The original article was published in the business magazine Brand Quarterly.
Knowing the difference between a brand providing a multichannel and omnichannel experience for your consumers is vital to understanding how to ignite true brand affinity. In an age of quick-scrolling multi-screen users, Out Of Home placements around every corner, revolutions in print technology and ever blossoming new adtech opportunities, there are innumerable ways for brands to pop into consumers lives as and when they can entertain, inform and inspire.
This opens up exciting opportunities to show a true understanding of specific consumer behaviours through a connected, seamless, interactive conversation across multiple channels; and here is where the distinction between the practice of multichannel and the approach of omnichannel come into play. While a multichannel campaign means that consumers can engage with the brand on various media and platforms available, a true omnichannel strategy puts this cross-channel relationship at the very heart of the plan.
Four Steps Towards Industry-Leading Omnichannel Brand Experience:
Channels In The Mix
Advertising has at its disposal a vast toolkit of ways to reach consumers, combining creativity with insights about consumer behaviour to develop a deliverable campaign which stands out to potential and seasoned customers, from social media to digital ads, printed door drops to Out Of Home poster sites.
Whether it’s on a train commute or strolling down a city street, browsing social media or trawling the web for a good deal, brands can and should be present at the right time, in the right place (online or offline). This can present some challenges for brands, who not only need to understand how their consumers use the channel, but how they themselves can use the channel while staying true to their brand identity. A seasoned pro at working with a number of renowned beauty and automotive clients, our account manager Natalie Lennon advises:
“More modern brands are strongly focusing on digital, and I think overall that’s where the market has been heading for quite a while.
However, certain heritage brands are fairly wary of digital (social especially) as it opens the brand up to losing control over the conversation with consumers. In my opinion, and if I were a Marketing Manager at that kind of brand, I’d dip my toe in the digital waters in a ‘safe’, more controlled format. Chanel recently did a snapchat filter that went down really well; with that kind of medium they’re opening up a digital communication with a millennial or younger audience, but it’s less of a risk of the ‘brand’ being compromised.
I think they need to talk to consumers in that younger, digital bracket because let’s face it – they’re their future customers. Even if they don’t have the cash to purchase now, they need to embed themselves in the minds of those future consumers so that 10 years down the line when they do have the money, that brand is already a go-to in their minds.”
Making Things Personal
Personalising of content shows a deeper understanding of consumer behaviour on each channel, at every point in the purchase cycle, supporting them appropriately at every turn. When developing the channel strategy for an omnichannel approach, identify specifically how consumers interact with each channel , and tailor your activity to best support them. In this day and age “consumers now expect highly individualised and seamless experiences at every phase of the shopping journey. Consumers don’t live in one channel, and they don’t expect retailers to do so either”.
Users today have a multitude of channels they actively and passively engage with, both online and offline, and these advertising-immersed users have exceptionally high standards when it comes to engagement. Anything which interrupts or feels impersonal rather than on-brand and timely will quickly be cast aside and lambasted for a poor brand experience. Getting it right though means delivering a targeted message, in the best medium which best engages and attracts the consumer.
Today’s brands are not only able to create seamless experiences for users across multiple diverse channels, but can use new technologies to innovate ways to give customers more, by merging one channel with another. Here Print Specialist Francesco Colangelo explains where he feels print fits in omnichannel campaigns :
“I do believe print is still very much a big part of the mix as it is more engaging and customer focussed than email / electronic marketing. Take books – paper books are still outperforming Kindle and e-books.
Personalisation is something I believe will grow, especially with digital print technology improving all the time – targeted personalised mailings, I am sure, have a bigger impact than ad hoc door drops.
Another area where digital can make a leap forward is “augmented reality” style print where paper meets digital, giving print media the ability to ‘come to life’ with AR technology. This still hasn’t hit off on a large scale, but as phones and technology get better, then this will improve.”
The Role Of Digital
When it comes to understanding and reacting to consumers, no offline channels offer the same speed and capabilities as digital. Consumers turn to a vast number of digital channels across the full spectrum of the buying process, from researching and comparing to validating and making the purchase. These present a number of vital touch points brands have with consumers, with which to learn how to interact to give the optimal service and ultimately gain sales.
In the age of data-led strategies and tech-savvy consumers “the key to keeping up with the technological revolution is to fully embrace it, understand its potential and figure out how to properly integrate it into your larger strategy”. The key, as always, is to understand that no channels are used in a vacuum, and the power of each channel is best harnessed in unison with other relevant channels. But, in a digital age, it would be foolish to not give digital channels the particular spotlight they deserve. Creative Director Daniel Howes explains:
“Digital isn’t just important to customers – for many of them, it’s the principal way they interact with a brand.
Most customers have become digital-only users, preferring to prospect, purchase and interact exclusively through digital channels. From internet banking and booking a flight to discovering new products and making a purchase, digital leads the way.
As a result, customer experience has never been more crucial. Customer experience focuses on the overall experience a customer has with a brand, and should be a priority for all companies.
Customers don’t care about channels, they care about getting answers to their questions, solving their problems or finding what they’re looking for. In other words, they want experiences that deliver effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction. Ease and simplicity should drive the creation of all digital experiences.
In order to flourish in this environment, brands need to ensure every digital channel they have a presence in delivers a consistent and worthwhile experience to the consumer. Merely ‘existing’ in a channel is no longer enough.”
Consistency Is Key
Ensuring a consistent experience across the right channels will build and enforce a clear brand image to customers. As brand owners in today’s marketplace, it’s important to remember that “any organisation with a multichannel ecosystem should aim that independent channel interactions coordinate to create one cohesive, consistent customer experience.”
The interplay between each channel must enforce the brand’s identity to the user each time they visit any owned channel, or engage with any branded assets. Once a brand knows where and how to be on a channel, their interlaced channel strategies will ensure a smooth omnichannel experience. Our digital team specifically reviewed this ‘reduction in friction’ between the use of different channels in the marketing mix in this research paper for Salesforce and its value to modern audiences in the retail sector.
It’s the tailored yet still true-to-brand identity on each channel, seamlessly echoed in the best voice for the individual space, which builds the significant and relevant presence of the brand for each audience. As Adam Shay puts it:
“The two keys to any omnichannel marketing approach need to be consistency and experience. Too often strong messages are diluted when the message is inconsistent across multiple mediums. But above all, and as with any modern marketing approach, focus on the experience is key. Consumers experience brands through multiple forms, and their overriding perception of your brand is built by these experiences. Ensure your communications build a compelling and consistent experience, and you’re more likely to better manage your brand perception.”