Omni-Channel Marketing: The New Imperative
If you are even half-connected in today’s fast-paced, multi-tasking world, multiple devices are a way of life to get through the daily demands of work and home. Whether it is communicating, purchasing items online or simply consuming information, we are constantly moving among our laptops, phones and tablets–it is increasingly who we are and what we know.
That is why we need to constantly think about marketing our products and services in that fashion, across multiple platforms and channels–a.k.a. “omni-channel marketing.” Whether we like it or not, the buyer is out ahead of us–and we need to keep up with the brisk pace of information flow.
Omni-channel may be a marketing buzzword, but it refers to a significant shift in how we approach marketing. Only a decade ago, the average car buyer visited five dealerships before purchasing a vehicle. Today, that average is down to 1.6. Because buyers have so many conduits to information, and because there is more information available, consumers do their research ahead of time, eliminating the drudgery of engaging the car salesman.
With access to information, the paradigm has shifted, and the purchasing leverage has been removed from the seller and shifted to the buyer. Today, two out of three buyers prefer the digital journey. More than half of the buying process is completed before the buyer ever talks to a sales person. To avoid losing consumers along their journey, marketers have to engage customers much earlier in the process.
Yes, word-of-mouth recommendations from trusted friends and colleagues are still preferred. But those opinions are now augmented and verified by others’ views both on the Web and through social media. Now more than ever you can get multiple data points, all of which play a role in the decision-making process.
What is true for individuals is also true for businesses, which only makes sense. The executives buying cars online are also making critical purchasing decisions for their companies.
Catering Marketing Messages
I can’t stress this enough: We have to cater our marketing messages to those decision-makers by leveraging each and every channel available to us–and to them. This is the focus of omni-channel marketing: to ensure that information regarding products and services can be accessed anywhere, on any platform, and any device.
Solution providers can really benefit from a great omni-channel marketing approach. And, there is business to be had providing your customers with technology and solutions to aid their omni-efforts.
Most of us are already behind in this endeavor. This gap will only widen if we don’t act soon because more information, not less, is coming online.
Of course, you should not make rash decisions in your desire to catch up. That will only serve to set you back further. There is an intelligent way to go about being productive in omni-channel marketing, and it starts with understanding your customers’ habits and needs. Have a dialog, do your due diligence, and put a marketing plan in motion that incorporates what you’ve learned.
That is Step 1. Step 2 is making sure you are consistent. Coordinate your efforts so that while your message differentiates you from your competition, it carries the same voice across all platforms–in presentations, in direct marketing, on the Web and, yes, dare I say, in blogs like this and other social media.
Finally, track your success. Marketing automation software can help, making it easier to segment customers, manage campaigns and close the loop on the leads you generate. You need to know if the omni-channel marketing approach you’ve chosen is working once you have a large enough sample size. A customer analytic solution can help you–but doing nothing is not an answer.
Ira Simon is vice president, Partner Marketing & Communications, at SAP. Guest blogs such as this one are published monthly and are part of The VAR Guy’s annual platinum sponsorship. Learn more about partnership opportunities at: http://www.sap.com/partners/.