Nov 15, 2012

Omni-Channel Marketing: The Hot New Digital Strategy Buzzword

Recently, during one of my MBA readings I came across a buzzword I hadn’t heard before, but the concept surrounding this buzzword was all-too familiar. Omni-channel marketing is an iteration of multi-channel marketing and cross-channel marketing. While it is not all that different from the concept the integrated marketing, this view of the new and improved multi-channel or cross-channel marketing is starting to make its mark on businesses in all industry.

Let’s explore the idea of omni-channel marketing a bit further…

There are three key pieces when thinking about omni-channel marketing: platform awareness, seamless consumer experience and reporting + data.

Platform awareness means platforms being aware of each other. Omni-channel marketing is about creating a circle of awareness across digital channels - having your brand’s website know what experience a consumer has had on Facebook or Pinterest, how that consumer has interacted with a company’s app and what types of digital in-store experiences a consumer may have had. Seamless consumer experience is about being able to take the awareness aspect and create a continuous story that transcends across channels so that the consumer experiences the brand in the same way anywhere.

Reporting and data is critical to the success of any marketing strategy, but even more so for omni-channel marketing as it is the key to understanding the consumer profile information gathered. Without a strong, sophisticated reporting and data collection tool, the awareness and seamlessness pieces are void. For omni-channel marketing it is critical for this data collection to be collected in such a way that your company can complied the data into a dynamically updating database and paying even more attention to that data to build a profile of your consumer.

Digital strategy that embraces this thinking understands that reaching current and potential customers across all channels means customizing and optimizing each channel. For brands, in-particular retail stores, it means integrating your physical and your digital interactivity. The idea surfaced as retailers were faced with the reality that more consumers were moving to online shopping, specifically mobile shopping, and less were shopping in-store. So what’s a retailer to do? Rethink how to engage consumers and bring them back in-store by linking the digital with the physical. 

So by now I’m sure you are intrigued, maybe a little bit confused and wondering if there are any real examples of companies engaging in this new thinking. And my answer…there are no exceptional examples of companies or brands using omni-channel marketing to its fullest potential, but there are several moving in this new direction.

Generally companies with successful multi-channel strategies are also “ones to watch” as leaders for the success of omni-channel marketing.

Starbucks – Starbucks has done a great job of establishing brand consistency across all marketing channels. The company has recently integrated a strong CRM system via mobile channels with the Starbucks rewards system for brand loyalists. Your rewards card balance is stored on your mobile phone and all you need to do is swipe and go.

Macys – Macys was an early investor in digital merchandizing and marketing capabilities. Macys email marketing program leverage cross-channel information to delivery nearly individualized campaigns to subscribers. Additionally, the company has brought digital in-store with the introduction of “Beauty Spot” as an in-store digital experience. In-line with the company’s email strategy, the in-store digital experience also focused on the consumer rather than the manufacturer. Macys also offers a smartphone check-in feature allows in-store consumers to access and use coupons while in the store.

Additionally, other retailers, such as Target, are starting to put their “toe-in-the-water” with this approach during the holiday season. Target is putting QR codes on the top 20 toys this holiday season allowing shopper to scan the product to an online wish list and buy later. While not a super creative digital idea, it is perfect for holiday shopping and their target audience as a first move into the digital and traditional store integration.

The final thing to remember (and the most important point) is that omni-channel marketing isn’t just a cool new marketing buzzword, it is change. A change in your marketing strategy, a change in your digital strategy, a change in your business strategy.