If you haven’t heard of omnichannel retail, you’re not alone. Although it’s not exactly a new term or concept, the term is still nascent enough to be firmly planted in what I like to call the “bloggers can’t agree on how to spell it” category. You heard it here first, everyone: omnichannel is all one word.
If you solely operate an ecommerce store and do not have a brick-and-mortar presence, that’s an even more reasonable excuse for not paying attention to omnichannel retail, which specifically deals with aligning your retail strategy across all your different storefront presences, from physical to online. While many people simply refer omnichannel retail to alignment across the “Big Two” (brick-and-mortars and ecommerce shops), it actually handles a lot more: mobile apps, social media, review sites, ads, catalogs and more. Brick-and-mortar or no, you’re not off the hook when it comes to implementing omnichannel marketing best practices. So let’s start with the basics!
What is Omnichannel Retail?
Have you ever ordered your daily Flufficino from a Starbucks app, paid for it on the go, collected your drink (and rewards) from your local Starbucks, and thought to yourself “Wow, I’m living in the future?” That’s omnichannel. On the ecommerce level, if your Facebook audience has ever clicked the Call to Action button or has made purchasing decisions about your online shop without ever leaving the platform, that’s also omnichannel. Simply put, omnichannel retail is the ability to help your customers make decisions and transactions across multiple channels, all while creating a seamless and integrated brand experience across platforms.
Omnichannel retail is the ability to help your customers make decisions and transactions across multiple channels, all while creating a seamless and integrated brand experience across platforms.
That’s where marketing comes in. If your omnichannel retail platforms are your general relativity and your quantum field theory, then omnichannel marketing is your Theory of Everything, uniting every channel into one elegant equation. I went there. However, unlike string theory, omnichannel marketing is actually pretty easy! In fact, you’re probably already doing it; your strategy might just need a few tweaks to ensure brand consistency and move your customer through the wormhole that is the ecommerce purchase funnel. With apologies to Steven Hawking for that entire last paragraph, here are a few ways to get your omnichannel marketing strategy right:
Find Your Voice
Take it from someone who can never actually write a response on an anonymous survey without everyone knowing it was me: a writing style is a like a fingerprint. Your customers can pick up on your voice within the first two sentences and will respond to it accordingly. If that voice is different across channels, then you’ll end up with a disparate presence that might lose or confuse people on the path to a purchase. There’s nothing more disappointing for me as a marketer than noticing great website copy and a solid social media strategy, only to check out the business’s Yelp page and see a manager or shop owner responding to reviews rudely or defensively.
Remember that while tone can be hard to read on the internet, if you do your job well, your tone should always be friendly.
Depending on your audience, your voice can be quirky, knowledge-driven, trendy, earnest, or professional; it just has to be yours. Alternately, it has to be that of a writer or marketing partner who you trust to translate your vision and speak to your customer base. Remember that while tone can be hard to read on the internet, if you do your job well, your tone should always be friendly. Sometimes that can involve something as simple as ending a sentence with an exclamation point instead of a period!
If you operate a brick-and-mortar or pop-up shop, then make sure your employees can represent that voice in person. If your business is quirky, let your employees be quirky. If a cornerstone of your strategy is thought leadership, then spend extra time training your employees on everything they need to know about your products. And again, always default to friendly!
Know Your Customer’s Aspirations
Once you’ve found your voice, your message should be clear across channels too. There’s a bit of nuance here, to be sure: because different platforms draw different audiences, it’s okay to use one message on Instagram (fun, trendy) and another on LinkedIn (knowledge-based, professional). Where the consistency comes in is your ability to know your customer through and through, and to speak to what they need.
Once you have these higher goals in mind, you can modify your message across channels.
It’s a great start to know what your customers want from your products specifically (ie, better functionality in a kitchen item or a trendy cut in a dress), but consistency in messaging really comes in at a higher level than that: why do they want that better functionality or that trendy cut? What are the bigger aspirations at play there? Do they want to save time, which they can then devote to their passions? Do they want to impress their guests with perfectly-prepared meals? Do they want to belong to a group of trend-setters who share their love of expression through fashion? Once you have these higher goals in mind, you can modify your message across channels while making sure it speaks to the aspirational needs of your customer base.
Mimic Your Customer’s Actions Across All Platforms
Test, test, test. Walk through the checkout process on your website, cruise the aisles of your store in person, and visit your social media pages from the perspective of a casual user. If there are any inconsistencies or roadblocks to achieving the perfect user experience, fix them. If you’re not sure where to start, a conversion optimization expert can help you view potential pitfalls objectively. UX is one of those spaces that greatly benefits from a fresh set of eyes!
Maintain Visual Consistency
Your brand voice is crucial, but so is the backdrop. Make sure your logo is clearly displayed across all channels and that everything, from colors to your font family, is consistent. Instagram photos or Facebook cover photos should speak to those higher aspirations, whether it’s a person serving the perfect meal to a happy family or a fun-loving group of friends in beautiful clothes. If you operate a brick-and-mortar, make sure it adheres to your style, too. The Apple store is a perfect example of a brick-and-mortar that perfectly imitates Apple’s sleek, minimalist and trendy online presence.
You don’t need to be Starbucks and set up an app in order to get people to move from channel to channel.
Link Platforms Clearly to One Another
Are your social media icons clearly displayed on your website? Does your YouTube page link to your website? Do your social media pages direct people to your site and/or provide clear directions to your brick-and-mortar? Does your brick-and-mortar invite people to shop online if they’re pressed for time and encourage them to visit you on social? You don’t need to be Starbucks and set up an app in order to get people to move from channel to channel. Just make sure people are given clear directions, and that every channel provides a smooth way to transition to the others. This is your chance to create a connected, seamless network and unite your customers across all platforms.
Now that you’ve set yourself up for success, take stock of what’s working! Set up a Google Analytics account as early as you possibly can, and pay careful attention to the channels through which people enter and convert. For omnichannel marketing, I’m an especially big fan of Google Analytics’ Multi-Channel Funnels section, which can offer you a visual of the conversion paths your customers take prior to making a purchase. If you’re noticing, for example, that social media doesn’t appear to be sending a lot of referral traffic to your website, it may be time to consider why. Brick-and-mortars can be a bit trickier to tie into your Analytics data and your conversion funnels, so keep careful track of your offline purchases too and factor these into your decisions.
And that’s it! If you need any help, just ask one of our marketing experts. Remember, consistency and authentic are key. Once you find your brand voice and alter every channel to reflect that, you’re well on your way to having a successful omnichannel retail strategy. It’s still easier than string theory, I promise.