Note from Geno Prussakov: This is a guest post by our newest guest blogger, Stella Saroyan, an MBA student who specializes in e-commerce and startups
There’s been a lot of talk about omnichannel marketing recently, giving this term a bit of a buzzwordy quality and perhaps making it seem like anyone can just dive into remodeling their promotional strategy to incorporate this approach. Naturally, in marketing, just like in life in general, there are no one-size-fits all solutions, and every new, revolutionary approach that seems universally praised usually requires at least some effort, investment and daring.
That being said, most businesses could stand to gain quite a bit by diversifying the tactics they rely on to reach the audience. However, some of them, like we mentioned, think that they only need to make a couple of connections between their separate promotional campaigns, sit back and enjoy the profits. Once this strategy fails, as it invariably has to, is when they start claiming how this kind of change is either too expensive or too complex. The truth is, it doesn’t have to be either, if you know what you are getting into. In order to help you decide if this is something you might want to invest in, here are some of the main benefits and challenges of this approach, as well as a breakdown of what you’ll be expected to do if you want to truly get the most it has to offer.
Before deciding if you even want to go ahead and merge your different marketing channels, you need to take a look at your existing audience and try to objectively estimate how much would you actually benefit from expanding the list of ways to reach them. As a matter or fact, this is the main difference between multichannel and omnichannel marketing.
Multichannel means you are using several mediums, platforms or environments to promote your product or service; omnichannel, on the other hand, means that you are prepared to identify all the channels that your potential customers might use to try and reach you, and ensure that you are giving them every opportunity to do so. Remember, this is not about bothering them with advertisements whenever you get the chance, it’s about allowing them to seamlessly jump from device to device while all the time staying focused on you and your offer.
Luckily, getting to know your customers is easier than ever, and the number of ways to do this is still growing. Just consider the amount of new consumer insights made possible by taking your business online and analyzing the data from Google Analytics. Just this one channel can help you gather impressively detailed information on where your visitors are coming from, which of your pages they find the most interesting, how do they navigate the website and which parts of the website they seem to be having problems with.
However, this is just one way to learn about your potential customers, apart from other digital sources, from heatmaps to big data analysis, you also need to examine other options. From adding your sales data to the mix, combining it with insights from your physical stores (if you have any) and direct customer feedback gathered through anything from emails to suggestion boxes; to tracking mentions of your business in printed press, this kind of analysis allows you to learn how and where your customers want to be able to reach you.
Exploring your growth potential will always benefit you, and is not such a major investment for you to be wary of getting into it, but when it actually comes to implementing the strategy you’ve drafted, you might be stepping on the road of no return. The good news is, even though earning the right to claim that you are truly providing an omnichannel experience to your audience is relatively complex, this can be done in segments, still providing you with some benefits even before every other pieces of your plan are in place.
The bad news is, if you take this kind of a granular approach to expanding your reach instead of formulating and executing a comprehensive marketing strategy and simultaneously addressing all of its elements; you risk learning several months in, that the single channel you’ve been trying to add to your repertoire is not as compatible with others as you’ve hoped, and that you have to go back to square one.
In other words, there are too many moving parts for you to try working on them individually, with no regard to the context they appear in.
However, if you try working on everything at the same time, you can’t be sure how far the repercussions of some of the changes you make will be able to reach. Your approach will be dictated by the urgency of the expansion, audience you’re catering to, and other, external or internal factors. Most businesses will occasionally combine their organic search and social media strategy, but if they systemized that approach and started adding other channels on regular basis, they could stand to benefit much more.
For example, you can use Facebook to announce that you are having a sale on your website, but if you also announce that you’ll be handing coupons at your physical stores or showrooms, which will additionally reduce the price of items purchased online, you are involving another segment of the audience, giving them another reason to engage, and allowing them to jump on board regardless of their starting station (Facebook, your site, live event you organize, and so on).
You are not alone
The fact that you might suddenly need to significantly diversify your approach to promotion doesn’t have to be scary. Larger companies won’t have a problem hiring top digital agencies to provide the necessary expertise and manpower, but smaller businesses with a formulated plan don’t need to lag far behind.
If you don’t have the budget to employ someone permanently, you can easily outsource any individual segment of your campaign as well as find useful advice on B2B matchmaking websites. Going with a vetted, proven agency might be a bit more expensive than finding one ‘in the wild’, but in the long run, this kind of caution is going to save you quite a bit of time and money.
It’s not just the execution part that you can outsource. Big data mining, for instance, would require huge infrastructural changes and investments if you were to try and handle it on your own. However, providing someone with access to necessary data and formulating what exactly is it that you want them to analyze and which insights you hope to glean through that analysis is not only simple, but also obligatory if you want to stay competitive.
Exploring your omnichannel expansion options helps you learn what your potential customers want, and channels they are using to find it. There are countless ways to start this process, but picking at one string at a time will usually turn out to be less effective than creating an overall plan of action and implementing it simultaneously across the board. Thanks to outsourcing options, you don’t need to be (or to employ) an expert in each individual marketing discipline you might need to get involved in, but you do need to be the one pulling all the strings and ensuring that each of the elements of your plan are unfolding in sync with others.