For the first time in human history there will be more mobile devices used on the Internet than desktop computers (1.9 billion mobile vs. 1.7 desktop users). This changing dynamic is naturally having an effect on how businesses operate and think about their customers. None more so than the retail sector. Using smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices, consumers are more educated and more plugged in than ever before.
These tech-savvy consumers are known as connected consumers and are increasingly expecting to have shopping experiences tailored to their needs. Admittedly, this is easier said than done. Using multiple channels (multi-channel approach) to serve and sell to a consumer base has been a marketing tactic for a long time. However, the traditional models are becoming outdated. When a customer is shopping for an item, their experience is going to be different when shopping in different channels. A good example is to think about the experience of buying a television at Best Buy as opposed to an online marketplace like Amazon. Due to a high number of possible channels: brick-and-mortar stores, online shopping, tv and radio shopping; there can also be a high variance in the messages delivered by products. This is where the omni-channel approach deviates from the multi-channel approach.
A unified tactic
Like the multi-channel approach, omni-channel focuses on both presenting their products in desirable channels as well as educating consumers about their product. However, instead of being focused on how to make each channel as profitable as possible, omni-channel first focuses on the consumer. This alternate strategy prompts brands to unify their channels, merchandise and promotions in a way that’s not channel specific but rather consistent across all retail channels. The goal of omni-channel retailing is to create an experience that no matter what channel a product is being purchased or researched in, the message will be the same for consumer.
However, while having a unified brand image is vital, the true power of omni-channel retailing is how it makes marketing more efficient by tailoring offers relative to a specific consumer. A retailer using an omni-channel approach does so by looking at purchase patterns, website visits, loyalty programs, social media use and other consumer data. This act is known as data mining and it offers another important distinction from a multi-channel approach- it calls for retailers to track data through all channels, not just a select few. This data allows for retailers to better define their core demographics and reach them in more effective ways.
Becoming one with the consumer
However, big data and personalization can only take you so far. Connected consumers are increasingly looking to interact with brands and products over digital mediums. 80% of internet users use their smartphones to search the web (globalwebindex.net) so creating a unified culture around your product in this mobile age is necessary. This can be done through social media, branded websites and apps. In fact, 31% of smartphone users start their product research on branded websites and 23% on branded apps (Google/Nielsen).
In the end, omni-channel marketing is about providing a unified experience across the irrupting array of digital channels. Whether it across devices, marketplaces, or networks, “keeping it consistent” is a new management challenge that brands are having to evolve with everyday.