is important because consistent interactions can lead to better customer experiences. And better customer experiences—combined with more engagement opportunities across channels—can result in more conversions.
Third, omnichannel gives your brand the opportunity to reach the right customers at the right time. This enhanced outreach can lead to more optimized media spending and, as a result, increased return on investment (ROI).
Understanding the importance of this approach, let’s explore how you can create your strategy.
Creating an omnichannel customer experience requires a solid foundation and integrated approach. Your channels must work together collaboratively to drive the best experience for your customers. There are five key steps to building your approach: insights collection, analysis, segmentation, logistical consideration development, and optimization.
Step 1. Research and collect insights
As you may remember, an omnichannel approach is all about putting the customer at the center. But before you can build your customer-centric marketing approach, you must understand your customers’ needs.
To start, it’s critical to collect insights on your current customer experience. Begin by actually walking through your brand channels yourself. Scroll through your website, purchase a product, reach out to a chatbot, and try to put yourself in the shoppers’ shoes. Is the experience seamless? Were there any pain points? Did anything require too many steps?
Then, begin reaching out to customers through voice-of-customer (VOC) surveys, customer reviews, or focus groups. Listen to how they react to the shopping experience and get to know what’s working and not working from their point of view. Capturing this baseline feedback and honing in on thoughts from your audience firsthand will give you a very real interpretation of where you should adapt your strategy.
Finally, capture research from teams that handle various pieces of your business. Try to speak with someone from every channel’s team—maybe an email marketing associate or even a cashier at a brick-and-mortar store. Learning their perspective on their area of expertise will help you get the inside scoop.
Step 2. Analyze data
The valuable learnings you just captured are only useful if you take the time to analyze and understand them. So, the next step is to turn this research into actionable insights. And remember that this experience is all about customers, not your brand. Putting a customer-centric lens on everything you do will help make the experience an authentic one for your audience.
Similarly, it’s critical to avoid making assumptions. It may be easy to draw conclusions from your own experiences as a shopper, but you aren’t necessarily your intended audience or representative of the whole population. Try to look at the research with a fresh perspective to really take in the implications of each insight.
The most important thing to keep an eye out for in this step is your customers’ needs. Being able to anticipate those needs will help you drive change and build your omnichannel methodology in a useful and efficient way.
Step 3. Segment and tailor
Now that you understand your customer, it’s time to map the customer journey.
Omnichannel enables you to tailor messages to a variety of audiences. That’s why a key piece of this specific step is to map that customer journey. Once you understand how audiences interact with your brand, you can guide those interactions and insert your messages in the right places at the right times.
Step 4. Consider the more tactical logistics
While looking at your omnichannel strategy from a wide lens can help maintain consistency and drive a cohesive brand identity, it’s also critical to consider the smaller, more tactical logistics of this approach.
Do your sales representatives speak in the same brand tone of voice as your online chatbots? Are you offering customers help on the website? Is it easy to make a payment once customers reach the last step of their journey?
These are all questions to consider before moving on to the last step of this process.
Step 5. Test, measure, and optimize
Finally, the last step is to continue learning and optimizing. Just like any other piece of marketing, your omnichannel strategy should be constantly evolving. This will help optimize your creative, messaging, and budget to build long-term customer relationships and maximize your ROI.
Remember, omnichannel takes every single channel into consideration—that includes both in-store and online touchpoints. Let’s take a look at some examples of omnichannel marketing to make sure you don’t miss one while building out your strategy.
Online channels are becoming increasingly important as consumer behaviors are shifting. A great example of a digital touchpoint is a mobile rewards app. These apps enable customers to both order and purchase products directly on their phones, while collecting rewards points.
Another example of an online channel would be any form of email marketing. These could be emails customers receive soon after they purchase a product—perhaps with an incentive to return to the store. They could include a coupon, free item, or other deal. Email interactions could also be weekly or monthly subscription-based messages from the brand that remind customers of a new product or service.
Online channels also include social media. You can remarket to audiences that visit your website from social media channels to help your brand stay top-of-mind the next time they shop.
These kinds of ads alongside other forms of online touchpoints work interconnectedly to send the right message to an audience. The capabilities of technology and digital media help make your omnichannel strategy even more tailored to your audience.
Those online channels can also work hand-in-hand with brick-and-mortar experiential marketing. Omnichannel strategies strive to create consistent shopping experiences, whether customers are engaging with your brand online or in person—this can include interactions with customer service representatives or cashiers, or even viewing in-store displays and interactive experiences. While technology has enabled the online side to grow, these in-store experiences are still very meaningful and can be valuable in your broader omnichannel strategy.
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Now that you’re more familiar with omnichannel overall, it’s important to consider a few key trends:
- Customers are shopping both online and offline: Shoppers appreciate having both options, so integrating both online and offline channels ensures you can reach relevant audiences.
- AI-enabled chatbots are becoming more popular: These smart, human-like bots can help with simple and complicated tasks. They even simulate human speech to feel more relatable while helping customers.
- More channels can mean more engagement: If more channels can lead to more engagement, and if more engagement can lead to higher purchase and retention rates, then it's time to start building out even more channels under your omnichannel strategy.
- Growth of cross-device interactions: Unsurprisingly, customers are using a variety of screens. In fact, they’re even using multiple devices at the same time throughout their shopping journeys. It’s critical to keep this in mind when building out your online commerce and remarketing strategies.
- Modern supply chains and new technology enable an increased interconnectedness of online stores and physical experiences: New technology, innovation, and automation mean everyone and everything is more connected. Leveraging these seamless interaction opportunities is pivotal to ensuring customers have a great experience with your brand, no matter where they encounter you.
Customers engage with your brand across channels every day— your brand can enhance those connections through an omnichannel strategy. Omnichannel marketing strategies are critical parts of your business plan, and they’re essential to the long-term growth of your business. Now that you understand the definition, the importance, and the key differences between omnichannel versus multichannel strategies, it’s time to make that knowledge actionable. Get started with your strategy with help from Amazon Ads.