Generating Loyalty for Brands and Retailers in an Omnichannel World

It’s no secret to marketers that consumers today expect more from their relationships with brands and retailers. They expect consistency throughout their entire brand shopping experience, including recognition of who they are and where they are in the purchase path. They further expect to be rewarded for purchasing activity and, in turn, reward those brands that best address their needs with greater affinity.

Considering the many touchpoints, interactions, and associated messages that consumers receive in any one day across channels, and the need to keep pace with technology advancements, brands are finding it increasingly challenging to succeed in omnichannel engagement.

The challenges are many. Media today is both more prevalent and more fragmented than ever, and the clarity of role and purpose of each media channel has waned. Consumers no longer have a linear path of engagement with brands, leading them to engage in their own unique mix of both targetable and addressable media, online and offline across devices. Moreover, consumers interact with content sporadically throughout the day in patterns that are personally relevant.

Consumers still have a great attention span when it comes to their choices for news and entertainment, but now more than ever, they can easily dismiss or disregard content or contextually irrelevant marketing. In an era where media is addressable, media and content also can be refused.

The opportunity is to address customers’ needs through compelling content and consistent experiences that have a powerful enough impact to grab consumer attention immediately.

To do that, marketers must embrace a strategy that seamlessly integrates channel experiences with an understanding of the needs of customers across those channels. It can be difficult to articulate a strategy that naturally and easily flows through the different types of channels, so brands should work with experienced partners to help with execution and rely on comprehensive and cohesive tools to guide it. As a starting point, marketers should focus on building, understanding, and articulating the customer journey across all brand experiences (online and offline) to understand how customers engage, how they react to various brand experiences, and what motivates their purchases.

The customer journey is a starting point for executing a winning plan that will drive loyalty. Executing against that plan will require detailed creative and contact strategies to guide individual executions and technology implementation or integrations that facilitate message delivery. It is crucial to remain open and flexible to change. In a world where the effect or results of marketing efforts are often delivered in real time, marketers find incremental success through continuous innovation and optimization of their plans based on marketing analytics.

It sounds simple in theory, but what does it actually take to execute such a strategy?

First, describe the persona of your customer—look at how he lives his life to get a better understanding of his needs. What are the different touchpoints this particular type of consumer will go through in a day? Which of those touchpoints could be used to expose your brand message and how would the consumer react? What are his media choices: is he a heavy TV viewer, more inclined to see commercials; does he open, read, and click through email; does he visit or examine products in a store; use coupons or a digital wallet? What are the negative and positive reactions towards these pre-purchase marketing communication efforts and how does it affect the experience? What post-purchase experiences and marketing efforts will help resell and upsell this particular customer?

Omnichannel loyalty programs are part of the journey and recognize the needs of your best customers and the media choices they prefer. When developing your omnichannel loyalty program strategies within the journey, marketers often find that the greatest challenge is technical in nature. Getting the right technology systems integrated across channels and POS systems is critical to a progressive loyalty strategy. When the technical challenges are surmounted, recognizing and rewarding your best customers becomes more fruitful—as the messages and communications around loyalty reflect the innate interests and device usage of your loyalty program members.

New technology is making it easier for retailers to integrate across channels. Retailers should use either a responsive mobile site or an HTML5 mobile-enabled version of their website. Brands should consider vendors with capabilities that support such customer conveniences as shipping from a store—in other words, turning their physical retail locations into virtual distribution centers.

Seventy-seven percent of consumers expect retailers to provide a consistent experience for their in-store and online channels. These are the kinds of experiences winning brands are seeking to build-out for a successful omnichannel landscape.

Jeffrey Wilks is head of client services for eBay Enterprise Marketing Solutions, and Ben Pressley is head of worldwide sales at Magento

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