The word "omnichannel" is everywhere — and for good reason: companies with omnichannel customer engagement strategies may retain on average 89% of their customers, compared to a customer retention rate of 33% for companies with weak omnichannel customer engagement.
Why? The "omnichannel" approach to selling — online or offline, via mobile, tablet, and desktop — sees retailers focusing on all touchpoints in order to create a more seamless customer journey, one that truly fits the fragmented, multi-device way most people shop today. That said, the stakes are high when it comes to getting omnichannel marketing right: 88% of consumers are less likely to return to a site after a single bad experience.
So, how can omnichannel marketing help you be where your buyers are — and how do you do it effectively?
The benefits of omnichannel marketing
When customers are able to leverage omnichannel experiences, there are a lot of benefits — for them and for you. First, omnichannel strategies help you scale your marketplace. It helps you meet your customers where they are: on their phone, in-app, browsing your website, or visiting your store.
Second, it helps you create a better online experience — period. When you streamline your journey on your site and across all of your digital properties, the shopping experience is much more seamless. Your customers can research and evaluate products across channels, and then choose to transact wherever is most convenient.
On the business side, omnichannel retailers see increased internal efficiencies and are able to collect data across a wide variety of touchpoints. This convenience adds up to increased sales and site traffic, as well as increased customer loyalty when the journey works well. That's the definition of a win-win.
But if the past few years have taught us anything, it's that it's easy for retailers to say they're "prioritizing omnichannel" — but it's a lot harder to actually do it. (Hint: search is the missing link.)
How to create a great omnichannel experience in three steps
Looking to up your omnichannel game? Here are three steps to get you started:
1. Map customer journeys and focus on the cross-channel experience: In today's world, an ecommerce journey spans many channels. If you don't research and map the myriad paths your customers might take, you can't understand where their pain points are likely to be — and you can't address them.
"Once companies have gained greater visibility into customer personas, they can design end-to-end service journeys across digital and live channels. These journeys should take into account the migration of a customer across channels to ensure seamless handoffs," writes Jorge Amar in a McKinsey report. "An in-depth consideration of journeys can enable companies to determine what capabilities they need across technology, people, and the organization.
2. Invest in insights and data: Customer preferences aren't static. For example, just because you've observed a trend of customers conducting research on mobile and switching to desktop to check out doesn't mean that behavior is fixed; retailers need to keep tabs on evolving customer preferences and adjust their offerings as needed. Continuing to invest in insights and comparing key customer data over time is key to the kind of digital "agility that helps businesses succeed today.
"No doubt keeping up with new trends and navigating the world of ecommerce, all the while keeping your brand in check… is a big-time investment," says Sarah Gilbert, eCommerce Marketing Manager at Lulu. "But informing yourself of what's to come — and staying up to date with new features and trends — is worth the time."
3. Leverage AI search: Every customer journey starts with a search. It might be on a third-party search engine, and it might be on your website. But whether your customers are interacting with you via mobile, tablet, or desktop, search is the common thread that can help you deliver them the exactinformation they need, wherever they are.That's because the questions your customers ask when they search — from "store near me open now" to "buy midi-length dress with pockets" — reveal their intent. People search so that they can access information or take a specific action.
What can you do with this information? Well, you can start by embedding search into your digital experiences to deliver more relevant, personalized content across touchpoints — no cookies necessary. When you can see (and understand) what your customers are searching for, you can understand them better and deliver more of what they want, no matter what device they're using. Delivering better search results pays off in sales: research suggests shopper may spend 2.6x more across mobile and desktop than non-searchers, thanks to rich, interactive search that displays relevant results.
Your customers need things quickly and efficiently. With an overload of information and a variety of digital touchpoints, it can be hard to deliver true personalization — but that's where AI-powered search comes in. By meeting your customers with the most relevant information and answers wherever they search, you can take your omnichannel marketing to the next level.