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Understanding Shoppers in 2018 (The Omni-Channel Experience)

| eCommerce Marketing

Things change fast with digital marketing.  Lightening fast.

Just recently we posted an article with marketing terms you need to know in 2018.  Heading the list is the term multi-channel marketing.

Well, we’re not even out of January yet and there is a new term ready to supplant multi-channel marketing in importance.  This term is omni-channel marketing.

Actually, we’re not feeling too bad because omni-channel marketing is kind of a buzzword.   But in this case, there is an important distinction to recognize.

Multi-channel marketing refers to the different channels consumers use to find and buy your product, such as Google, social media, or local advertising.

Cross-channel marketing are the tactical efforts marketers make to follow consumers across channels, then get those channels to drive people towards conversions.

Omni-channel marketing recognizes that consumers today now plan their shopping experience with the intent to use multiple channels simultaneously.   This is, of course, a result of the digital age, where mobile devices let us research our shopping options where ever we go.

Two examples (with two more buzzword titles) that illustrate the point are “showrooming” and “webrooming”.   You’ll probably recognize the behaviors even if you haven’t heard these terms.

Showrooming

You’re in a department store and see a nice pair of dress shoes.  You try them on and like them.  They are made by a trusted brand.  You’re ready to buy, but the price is a bit higher than you’d like to pay.

You note the brand, style, size and color.  You thank the salesperson for their help and say you’ll think about it.

Then you head to Starbucks and get on your phone to search for the very same shoes at a lower price.

This common behavior is called showrooming.

Webrooming

You’re researching online for a backpack that will work well for trail-running.  You go to Amazon and various websites that sell outdoor gear and find a number of packs that look suitable.

But you hesitate.  You wonder how the pack will really fit, and how it will feel when you’re running down the trail.  You’d really like to try it on.

You know of several retailers in the area that carry these bags.  You make some calls and visit a couple of places with the intent of trying on the backpacks you’re interested in.

You know how much you could get one for online, so unless their price is close you don’t intend to buy from the store.

This is webrooming.  You discover a product you’d like online, but decide you’d like to physically see it before you buy it, so you go to a local retailer that has it on the shelf.

 

Dealing With the Omni-Channel Consumer

Showrooming and webrooming are two common examples of omni-channel marketing at work.  But digitally empowered consumers show this behavior in more ways every day.

One example is the influence of reviews and reputation.  A restaurant, retailer, or even a lawyer might have someone standing at their front door or on their website ready to become a customer – except they’re tapping away on their phone to find reviews of the business.  They want to make sure they’re getting the best option available.

The point here is that omni-channel marketing accounts for the different ways consumers interact with a business.  This approach predicts cross-channel behavior and creates a seamless, integrated experience for shoppers.  Also, the business takes the vital step of making sure that as people cross channels, their marketing tactics are working together to move the shopper towards converting.

There are a lot of examples of this you’ve already seen, most of which are a response to mobile connectivity.

For example, a restaurant that has a “check our reviews on Yelp” sticker on their front door is doing omni-channel marketing.  They predict that a potential customer might be standing in front of their restaurant, unsure if they want to give them a try.  They know people like to check reviews, and they’ve got a strong presence on Yelp.  So they encourage people to go online and take a look, knowing it will help sway them to come through the door.

Best Buy counters showrooming by putting signs around the store noting that they’ll match prices from their main online competitors.  They expect shoppers to get out their phones and compare prices right there, on the showroom floor.

In fact, the single biggest area where omni-channel marketing is having an impact is with physical retailers dealing with showrooming and webrooming.

Many retail stores now also operate eCommerce stores where they can have product lines at lower prices.  This also allows them to have more inventory.  In 2018 and beyond, expect more salespeople to be walking the floor with iPads.  If they don’t have exactly what you’re looking for in-stock, they’ll look it up and order for delivery directly to your address.

There are many apps that are now facilitating omni-channel marketing.  Online restaurant order and food delivery apps, for example.  Also, things like the Starbucks rewards app, which lets you check and reload your card via phone, website, in-store, or on the app.

In fact, the Yelp sticker on a window is already an outdated tactic.  Top Rated Local offers an app that let’s people get an aggregated review score on a business instantly.

 

Channeling Your Strategy

Omni-channel marketing is a buzzword that’s likely to fade away.  But the concept it denotes will be critical for developing a digital marketing strategy in the coming years.

Businesses need to start thinking about how consumers experience their brand in a unified way, and how they expect that experience to be holistic, even across multiple channels.

For example, if you’re a small local business, you need to start focusing as much on your Facebook business page as your website.  A lead might find your website on Google search, check your reviews on Top Rated Local, then drift over to your Facebook page to get a sense of your personality.  They see some cool posts and more good reviews, so they decide to message you right there on Facebook.

You have to be as responsive to these Facebook messages as you are to your website forms on phone calls.  People now expect this level of service across channels.

Likewise, everything you do with local, offline marketing must match your online material.  All your branding needs to look the same across every channel.  If you have a deal advertised at a local event, that same deal needs to be on your website and social media channels.

The thing that will help you the most when integrating your marketing is having a marketing strategy that underlies all the tactics and channels you use.  Both your message and the experience it creates needs to understand the journey your customers are taking.  You know they’re going to research their options on mobile, so your strategy must plan for that behavior.

Omni-channel marketing works to your advantage when you create more opportunities to connect with your brand.  It’s digital marketing’s wheelhouse.

 

Many Channels, One Path

A lead does a search to answer a question and finds a blog you optimized.  They read the info check out your site.  You look like a good option, so they subscribe to your email newsletter.

They read your newsletter content on and off for a month, then one day notice the icon to like you on Facebook.  They start checking some of your Facebook posts, and you start to retarget them with ads.

These ads offer a free white paper on an important topic.  This is gated content that requires they provide a phone number.

Now, after they’ve been interacting with your brand for months, you give them a phone call.  If you’re smart, you’re using a CRM so you have details on everything they’ve done and all the marketing material they’ve received from you.  You use these notes as the basis for your conversation.

Though there are many channels you’re communicating through, there is consistency in your message.  Assume that potential customers are well informed.  They’ve checked the competition, they know what the best deals are.  You’re ready to meet these expectations with the value of your offer.

Digital creates a more complex sales environment with highly informed consumers.  In 2018 and beyond, understand how it all comes together, or get left behind.

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