Weaving a Web for Omnichannel Marketing Success

By: Richard Berger

August 17, 2015

Today’s customer journey has become an increasingly complex maze for marketers to follow, with multiple entry points into the purchasing cycle and new influences that can detract them from reaching the end point. Customers can simultaneously bring their digital shopping experience in-store, share product insights on social media and compare competitor’s products across physical and digital channels. To create the seamless, personalized shopping experience that consumers expect requires a careful balance of customization and brand consistency across all marketing channels, from traditional print and broadcast to in-store and experiential. With so much fluidity in the buying process, companies must re-evaluate the rigidity of their marketing approach. To develop a truly comprehensive omnichannel marketing strategy, marketers must weave a delicate web across the entire organization to get everyone to adapt new techniques and technologies that will break the organization free of legacy challenges from its traditional marketing program.

To rise above channels, break down silos

Many retail and consumer goods organizations continue to operate in clearly delineated silos. One team may be developing messaging for the website, while another tackles print advertising and yet a third handles in-store customer experience. This division can create inconsistent brand messaging and a disjointed consumer experience across channels. When messages are muddled and confusing, customers disconnect and disengage.

Omnichannel marketing requires a more integrated strategy across traditional functional areas. Not only does the marketing team need to be aware of the individual customer’s experience in-store, online, on social media and through mobile apps, but they must also be able to synthesize data from each channel to derive meaningful insights that inform customer engagement tactics. Macy’s provides a prime example of how to do this effectively. They created a unified marketing team that covers physical and digital channels, with a focus on how to make brand communication more effective and resonant with customers, regardless of the channel.

But it’s not just the singular team that has contributed to Macy’s success in omnichannel marketing. The company has significantly grown its capacity to gather and analyze consumer data, and developed the right metrics to track the customer journey while measuring marketing impact throughout.

Out with the old, in with the new metrics for measuring omnichannel success

Even with a united team around omnichannel marketing, making vision become reality is often easier said than done. Organizations need the proper metrics in place to help answer difficult questions: How does a broadcast TV spot drive consumer engagement on Twitter? Is an uptick in social chatter about a brand attributable to the latest ad banner blitz, or is it connected to the recent pop-up store in a nearby metropolitan area?

The answers to these kinds of questions reveal insights into the complex web of today’s customer journey and help marketers move from awareness and engagement, to conversion. Yet nearly 85 percent of CMOs responding to a CMO Club/Visual IQ survey said they lack the tools and technology to derive insight from customer data and apply it meaningfully to their business. Of course, tools abound for tracking impact in singular channels, but as the customer journey has become more complex, technology has not kept pace – only 20 percent of CMOs said they had a good or very good ability to quantify cross-channel marketing impact. Understanding that impact, has helped organizations like Neiman Marcus move from blanket mass marketing campaigns to much more effective, targeted and personalized campaigns, boosting engagement with luxury customers in the process.

Measurement and metrics are only half the battle. Equally important is having people with the right skills to apply the insights derived from the data to evolve your organization’s marketing strategy.

Internal talent may be a shallow pool, but there are deep waters outside

By far the hardest part of the journey to a truly omnichannel marketing approach is the human element. The truth is your people need to change – and that’s tough. Many employees within your organization likely suffer from the same legacy difficulties as your structure and technology. Current marketers are typically accustomed to thinking in silos – addressing marketing in distinct channels and spending little time considering cross-channel impacts or overarching engagement strategies. In fact, more than 80 percent of respondents to the CMO Club/Visual IQ survey said their organization lacks the internal talent to successfully implement and maintain an omnichannel marketing strategy.

To overcome this challenge, the marketing organization needs to either bring in new talent, on a temporary or permanent basis, or invest in comprehensive retraining to transform internal staff. As in many emerging fields, this is where external consultants can be important subject matter experts. They can provide objective assessments of capabilities, strengths and weaknesses, and the critical information needed for modifying communication strategies, refining brand performance dashboards and shifting KPIs to reflect a balanced omnichannel marketing approach. Third parties can also help bolster the organization’s internal capabilities by providing training on new technologies, tools, processes and measurements, and teaching teams how to think more holistically about their marketing mix.

When marketing powers combine…

Transforming your human capital may be the most challenging aspect of the transition to a fully omnichannel marketing strategy, but it must happen hand-in-hand with breaking down organizational silos and identifying the measurements necessary to ensure new marketing tactics stay on track. These three elements together form a potent combination to support increased brand awareness, greater customer engagement and, ultimately, stronger sales for your company.