Marketing Is Only as Effective as Its Weakest Link
How can companies identify and eliminate disruptive experiences in the omnichannel marketing chain — before they break customer relationships? Marketing insiders weigh in.
Omnichannel marketing means different things to different marketers. But one common — and necessary — goal is to create a cohesive customer experience across channels.
Consider this: Eighty-seven percent of consumers polled by software development company Zendesk say that brands need to put more effort into providing a seamless experience. And 73% say that brands pay more attention to generating sales across channels than to providing an integrated customer experience.
Marketers, however, should pay attention to both. In-store analytics company RetailNext reports that two-thirds of customers recently polled have made a purchase involving multiple channels.
So despite consumer cynicism, and in light of the revenue opportunity omnichannel represents, an increasing number of marketers are working diligently to provide a connected customer experience across channels. The Digital Retail Study 2016 from eTail reveals that 71% of retailers polled are using data to improve personalization and predictive marketing, while 54% are coordinating user experiences across channels. That includes in-store, online, and mobile — all to ensure a seamless personalized shopping experience across channels.
Despite marketers' best efforts, however, omnichannel marketing is complex and breaks in the chain are certain.
Fortunately, there are ways to strengthen that chain.
Here, 11 industry insiders spell out where omnichannel experiences often fall apart and how to fix those breaks — even how to prevent disruptions.
ERIKA JOLLY BROOKES
A single view of the customer journey is often where omnichannel experiences fall apart. Simply put, it's critical for marketers to collect and unify data across many channels and then have the big data horsepower to crunch the data to gain a consumer view of their brand.
Founder and CEO, Engine Digital
Marketers should always start by putting the consumer, or user, at the center of their strategy. Focusing only on self-serving business objectives is a sure way to fail. Yes, an omnichannel strategy provides valuable data, customer profiles, and other insights. But this is a by-product of first delivering an exceptional experience. Omnichannel is an opportunity for brands to differentiate and be memorable or remarkable.
A seamless omnichannel experience needs to present something new to customers that they weren't otherwise expecting. It should surprise them with a level of service they hadn't assumed possible. Starbucks is a perfect example of this. Its mobile strategy clearly provides a huge upside to the brand, but more important, it improves the customer experience and rewards loyalty.
CTO and VP of product marketing, Pegasystems
Things fall apart when organizations can't maintain coherence between channels, which creates inconsistent experiences for customers or, worse, loses customer requests in the gaps between channels.
As data and analytics continue to improve the way companies manage customer journeys, it's key that organizations that use those tools provide a centralized decision hub that can coordinate efforts across all channels.
Having this centralized hub can ensure that customers get consistent treatments across all channels and that customer context is maintained as they move between channels.
That way, marketers aren't continuing to place digital ads for a product a customer just bought in a store or aren't forcing customers who start a service request on the Web to reexplain their situations when they get service reps on the phone.
CMO, Extreme Reach
With the ubiquity of video ads running across screens, on any device, the consumer experience should be seamless. Nine out of ten video ads originated on TV, which means that brands have invested a great deal of time, energy, and money to tell an emotionally charged story in 15, 30, or 60 seconds. But that story doesn't play well if the video quality is lacking.
Marketers should make sure their ads running across all channels are served in pristine broadcast quality so that the viewer experience is consistently positive. If video assets are not delivered in the highest quality and the proper formats for every publisher, the viewer experience will break down — or worse, the video ad won't even play.
The right technology working off the right starting point can make all the difference. A great story well told is only great marketing when the right people experience it — and are moved by it — because it's powerfully beautiful.
Group product manager, Qubit
Omnichannel's promise has not been realized yet. It's a sound vision, but teams have since struggled to connect their data meaningfully. Technology has left businesses falling just short of the nirvana of the seamlessly integrated experience.
We'll know we've cracked it as an industry when we stop focusing our thinking on channels and start with the customer. Consumers are transient in nature. They constantly change direction in ways that seem contradictory, but reflect the expectation economy we live in. Any underpinning technology needs to recognize — and respond to — those changes as they happen. Understanding customers, based on their behaviors and preferences, and then translating that into customer segments can help marketers turn data into action.
Marketers need to be able to engage customers no matter the channel, be it Google, Facebook, visiting a brand's website or mobile app, or in store. By being able to define customer segments, even as they change dynamically, and by going from that insight to customer segment and to rapidly delivering the right experiences, marketers can move ever closer to an omnichannel reality.