The State of Omnichannel Marketing
How marketers across industries are responding to the connected customer journey
The customer journey crosses many channels. But until recently, most industries treated each channel discreetly, as individual silos. We’ve talked about multichannel marketing and cross-channel marketing, but creating unified omnichannel customer experiences has mostly been the province of retailers and e-tailers. Today that’s changing, and omnichannel marketing has emerged as a main concern for marketers across all industries.
To find out exactly how those changes are unfolding, we surveyed Target Marketing readers about their omnichannel strategies, budgets and plans. The following is only a portion of the findings released in that report, “Omnichannel Marketing: The Key to Unlocking a Powerful Customer Experience.”
Who Cares About the Omnichannel Experience?
While omnichannel marketing is often seen as a priority for retailers, the need for omnichannel strategy, optimization and cohesive customer journeys is important to marketers across all industries.
We asked marketers how important the omnichannel experience was in their vertical. Only 6 percent said it wasn’t important, which was the lowest answer option; while 34 percent said it was very important, the highest level and the most common answer. Overall, 74 percent said it was important, fairly important or very important (essentially a three or higher on a five-point scale).
That’s a high number for an issue that is often seen as a retail concern. But when we look at how the different industries responded to this question, “retail and e-tail” wasn’t even in the top five.
Chart 2 shows the percentage of respondents in each industry who said the omnichannel customer experience was “important” or higher. Retail comes in at 74 percent, but healthcare, travel, IT and financial services all had over 80 percent of respondents say omnichannel was “important” or even more essential.
“In today’s environment it is extremely important, no matter what industry you are in,” said one respondent. “Today’s customers are self-educating and want the ‘Amazon’ experience. We struggle to provide anything close to this.”
Enabling Customer Journeys
If omnichannel marketing is so important, how well are these companies putting it together?
As you can see in Chart 3, nearly half of marketers consider their omnichannel experience to be “average,” and more consider it to be “good” than consider it to be “poor” or “very poor.” Eight percent even think it’s very good.
What does that mean? To answer that, we also asked an open response question, “What aspects of the omnichannel experience make it good?” The responses focused on consistency of the brand experience across channels, and the ability to interact where customers are and where customers want to be in contact. Personalization also was seen as a key factor, but by a smaller portion of respondents.
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“The amount of channels, as well as the customer experience throughout the entire process [are important],” said one survey taker. “You cannot simply say the first step is good, yet the rest of the process was bad and, therefore, the whole omnichannel experience was great — everything needs to work seamlessly together.”
Another said, “The message must be consistent, but not always the same. People use their channels in certain ways, and as an advertiser or marketer, we must try to better understand these channels. The messages must be unique to the consumers. Today’s psyche is much more geared to personalization. People want to feel important. They want to feel as if they are a part of something.”
Creating that feeling that your brand is something customers should want to be a part of is one of the key benefits of a well-designed omnichannel customer experience.
Challenges to Omnichannel Strategies
We also asked what challenges stood in the way of delivering a better omnichannel experience, and you can see the results of that in Chart 4. For each potential issue, we asked whether it was “Not a Challenge,” “Somewhat Challenging,” “Challenging,” “Very Challenging” or “Extremely Challenging,” and then simplified that to a 1-to-5 scale (one for “not a challenge” and five for “extremely challenging”).
We see that, by far, the biggest challenge is lack of budget, followed by lack of personnel with the necessary skills and knowledge, and accessing data across channels.
The overall picture this data paints is that marketers do not seem to feel overwhelmed by any aspect of the omnichannel experience, but lack of budget, lack of cross-platform data and customer recognition, and lack of personnel with the necessary skills are holding brands’ omnichannel marketing back. These issues need to be addressed for your omnichannel marketing to improve.
Increasing Marketing Budgets for Customer Data
While there are challenges, marketers are moving to meet them. Nearly half said they’re increasing budget for omnichannel services and capabilities in 2018, compared with only about 28 percent decreasing budgets.
That should help address the top challenge marketers reported in Chart 4, lack of budget. Looking at what marketers are doing to enable the omnichannel experience in Chart 6, respondents are improving integration, investing in new tools and making omnichannel a goal for 2018.
Surprisingly, only 29 percent are investing in personnel or training, even though lack of personnel with the skills and know-how for omnichannel marketing was the second-highest reported challenge.
This could be a case of marketers trying to solve an HR issue with IT solutions, and that often doesn’t yield the desired results. Even the best tools won’t help without the skilled people to use them.
When we look at the customer experience elements these efforts and budget are focused on in Chart 7, it lines up better with the challenges from Chart 4. Customer data, systems integration and identifying customers across channels are three of the four top priorities (and omnichannel customer experience is the other). Roughly half of our respondents said they were focusing on each of those areas to improve their omnichannel marketing.
Omnichannel marketing and the omnichannel customer journey are now acknowledged as important aspects of marketing in almost all industries, not just retail.
It’s essential that customers can interact with you through any channel, from a retail store to a phone call, website or social media, and that they are recognized across those channels and treated with the personal attention and extra-mile service they’d find in your highest-touch channels. With a properly executed omnichannel strategy, every touchpoint reflects on your brand, contributes to the sale and helps turn first-time customers into repeat buyers and evangelists.
To accomplish this, marketers must overcome lack of sufficient budgets, lack of adequate technology and a dearth of staff know-how. And while many marketers are investing in the first two, the personnel issues are being largely ignored.
If you want to create a great omnichannel experience for your customers, make sure you are investing in both the technologies and the people to make that a reality. The tools alone won’t be enough.
This is only the beginning of the takeaways from our report “Omnichannel Marketing: The Key to Unlocking a Powerful Customer Experience.” Be sure to download the complete report and see what kinds of omnichannel experiences marketers are enabling, a complete set of recommendations, survey methodology and more!