You visit your favorite retailer’s website. Upon your arrival, the site drops cookies on your browser. Next thing you know, you’re seeing a television ad promoting deals available via the retailer’s mobile app. And before you know it, you are accessing information on your mobile device and then visiting the brick-and-mortar store. As you browse through the store, you look up products online and perhaps even scan a QR code in search of a deal.
Meet the omni-channel consumer — you. In MIT’s recent report, “Beyond the Checkout Cart,” the omni-channel consumer is the central force shaping the future of e-commerce and brick-and-mortar stores alike. According to Macy’s annual report, the heritage brand now refers to itself as an “omni-channel retail organization operating stores and websites.”
Another report from December highlights that Macy’s no longer breaks down its sales by channel. Chris Fletcher, Research Director at Gartner, notes that “Getting into data, analytics, or mobile isn’t even a decision anymore, so we should stop calling it e-commerce and call it just commerce.” Herein lie the increasingly blurred lines between offline and online.
Smart retailers no longer look at one versus the other, and many marketers are looking at messages and touch points irrespective of disseminated channels and are approaching the consumer brand experience holistically. The omni-channel consumer expects everything to be readily available at his or her fingertips and expects the overall brand experience to be similarly accessible.
According to MIT’s report, 80% of store shoppers check prices online, with one-third accessing the information on their mobile device while inside the actual store. This percentage proves that consumers are also approaching their experience from multiple angles.
Today, retailers must be armed with numerous ways to reach consumers in real-time. While tackling a full-fledged omni-channel strategy might seem like a major task, the following are a few digital strategies that can help brands get the ball rolling and perhaps even help marketers stay ahead of the curve.
1. Refine Your Brand’s Digital Presence
When it comes to digital, the way you are currently selling things can be done better. Make sure that you are testing your conversion path and optimizing your landing pages both online and on the mobile web. If you have yet to establish a social presence, start devising creative social strategies across all major platforms to engage with your active audiences that are likely waiting to hear from you.
2. Search Strategies Should Come First
I tend to think of organic search before paid search, but the truth is they need to go hand-in-hand because they significantly affect one another. If your conversion path is working, then the next place that you want to optimize is search. By implementing a search strategy, you can improve the number of searches of your brand and also drive more visits to your website or store. There are two behaviors that every marketing effort you do provides: more searches and more visits to your website or store.
3. Target Existing Customers Using Site Retargeting
If consumers are searching for your product and visiting your website, use those website visits and your entire CRM database to improve site retargeting to arm your existing customers with relevant and personalized ads. Don’t overdo it, but remember that your customers are your brand ambassadors. Presumably, they already like your brand, so why not encourage that behavior? You know a great deal about your customers, probably more than you realize, and you should use that information to provide them with a customized advertising experience.
4. Search Retargeting Will Help You Gain New Customers
If your website rocks, your search campaigns are converting and you have a multi-faceted digital campaign targeted at existing customers and site visitors, you’ll now want to find new customers. This is where search retargeting comes in: targeting people who have searched for what you sell but didn’t click on your ad or didn’t visit your website. Search retargeting is the most effective digital marketing strategy to gain new customers.
5. Use Mobile To Connect The Dots
The mobile web has strengthened brands’ ability to connect and reach consumers at any time of the day. This cannot be overlooked. Successful mobile integration depends on relevant audience targeting that helps brands recognize and engage with their consumers. Large retailers like Macy’s and Best Buy are leading a major shift toward omni-channel marketing. This year,Macy’s will encourage shoppers to scan products via the retailer’s mobile app while shopping in brick and mortar stores. Macy’s annual digital plan focuses heavily on mobile and seeks to “close the gap between store, desktop and mobile.”
Another example of Macy’s mobile focus is its deployment of a touchscreen shopping option within the handbag department to let consumers self-checkout. A concurrent TV campaign is running as well, in which the commercial messaging drives viewers to download the retailer’s app. Best Buy‘s omni-channel strategy centers on adding value to brick and mortar retail stores that were for a time threatened by e-commerce competitors. Adding a “Store Pickup” option within its online shopping process turned out to be a major win for the brand.
Although many shoppers compare products and buy online, some still prefer to pick up the goods in person from an actual store. Standout marketers of 2014 will leverage consumer behaviors to activate their brand and value proposition, connecting with customers in entirely new ways. The time is here for all channels to be part of a holistic experience.