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What Does Omni-Channel Mean?

March 8, 2018
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In recent years, you have probably heard the phrase “omni-channel” used in reference to marketing or retail. Omni-channel has evolved to become much more than just a buzzword. So what does it mean for your business and your marketing efforts?

Omni-Channel Defined

In simple terms, omni-channel refers to the integration of several marketing or sales channels in a way that they work together to provide your consumer with a holistic brand experience. This blended, customer-centric approach is a cohesive one that provides a consistent experience no matter how your customer is interacting with your brand. For example, whether they are shopping in a physical store, online from a computer or tablet, via mobile, on your social media, browsing your website or interacting with your brand in another way, their experience will be seamless.

Omni-Channel vs. Multi-Channel

The shift to omni-channel in the marketing landscape presents a departure from a more traditional multi-channel model. Although omni-channel is technically a multi-channel approach where various methods are presented to the consumer, it differs in the fact that the experience is completely and deeply integrated. So whether someone is visiting you in-store, on their desktop, on their phone, on Facebook or otherwise, the experience is smooth and all channels complement each other and work together. This can also apply to the brand experience the consumer receives through traditional media such as TV, radio or direct mail. In contrast, “multi-channel” simply means a company is using various methods of delivery, but they may function separately rather than being cohesive.

The Importance of Omni-Channel Marketing

With the huge selection of technology available to consumers today, it’s no surprise that omni-channel marketing models have become a go-to for any brand. Your customer could be interacting with your company from a number of different devices, each with a differing level of engagement and intimacy – so it’s crucial that each channel reinforces the other.

Using an omni-channel approach to your marketing and sales strategies comes with a number of advantages for both your brand and your customers. Benefits include the following:

  • You are able to reach customers no matter where they may be. This is probably the most obvious benefit of using an omni-channel marketing approach, but it’s worth calling out. In our fast-paced world, it’s more necessary than ever to reach your consumer in ways that are relevant to and convenient for them. Of course, the more channels you are utilizing cohesively, the more chances you have to reach your customer and provide them with a consistent, positive interaction — regardless of what device they are using or where they are.
  • It provides more sales opportunities. Another clear benefit that comes along with omni-channel marketing is the number of avenues you can use to make a sale. If your company sells a product or service, be sure your customer can make a purchase no matter how or where they are shopping! The more visible options there are available to them and the more convenient it is for them to complete a transaction, the more likely they are to do so. With today’s interactive media, sales can be made not only online and through mobile apps, but even directly via social media. This also affords the consumer a choice of how they may prefer to shop, making the experience more personalized and fulfilling.
  • Your customers stay consistently informed. When you are taking advantage of an omni-channel approach, you are providing your customer with a variety of different ways to interact with your brand. This means lots of opportunities to keep them informed and keep your brand top-of-mind if you are making contact consistently.  
  • You can provide a valuable brand experience every time. Every interaction, no matter the channel, is an opportunity for a great brand experience. The more value you provide to your customer and the more consistent their interactions are, the more engaged they will become. And the more engaged they are, the more positive the brand interactions they can have with you. You are in control of the content you share, so you have the power to influence your brand’s perception by making sure your customer has an excellent experience with every possible communication.
  • It provides insights and analytics about your customers. Being able to interact with your customer through several different channels also means receiving many different kinds of data about them based on the particular channel. This data will allow you to better understand who your customer is, what their habits are and what motivates them. This, in turn, gives you the chance to make their experiences more personalized and valuable. Through this targeting you are again creating a positive and engaging brand experience, which will boost customer trust and loyalty. Additionally, the analytic tools that come with different marketing channels can help you better measure ROI so you can track what marketing tactics work best for your brand.
  • Your business can become more cohesive too. Making all your marketing touchpoints work together takes strategy, planning and consistency. Fortunately, that also means getting more organized and streamlined in general. When you have a consistent vision to work toward, every element should reinforce the others. This means aligning your goals, messaging, visual branding, so forth so that they are truly working together. Doing so also means you have better control and understanding of your brand in general. This also applies to your company’s back-end, as processes such as sales, inventory and merchandising need to be effective no matter how the customer is engaging with your business.
  • It increases efficiency and profit margins. Similar to what we touched on above, an omni-channel strategy leads to a company becoming more streamlined when it comes to both customer interactions and their back-end. Consistency across all channels naturally leads to more efficiency. Additionally, a well-developed structure with effective communication channels means your brand can gain the clout needed to avoid gimmicks like discounts and sales, leading to more profit. Plus, adding additional channels to your marketing mix gives you new income streams to bank in on.

Tips for Using an Omni-Channel Strategy

While a lot goes into an omni-channel marketing or sales strategy, here are a few pointers on how to create one that will work for your brand.

  • Create great content. It may sound cliché, but content is still king. Be sure you are providing your consumer with quality content that provides them with value. Know who your ideal customer is and be sure you are speaking to them. The more your marketing messages resonate with your target consumer, the more engagement you’ll see, leading to more sales and better brand experiences.

Related: How to Audit and Improve Your Content

  • Keep it consistent. This can’t be emphasized enough. Without consistency, you may as well kiss your omni-channel dreams goodbye. No matter how your customer is interacting with your brand, it’s imperative that their experience be consistent. Whether it’s the brand voice, visual components, customer service, or something else, you need to be sure you are delivering a dependable brand across all channels.
  • Target and retarget. This goes back to the data you aggregate when you attract customers through different channels. Don’t neglect your data! Use it to see who your ideal consumer is and then retarget as needed based on what your research tells you to be sure you’re getting as much reach as possible. Optimize your channels regularly so your messaging is as effective and timely as it can be.

Related: How to Measure Performance

  • Make sure your content is responsive. Let’s face it: customers today get frustrated and walk away quickly if things aren’t working right. This is why it is so important to make sure your content is responsive. In other words, the material you are distributing should be accessible and functional no matter what device the end user is accessing it on. Be sure your website adjusts depending on the resolution of your customer’s screen; confirm any plugins and buttons work whether they are visiting via web browser or mobile; ensure your apps work for Android, Apple and Windows devices; and so forth. Besides, if the customer can’t access your information and see the value in it, you may lose them forever before you even have a chance to really interact with them.

Wrapping Up

At this point, it should be clear how an omni-channel marketing strategy can benefit your brand in ways that can have a lasting impact on both your business and your customers. No matter what mix of channels you offer, using the tips above to provide your target consumer with consistent, cohesive and valuable brand experiences — anywhere they are — should be kept at the heart of your planning.

Related: Building a Strong Marketing Plan & Strategy

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