Say you’ve just launched a multichannel campaign to promote a new clothing line. You use a combination of direct mail, Facebook ads, email, and Google Display ads, and the orders start rolling in.
You send a reminder email three days later to everyone who didn’t open the first email promoting the launch. You see a higher-than-expected number of unsubscribes. It turns out most of the unsubscribers purchased on the first day. You sent the reminder email because you can’t connect ad or direct mail sales to individual customers.
Omnichannel communication can help you avoid these situations. Yes, you’re using multiple marketing channels with similar messaging, but now your channels are integrated. You can see more clearly how customers interact with your brand and keep messaging relevant.
If implemented correctly, omnichannel communication helps you adapt your marketing strategy more quickly to your customers’ evolving behaviors.
What is omnichannel communication?
Omnichannel communication is a marketing strategy that creates a positive, consistent customer experiences across connected marketing channels. These channels include SMS, social media, live chat, and more.
This communication works best when you aggregate these customer engagements and use them to make your marketing outreach more personalized.
Omnichannel vs. multichannel communication: What’s the difference?
Omnichannel communication uses multiple channels, but it shouldn’t be confused with multichannel communication or marketing. In omnichannel communication, the customer experience is consistent regardless of channel. With multichannel communication, brands focus on being on multiple channels rather than offering a consistent experience.
The benefits of omnichannel communication
Omnichannel is a win-win for you and your customers. They receive a consistent, convenient brand experience, and you're able to reach more prospects and customers across different channels.
Creates a positive customer experience
PwC surveyed 15,000 people from twelve countries and found that 73% of respondents “point to customer experience as an important factor in their purchasing decisions.” The same study indicates that 32% of all customers “would stop doing business with a brand they loved after one bad experience.”
Omnichannel communication makes it more likely the customer experience will be positive. Say a customer asks a product question using your live chat feature. A few days later, they email a follow-up question. If your organization uses an omnichannel communication approach, the team member responding to the email should be able to see all the touchpoints in the customer journey. With this context, they don’t need to ask questions that would lead to the customer repeating themselves.
You’ve just made interaction more convenient for the customer, and you’ve saved them time.
Increases brand reach
McKinsey estimates that 75% of US consumers have “tried a new store, brand, or different way of shopping during the pandemic.” This “different way” has likely become the “preferred way” for many shoppers. Omnichannel communication better prepares you to meet customers in their newfound channels while still offering a consistent brand experience.
Perhaps customers now prefer to receive a physical mailer instead of an email. A few next steps with an omnichannel strategy might be:
- Building a branded direct mailer using an automation platform like Lob;
- Syncing the direct mail platform with your email platform in a CRM like Salesforce; and
- Setting up a trigger to automatically send a direct mail piece if a customer doesn’t open an email campaign within three days.
If your direct mail conversions meet your goals for that channel, then you’ve found a way to start activating a customer segment that might not otherwise have converted. You’re using two channels, but intelligence from one channel informs the other.
How to build an omnichannel marketing strategy
If you’re already marketing across multiple channels, you have the building blocks for creating an omnichannel marketing strategy. The next step is to figure out how to bring together conversations and activities from these channels and use them to make better marketing decisions.
1. Map your existing offline and online marketing channels
You don’t need to utilize every marketing channel available to create a robust omnichannel strategy.
Here are some tips for evaluating your existing channels and deciding if they have a place in your omnichannel marketing strategy:
- Prioritize the channels where you see the most conversions and the most engagement. Keep in mind that some channels may be better for lead generation than sales (and vice versa). If you see good click-through rates and lower-than-expected CPC for your Facebook ads, that channel may still be valuable even if sales from the ad are below expectations.
- Make sure that your marketing channels are integrated with Google Analytics so you can see which deliver the most traffic to your website.
- If certain channels are not seeing the conversions or engagement you had hoped for, figure out why. Do you not have the bandwidth to maintain that channel? You need to answer these questions before you determine which channels to deactivate.
Along with gauging existing channels, conduct research to see if there are any tools or channels you should be using to stay competitive, such as direct mail. You may need to divert resources from one channel to another if you have a limited budget or staff.
2. Choose a marketing automation platform (if you haven’t already)
For multichannel marketing to become omnichannel marketing, you need an automation platform that allows your chosen channels to work in tandem. You don’t want to email a new product offering to a client on Wednesday who bought that product on Monday from a Facebook ad.
In a Liana Technologies survey of 421 marketing professionals, nearly 70% of respondents felt that “the improved targeting of messages is the most important benefit of using marketing automation.” Consumers would agree, with Salesforce finding that 70% of them take into account connected processes when deciding who gets their business.
Some of the most powerful B2C marketing automation tools are Salesforce Marketing Cloud and Marketo. Both integrate with a wide variety of platforms including Lob.
3. Map out customer journeys across different marketing channels
You’ve chosen your marketing channels, automation platform, and CRM. Now you need to anticipate customer actions across those channels and plan appropriate responses to those actions. Those responses need to account for the customer’s place in the sales funnel.
Customer journey mapping can help you visualize this process before you start programming your channels. Both Salesforce and HubSpot offer free worksheets to get you started. Then you can plot the journey in your automation dashboards, using a series of if/then scenarios to tell your channels what to do.
Say someone is shopping on their phone for a purse and abandons their cart after entering their email address. Your if/then scenario might start with something like this:
- If the customer’s email address is already in your database, send an email 24 hours later with a special offer.
- If the customer opens the email but doesn’t click, set a trigger to send a direct mail postcard three days later through Lob.
- If the customer scans the QR code on the postcard but doesn’t purchase, send a final postcard six days after the scan with a slightly deeper discount that expires on a certain date.
A comprehensive customer journey map helps you avoid lapses in communication and awkward responses to customer behavior.
4. Create channel-specific content
Customer journeys help you plan what to say at various customer touchpoints. The channels used at those touchpoints dictate how you say it. For example, a five-minute product “how-to” video will likely see more engagement on YouTube than on Facebook.
Say you’re a retailer about to release a new style of yoga pants. You want to use this release as an opportunity to attract new customers. Here’s how you might structure your content.
- Post a five-minute video of a yoga class featuring the new style of pants on your YouTube channel and on your product landing page. Include a link to the product page in the YouTube About section with a strong CTA to visit your website.
- Use a still from the video in a launch email, teasing that the customer can watch the whole video on the product page and buy the pants.
- Post a carousel of rich images of the pants in a boosted Instagram post. The CTA again invites the customer to visit your product page.
- Use one of the rich images and a two-sentence product description in a direct mail piece designed to look like an invitation to something exclusive.
This release strategy is not yet omnichannel. It becomes omnichannel when you integrate the channels with your automation platform, track customer engagement from each channel, and use that data to start customers on their unique buying journeys.
5. Segment your customers based on the channels they prefer
In the scenario above, you might determine that email and direct mail drove the highest number of conversions. You can use this data to begin segmenting your customers for future campaigns. You don’t want to overwhelm customers with content, and you also don’t want to waste your marketing dollars.
Content “fatigue” is real. According to a 2019 Gartner study, roughly 1 in 4 U.S. consumers said they were overwhelmed with the amount of content filling their inboxes and feed, and 15% were actually “annoyed.” This is why channel segmentation is so important.
With today’s segmentation tools, you can send communications about your products to a customer’s preferred channel. Don’t be afraid to experiment to find the right mix.
Your automation platform can help you segment. For example, say you use ManyChat for SMS messaging and automated Facebook Messenger conversations. You also use Klaviyo for marketing automation. You can use Zapier to add ManyChat subscribers to a customer list in Klaviyo. You can then use Klaviyo to track which products those subscribers browse on your website. If the majority of your ManyChat subscribers look at yoga pants, your SMS offers can focus on — you guessed it — yoga pants. Perhaps you can send these folks fewer emails to prevent content overload.
Channel segmentation can also help you save money. Don’t send out 10,000 postcards if only 100 customers purchased from them in your last campaign. Lob’s integration with Salesforce can help isolate that group of 100. To learn more about this partnership, check out this resource.
Omnichannel communication is a formula for customer loyalty
Omnichannel communication takes time to perfect, but this effort is an investment that goes a long way toward building customer loyalty. If you’re still unsure of where to start, try automating direct mail pieces with Lob’s help and using them to complement your digital marketing. To see how Lob’s direct mail automation platform can improve your omnichannel communication, click here to arrange a demo.