For marketers, reaching a mass audience today is easier than ever, with numerous channels available to pump promotional materials through. Social media provides a home for campaigns that allows them to be viewed instantly by millions of people, and offers the opportunity to insert a clear call-to-action that directs visitors to the purchase point, in a way that would have been unfeasible just a few years ago. E-mail marketing has evolved greatly, and there are new and more innovative ways to advertise in stores as well to get customers to purchase, such as texting offers straight to people’s phones as they browse.
However, while campaigns are now instantly going somewhere that is highly visible, they also have to compete for attention with the thousands of other firms who are trying to do the same thing. Whereas before, marketers were far out at sea alone shouting for help and hoping that someone heard them, now they are now right by the coast, only they’re surrounded by people who also need rescuing and they’re hoping instead that someone hears them first. Not only this, but marketing on different channels need to be balanced and working in harmony. If the promotions on different channels are not working together, they are working against each other.
Over the past couple of years, the term ’omni-channel marketing’ has really taken off as a way of enabling this. Omni-channel marketing is the development of new approaches for posting on different channels - physical store, online website, different social media platforms, mobile apps - and having these play off of each other. It is distinguishable from multi-channel marketing in that it adapts to each individual channels, rather than simply posting the same information across all platforms. So, in a basic example, if a customer leaves a comment on Facebook expressing an interest in a certain product but needs a certain feature, a custom tailored answer points to a link to the product and tells the customer that the feature is available as can be seen on the linked page.
In a world that is increasingly seeing users shop on a number of different devices and platforms, and with many different demographics shopping in many different ways, the importance of this is clear. However, according to a survey conducted by the CMO Club in partnership with Rakuten Marketing, many firms are failing to implement omni-channel marketing. CMO Club found that 55% of respondents have yet to implement omnichannel marketing, while just 11% of CMO have put integration across online and offline channels. Many also lack the resources and investment, with 64% reporting that they need more to succeed in omnichannel marketing.
Investment is a clear need if companies are going to realize the benefits of omni-channel marketing. It requires marketers to measure every bit of data on every channel, and better make use of the data that comes in. This requires investment in the skills and training needed to bring this in. According to CMO Club, 34% still evaluate each channel individually, which isn’t good enough. Customers behave differently according to the channel they are using, both in terms of responsiveness and in buying strategy. The primary challenge facing marketers is fitting that into a multi-step communication framework. Customers want to feel like they are getting a personalized experience, or they will pay attention to someone who is. To hark back to the earlier metaphor, if you see a crowd of people shouting for help, you’re more likely to focus on the one who is shouting your name.