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Omnichannel: A Passing Fad?

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Here’s how brand marketers can turn omnichannel marketing into a strategy for business growth. By Brendan Morrissey

If you were alive during the summer of 1980, then you remember Sony’s release of the Walkman and its immediate rise to “must have fad” status. Even though many individuals still preferred listening to their vinyl albums, Walkman sales immediately soared. Because as with most passing fads, we tend to follow the crowd and spend our money without considering the actual value it brings to us, right?

Brand marketers in 2017 are experiencing a similar fad obsession: omnichannel marketing. Most brands understand the importance of delivering a seamless experience across digital and mobile platforms, and are quick to pour money and time into aligning customer experiences online and across devices. But in doing so, they are forgetting about the most important channel: the local brick-and-mortar store.

The local retail experience is crucial to the buyer’s journey, and if brands aren’t aligning their marketing efforts with their local partners, then omnichannel marketing does become a passing fad, not a strategy for business growth.  So how can brand marketers turn a fad into a financial opportunity?

Adding the physical channel back into omnichannel

The first step to successful “omnichannel marketing” is broadening your definition of omnichannel to include local storefronts. Even though we live in a society that is driven by online and device engagement, the clear majority of the nearly $5 trillion in U.S. retail sales occur in stores, with retail e-commerce accounting for just 7.1 percent of all retail sales.

While the point of sale may be occurring at physical stores, the National Retail Federation estimates that up to two-thirds of in-store visits are driven by something a consumer saw online first. For example, a customer might research mattress options online, but then drive to an actual storefront to test and purchase the product. The physical and digital worlds overlap constantly in the buyer’s journey, and the in-store experience needs to align with the customer’s digital experience to ensure customer loyalty. 

Remember to bring your online promotions offline

Promotions can be a great way to entice on-the-fence shoppers to make a purchase. According to the 2016 Nielsen Social Media Report, 35 percent of heavy social media users cite special discounts as important to brand loyalty, such as access to exclusive offers and coupons. However, online promotions need to align with the in-store offers.

Consumers assume that the store’s online messaging aligns with their local retailer offerings, so misleading information can hurt the brand’s reputation and impact the chances of future sales with that customer. Brands need to communicate regularly with their local retail partners to ensure that they have the right messaging, content assets and shared promotional opportunities.

Delivering on the complete channel experience

As a brand marketer, you need to understand how your digital marketing efforts impact in-store sales and implement a click-to-brick marketing strategy. Brands can learn a lot from the e-commerce master, Amazon. Although Amazon’s initial success was in the digital space, it’s now added several brick-and-mortar Amazon bookstore locations and plans to build more locations in 2017. Amazon is aligning itself with the buyer’s journey, recognizing that the journey still involves in-store purchases.

Brands should focus on their customers’ online and offline purchasing behavior to create a true omnichannel experience. And for brand marketers, this means leveraging the insight from their local retail partners. Marketers need to identify the tools, technology and engagements that can turn their disconnected marketing strategy into a seamless customer experience, ultimately increasing the bottom line for both the brand and the partner.

Brendan Morrissey is the CEO and co-founder at Netsertive.

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