Marketing in 2021: omni-channel comms explained

Why using multiple communication mediums to deliver a consistent customer experience and marketing campaigns could see your business prosper.

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It doesn’t matter how good your business, service or product; if you aren’t marketing it effectively, you’ll miss out on sales. All the more reason to adopt an omni-channel marketing strategy, using multiple channels such as voice, email, web chat and SMS to increase your brand’s contact with existing and potential customers.

The benefits of doing so can be considerable. Marketing campaigns that target customers via three or more channels simultaneously can increase purchasing rates by 287 per cent, according to a recent Omnicom study.

But it’s not simply a matter of adopting more than one or two channels. How you engage with your customers on those channels is key. Above all you need to deliver a seamless, unified experience – to give your customers and any prospects a consistent experience regardless of whether they’re in store, looking at your website or browsing online via a mobile app or social media.

Building a stronger brand

In today’s digital world, it makes sense to strive for this consistency, according to marketing specialist and business coach Alison Morgan. Because it’s now so easy for people to research products and services, they often do so exhaustively. Having the same brand “look, feel and personality” and consistent messaging across all your channels may boost your credibility and increase the likelihood of turning prospects into customers and one-time buyers into loyal returners.

“People might look at four or more touchpoints – your bricks and mortar outlet, website, newsletter, online reviews, social media – before taking action,” Morgan explains.

“An omni-channel approach works because it allows people to feel like they know you and your brand, and that helps them to decide whether it’s right for them or not. Then, when they do get in contact, it’s a much easier sale. In the long term, you end up with a customer base that’s very matched with your business.”

An attractive, consistent online presence can offer customers the same sort of reassurance as a word-of-mouth recommendation, so while enterprises that don’t go down the omni-channel route may continue to do well out of existing customers and referrals, they could find winning new business from strangers challenging, Morgan believes.

Knowing your customer

An omni-channel strategy relies on working out where your customers are most active.

“Do they stand around with a phone in their hand all day?” Morgan asks. “Are they on social media and, if so, what platform are they using? Understanding your typical customer, [and] how they behave and act, will help you to determine the channels to concentrate on first.”

Of course, once you get started, you’ll get to know more and more about your customers. An additional benefit of multiple channels is the ability to collect and analyse data from a range of sources – typically a company’s website and social media pages, point of sales system, mailing list and loyalty program – to profile customers and target them with personalised offers via several channels.

Getting started

Many businesses will be tempted to begin with social media, but that needn’t be your sole focus. As a business owner, you don’t have any control over platforms like Facebook and Instagram, and changes to the way they operate could affect your ability to reach customers. Using your own website to capture data and generate communications should be a priority.

Mapping out your customer journey – the series of interactions someone has with your business from the time they become aware of your brand through to the point of sale and beyond – can help you determine how and when you might best connect with customers.

For some businesses, it could be sending an email or SMS offering a discount to individuals who make a web site enquiry. For others, it could be following up an initial purchase with further product recommendations.

It all about your customers

Following last year’s COVID-triggered online shopping surge, 2021 may see more companies incorporating emerging technologies like virtual and augmented reality into their omni-channel models, to give customers connecting with them digitally a better ‘physical’ experience. But beware: you’ll need to walk before you run. While some business owners try to tackle everything at once, a measured approach to omni-channel marketing can save you time and money, NAB Chief Marketing Officer Suzana Ristevski says.

“Typically, people get excited by the technology but they haven’t done enough thinking about strategy and how people want to interact with their brand,” Ristevski explains.

“They might make assumptions and then go and develop an amazing web browser application, for example, but if customers don’t want to use it, they’ve wasted their money.

“That’s why it’s important to focus on the customers first and, from there, work out which integrated experiences you want to follow up on first. Start small and gradually add new channels and capability, as you get to know more about what people want and how they prefer to be serviced.”

While larger organisations may have dedicated marketing departments driving their omni-channel strategies, medium and smaller businesses can still make excellent headway through more nimble approaches.

“Any business owner or marketing team that’s interested in customer experience or distribution channels can take this on,” Ristevski says.

Tools to make life easier

The good news for businesses is that omni-channel marketing needn’t cost a fortune. Many of the tools are either free or inexpensive.

Google Analytics allows you to track your social media and website traffic, letting you to see who’s looking at your business and what’s grabbing their attention.

Web-based services like Zapier and IFTTT can be used to share customer data across channels and between applications. They can automate activities; for instance, emailing or sending text messages to customers who provide their contact details, and monitoring social media platforms for mentions of your business.

Customer relationship management and marketing platforms like Hubspot and Zoho can help you create and distribute marketing content for all your digital channels.

“For between $70 and $200 a month, you can buy yourself a basic but effective omni-channel set-up,” Ristevski says.

Enjoying the returns

By letting you create stronger relationships and build your brand, omni-channel marketing can help you attract new customers and retain existing ones. That’s imperative for all businesses in today’s uncertain times.

“It might seem like hard work in the beginning, but over time it should get to a point where it gains momentum and your cost per sale is much lower than it used to be,” Morgan says.