Omni-channel is a newer marketing term that refers to the practice of consumers using multiple channels to make a purchase (and sometimes even multiple channels all at the time same). These channels (online, in-store, mobile, TV, radio, print ads, direct mail, etc.) work together to shape a brand’s image and help a consumer arrive at a purchase decision.
How Is This Different Than Before?
Previously, in the world of marketing, companies would have online strategies, in-store strategies, media-buying strategies, print strategies, and so forth – this was the age of “multi-channel.” In this old multi-channel approach each strategy was treated separately because there was very little overlap and the way consumers interacted with each channel was very different than every other channel.
But in the world of omni-channel marketing there’s a need for a seamless customer experience because a connected customer can easily be using multiple channels at once. Consistency across channels creates a stronger brand image with omni-channel consumers and helps to encourage their purchases by showing them what they can expect at each touch-point with your brand.
Why Does This Matter To My Business?
Studies have shown that omni-channel consumers spend significantly more than single channel consumers. Interested now? Read on!
• Mobile Isn’t Optional Anymore
A lot of times small businesses tend to view having a mobile-optimized site as unnecessary, while other small businesses may understand the benefit of having a mobile-friendly site, but put it in the bucket of optional expenses of time and money. With the rise of omni-channel consumers, mobile is no longer optional. Having a mobile site is critical to ensure that you can provide a good user experience for the large number of people that browse and shop on mobile devices (including smart phones and tablets).
• Your Sales Process Needs to Change
Omni-channel consumers are often more knowledgeable consumers because they have done their research ahead of time. This means that when a consumer comes into your store or lands on your site the traditional sales process may not be as effective on them as it once was. This is especially true for more technical products. In the past, providing a description of a product and the technical specs was basically all you needed to provide to make the sale. Now, however, consumers can find that information from the manufacturer in a flash; what they really want from your site or your in-store sales staff is what other people think of the product, an indication of whether it will work for their needs, a comparison of it to other similar products that you offer, etc.
• Awareness Is Critical
Because omni-channel consumers are using more than one platform, it’s critical that your marketing teams (or third-party providers) be on the same page in terms of strategy and messaging. And it’s just as critical that all of your staff are aware of what’s going on as well. There’s nothing that can kill a sale faster with an omni-channel consumer than running into a discrepancy between pricing or information from one channel to another.
• You Need to Be Everywhere
Because you can’t be sure which combination of channels an omni-channel consumer will use, you kind of have to be everywhere. I know, that can be overwhelming for small businesses, but what that really means is that you have to be on social media, and you have to have a professional website, and you have to provide a functional mobile experience. When you’re just getting started, follow that old adage… “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!”
Need great omni-channel content? Want help with your online marketing efforts? Just need someone to tell you if your site could be improved? We’re an online marketing agency that’s here for just those types of situations!
Kate Pierce is the owner of LionShark Digital Marketing LLC, a West Michigan internet marketing company. Her areas of expertise include Paid Search, Search Engine Optimization, Social Media, Web Consulting for small businesses, Copywriting and Local Online Marketing. She lives in the Grand Rapids area with her husband and enjoys cooking, watching sports and spending time outdoors. Like a true digital marketing expert (i.e. geek), she loves talking about marketing theory and SEM trends… so don’t say you weren’t warned!
Photo from Flickr (Douglas Porter)