Consumers have witnessed unprecedented change in recent decades:
- Shifts in behavior and demand have opened new market
- Existing markets have seriously expanded their offerings
- The above has triggered an avalanche of products and services
The digitalization of the marketplace has freed consumers and merchants from the restraints of face-to-face and physical marketing; the resulting hike in consumerism has led to the establishment of what we know today as ecommerce, which has completely transformed the way we shop. We’ve not only seen incredible growth, but a serious shake-up in the way we, as marketers, engage with our customers. One of the biggest and, in my opinion, most important changes of the past decade, is the development of omnichannel.
Most of us can remember when there were only a few communication channels at our disposal. What’s exciting for brands is that there’s now a myriad of options for engagement. However, It’s a tougher job for marketers – in an omnichannel environment – to know where to spend their money and how to keep their message consistent, especially when the customer’s in the driving seat.
We now live in an omnichannel world. Let’s look at how we got here in 5 leaps.
1. The rise of inbound marketing
Brands can no longer dictate an idea to customers. Instead, customers fuel the idea and brands shape their offering in response. It’s a complete role reversal.
Blasting a one-size-fits-all message to an anonymous audience isn’t that effective, while sacrificing budget to blindly mass market is simply a waste of money. To meet the needs of modern consumers, marketers need to align their positioning to the characteristics of their target audience.
Inbound vs. Outbound
Outbound marketing was effective 30 years ago. But today it can provoke annoyance and can be highly interruptive to on-the-go consumers. Take broadcast commercials, for instance; we all know how intensely intrusive and irritating it is to have your catch-up binge interrupted by the same carousel of adverts.
A softer, two-way approach is needed to engage today’s consumers. The move to ecommerce opened up many possibilities, providing brands and customers with an array of platforms to interact with (i.e. responsive websites and apps).
Consumers now actively participate online; this has enabled marketers to better recognize individuals and tailor messages to those most likely to purchase. Since inbound marketing lets the user come to the brand, businesses can capture better quality leads while nurturing their one-to-one customer experience.
This activity also (happily) drives cost efficiencies; targeting those ripest for conversion is more economical than broadcasting to the masses. Four times as many marketers say inbound provides higher ROI. Outbound on the other hand involves more moving parts and its effectiveness is much harder to track.
2. The shift to online
The digitalization of commerce has brought new opportunities to consumers and businesses. It’s caused a dramatic shift from one-way marketing to seamless, two-way communications.
The rapid development in technology, along with an inflated population, has resulted in a demand for:
- new markets
- better products
- improved methods of selling
- convenience when buying
According to Business Insider, ‘nothing can stop the shift to online shopping’. Especially in the case of retail where we’re witnessing a mass exodus of department stores.
So. Much. Choice.
Consumers have an infinite number of products to choose from – and countless brands to buy them from. They also control how they want to communicate and interact ws. Marketers have plentiful ways of delivering the first-class experiences demanded by omnichannel customers.
On the flipside, while technology empowers businesses to market effectively, consumers are empowered to dodge the marketing they’re not interested in. Email recipients can easily overlook (or unsubscribe) from messages landing in their inbox, while web users can download add-blocking software on their browser. Tricky.
Customers now seek value from experiences as well as from products above all else. Brands need to focus on the online journey in its entirety, making sure each touchpoint is consistent and seamless.
3. Going mobile
Handheld devices have transformed our lives and revolutionized how businesses market and sell. Mobile marketing has a direct and wide reach, empowering brands to build awareness and cement customer loyalty.
Smartphones and tablets are increasingly the go-to devices of communication across many demographics – from teenagers, to city commuters, to retired couples. For many of us, our iPhone or Android can’t be more than an arm’s length away; as well as being our primary mode of communication, it’s also our morning alarm, music apparatus, fitness tracker and purchasing device.
Omnichannel consumers are ‘always on’
81% of all adults in the UK have a smartphone and the time they spend on it is rising (Comapi, 2018). In 2017, UK consumers spent 1 hour and 59 minutes on their smartphones per day. In 2019, this figure is set to increase to 2 hours and 14 minutes.
Omnichannel consumers rely heavily on their mobiles. So much screen time means they’re ‘always on’ and highly attentive towards notifications. For instance, 90% of SMS messages are read within 10 seconds. For brands that adopt smart tactics and clever targeting, they can win big on mobile.
But most brands need to finesse their mobile presence. While many have adopted a ‘mobile-friendly’ approach (the bare minimum) to their marketing efforts, retailers in particular are championing a ‘mobile-first’ approach. The ‘it works on mobile’ attitude isn’t enough. Being ‘mobile first’ is designing for the smallest screen and then scaling up. It’s the most effective way of maximizing responsiveness across all devices and delivering a positive first-touch experience for mobile users. This helps drive conversion and sets the scene for a great customer journey.
4. Customers call the shots
Omnichannel customers want to immerse themselves in the world of the brands they advocate – and they’ve certainly got the These are consumers’ platforms of influence. They can conceptualize ideas, create persuasive content and converse en masse about brands
To leverage the power of social activity, brands need to be at the core of every single conversation. Social content is the new, reinvented storefront; 47% of millennials cite social media as an influencer of their buying decisions. Whilst these social surfers might avoid marketing through more traditional mediums, they’re likely to seek advice from their peers on the best products and services.
Social proof and trust points
The term ‘social influencer’ was coined to describe individuals who, having attained a large social following, drive the collective opinion of their audiences. The content they create, such as reviews or commentaries, will no doubt affect purchasing behavior. This is especially powerful for brands looking to monetize the social sphere.
To gain from social, businesses need to incorporate ‘trust points’ in their marketing practices across every channel. Today, B2C brands share the meaningful experiences of their customers, while B2B companies shout about client success.
In both cases, brands build trust through exhibiting a strong and emotive connection to their customers – your problem is my problem, your success is my success, etc. – as well as a true understanding of their needs. The best way to communicate brand credibility is through authentic storytelling. Prospective customers who relate to these powerful stories will want their share in the winnings.
5. Starting your journey to omnichannel
Product, price and experience are the trinity of a business transaction in 2018. Experience is increasingly dictating the purchasing decision; to choose one brand over another on the basis of experience comes naturally to consumers. To address this, marketers need to embrace omnichannel as the core pillar of their strategy.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating; 91% of businesses experience a lift in customer retention rates after adopting a channel-agnostic approach to their marketing. Brands that aren’t restricted to a particular medium can concentrate on the bigger picture: optimizing the customer journey.
The benefits are what every business dreams of:
- more revenue
- wider profits margins
- sustainable growth
- loyal customers
Omnichannel is embedded in the behavior of modern-day consumers. Armed with a fully-loaded mobile device, consumers are now free to shop anywhere, anytime. They expect consistent and coherent experiences at every turn. Businesses that neglect customer needs will struggle to weather the digital storm, while customer-led brands will shape the marketing space for decades to come.
Tink Taylor is an eec board member and Chair of the eec Nominations Committee. He is also Founder and President of dotmailer.
 Omnichannel: The Secret to Digital Advertising Success [Infographic], Marketing Pros, 2017