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What is Omnichannel Marketing? Is it right for you? Challenges, actionable tips & current trend

The textbook definition of omnichannel marketing is – the strategic integration of branding, messaging, and customer experience across all channels and platforms to deliver a unified and personalized customer journey, ensuring consistent and cohesive interactions at every touchpoint.

In simple terms, a successful omnichannel marketing strategy makes the target audience connect with the brand wherever they are.

If you are reading this blog, I am pretty sure, you are aware of the term and want to check whether it really works or if it’s just another buzzword. And if it does work, like many marketers and consultants like me argue, what are the caveats, and can your business run it?

In-short, yes, omnichannel marketing works. And yes, your business can also do it!

When it comes to efficiency, omnichannel campaigns earn 18.96% more engagement than single-channel marketing campaigns. When I put out this stat, you may think – “Yes, I know that already!”

And this is where, chances are you are confusing it with multichannel marketing, which we will address in the next section.

Basically, the benefits of an omnichannel marketing strategy lie in the integration.

In this blog, let’s unfold everything about omnichannel marketing – what it is, how you can create and launch one, the challenges you will come across when you do it, and the pitfalls you need to avoid.

To help you understand this concept with a practical approach, as a B2B marketing consultant, I will take the example of an Indian SaaS company. But even if you are from a different industry, I can assure you that by the end of this blog, you will know way more than what you do right now about the concept!

But before we jump into it, let’s clear the air with the two terms that look the same but are very different!

Multichannel vs Cross-channel vs Omnichannel marketing

Often misunderstood or used interchangeably, the approach of all three marketing strategies differs massively in terms of customer journey and its impact on the overall brand experience.

To illustrate the differences between multichannel, cross-channel, and omnichannel strategies, let’s say your company hosts a webinar in which you showcase the ability of your platform or app to the webinar attendees who are using your free trial.

Multichannel Marketing Example

Post-webinar, the attendees will still continue to get generic communication from you. For example, you might send them a post-webinar feedback form but they MIGHT STILL get:

  • newsletters unrelated to the webinar content,
  • see basic LinkedIn ads not reflecting their interests, and
  • experience no changes within the app or the platform.
So, basically, even though you are running multiple campaigns, each channel is operating in isolation, leading to a fragmented experience.

Cross-channel Marketing Example

After attending a webinar, the customer notices some connected messaging across all channels. For example,

  • They might receive emails that reference the webinar topics, and
  • LinkedIn ads may start to align with the FEATURES THAT WERE discussed during the webinar.
  • But there is no change within the product.
So, it is somewhat connected but still does not cover each channel. And those marketing channels still have some degree of separation and operate semi-independently. This is better than just multi-channel marketing but wait for the Omnichannel experience.

Omnichannel Marketing Example

  • After the webinar, the free trial users receive personalized emails detailing key points from the webinar
  • They will see LinkedIn image ads that show the advantages of the features
  • They will see short video ads on LinkedIn and other social media where the case studies relevant to those features will be shown
  • The mobile app interface will highlight relevant tools and resources within the app.
  • After the free trial ends and if they STILL have not purchased the product, they will get a coupon code with a discount on their email.
  • If they open the email and go to the check-out page but do not pay, the customer service team, which has full visibility of the customer’s interactions can reach out to them to see if they are facing any issues and can give them the best deal possible.

So, in this case, not just the marketing channel but all points of customer interactions are interconnected. And you take action based on what the customer has done. And this is why we call Omnichannel Marketing an integrated customer-driven strategy.

Following is a table that shows how these 3 are different.

Channel IntegrationIndependent channelsSome integrationFully integrated
Customer ExperienceInconsistent across channelsMore ConnectedSeamless integration
Data UtilizationSiloed per channelShared across some channelsUnified across all channels
PersonalizationChannel-specificBetter cross-channelConsistent across all channels
Campaign ManagementManaged separately for each channelCoordinated across some channelsUnified campaign strategy
In-Product ExperienceSeparate or not applicablePartially connectedProduct/app Integrated with all channels

4 Pillars of Omnichannel Marketing

As you saw in the above section, omnichannel marketing transcends traditional boundaries, and prioritizes customer experience (CX), ensuring that each channel, contributes to a seamless customer journey. The strategy requires businesses to visualize, measure, personalize, and optimize every customer interaction and that’s why customer journey mapping becomes the linchpin in this process.

Each of the 4 pillars plays a crucial role in ensuring the effectiveness of omnichannel marketing. Let’s understand each of them in detail:

  1. Visibility across all channels is paramount. It ensures that customers can interact with the brand through their preferred touchpoints, whether that’s social media, email, web, or in-app/ in-product experiences. This widespread presence enables a brand to maintain a continuous and accessible relationship with its audience, regardless of the channel they choose.
  2. Measurement is about accurately tracking and analyzing customer interactions across these channels. This data-driven approach helps in understanding the performance of each channel, how they contribute to the customer journey, and their role in achieving business objectives. For instance, analyzing engagement metrics on social media or conversion rates from email campaigns provides insights into where to allocate resources effectively.
  3. Personalization is implemented through channels by leveraging the data collected to tailor the customer experience. This can range from personalized LinkedIn marketing campaigns that address the customer by name and reference their past interactions which you can store in a CRM, to targeted remarketing ads on 3rd-party blogs/ digital news platforms, and social media that are in line with the user’s browsing behavior and preferences.
  4. Optimization involves continuously refining the strategies across these channels based on the insights gained from measurement and personalization efforts. It might mean adjusting the content strategy on one or all the channels, like improving the user interface on the website, fine-tuning the targeting criteria for online ads, or changing the event-based triggers within your app.

By integrating these four pillars into the various marketing channels, an omnichannel strategy ensures a cohesive and dynamic marketing ecosystem that is responsive to customer needs and business goals, fostering a seamless and engaging experience for the user at every touchpoint.

However, constructing a robust omnichannel framework comes with its set of complexities and challenges. Navigating these hurdles is essential for maintaining the efficacy of the omnichannel approach and achieving sustained marketing success.

5 Challenges of Omnichannel Marketing + Actionable Tips

Ideas are easy, execution is the real issue

52% of marketers use 3-4 marketing channels but here’s the problem – with every new channel, you need an in-depth analysis of the strategic objective, execution plan, and exactly how it will connect with other marketing channels. And that is where your marketing plan needs to be on point. So, let’s see 5 most common challenges you can expect if and when you plan to launch your omnichannel marketing:

1. MarTech integration needs tech-driven marketing

One of the major challenges is setting up marketing workflows. You need to set clear triggers and actions – basically, if someone visits your ‘Pricing’ page and exits the website within 1 minute, this should trigger an email with a discount coupon. At the same time, your remarketing campaign should get activated. So, no matter where they visit, be it news websites or social media platforms, they will see how your SaaS can increase their team’s productivity and ROI.

On the next day, an email gets triggered showing how your product has done wonders for the clients. And these things can be personalized to the next level if they submit any form. Then you can run 1:1 ABM like LinkedIn Spotlight ads or leverage website personalization.

Simply adding a multichannel approach can 1.5x your conversions as compared to a single marketing channel. And with the right omnichannel approach, hyper-personalization will further impress 2/3 of your ICP encouraging them to purchase from you and stay! When it comes to tech, your first task will be – to set up a CRM integrated with as many MarTech as possible.

2. Data Management will always be an issue

The key to crack omnichannel is data-driven marketing. You should be prepared to deal with vast amounts of data from different sources – Excel, cold emails (if you’re into it), pipeline accounts (companies) and their associated contacts, people who have moved on from a company and are not relevant anymore, your newsletter subscribers, and many more.

Then you should be able to categorize them based on their deal stage in the customer lifecycle. And most importantly, automate intent-driven actions. All of this can be overwhelming. On top of that, while providing marketing operations consultation, I have seen almost every other company struggle with data accuracy.

Then there are other data management-related issues like data privacy, access management, and data segregation. Additionally, if you have a large data size, storage, and regulatory compliance could be other challenges that you can expect. And that is why you need robust systems in place.

3. Customer Journey needs constant optimization

Each customer’s path to purchase is unique, and capturing every touchpoint and interaction requires sophisticated tracking and analysis. This makes mapping and understanding the customer journey across multiple channels very tricky.

And even if you have done it well and it is working right now, I can guarantee you that it’s probably due for optimization. Periodic analysis of drop-off or friction points may require UX changes or adding resources like a checklist. Every now and then, as you uncover a new trend, customer segmentation will need some re-organization.

To be on top of the game, you will have to always be on your toes. Your session recordings, heatmaps, feature tags (within the app or product), and event trackers should all be working properly all the time. As you dive deep into integration and tracking, you will HAVE to set a change management system in place, comprising quality checks post-implementation.

If all of this sounds like product management, you are absolutely right because it is!

4. Resource Allocation is the biggest bottleneck

For small businesses or startups, resource constraints have and will always pose a significant challenge. And it’s very clear – you cannot serve two masters at the same time. Running half-baked campaigns on 10 marketing channels will give you the same results as focusing on 3 (three). So, you need to prioritize which marketing channels you should use and set the budget, weightage, manpower, and time for execution, analysis, and optimization.

Marketing planning is not easy and aiming to be everywhere all at once stretches your limited resources thin and when the time comes for management and/or leadership to review the retrospectives, it ends up in frustration and disappointment. So, PLAN WISELY!

5. You always have to keep up with the trend

Change is the only constant

The fast-paced nature of consumer preferences and behavior requires businesses to be agile and adaptable in their omnichannel strategies. On top of that, the tools and marketing automation technologies are upgrading like never before. Plus, there could be geo-political reasons, changes in personal lifestyle, availability of new products, or hundreds of other factors that WILL always contribute to the ‘business risk’ component.

Staying ahead of the trend and continuously optimizing the marketing mix is essential for success. Because if you don’t you can be assured that your competitor will!

Yes, Omnichannel Marketing is not easy

Apparently, running a successful omnichannel marketing channel is not a cakewalk. You and your marketing team need the right balance between creativity and tech.

There’s a reason why marketing is called a subject of art and science!

But overcoming these challenges is not impossible. Several successful businesses have already perfected the art of omnichannel marketing, and trust me, they are still optimizing it as you read this sentence. The point is – before you launch, your business needs to prioritize strategic planning and resource allocation. And when you do that, you CANNOT undermine the importance of a robust technical and HR infrastructure.

If the in-house team needs guidance and is not experienced, specifically with omnichannel marketing, that’s a good reason to hire an experienced marketing consultant or agency that specializes in omnichannel strategies. These partnerships provide the expertise and support needed to implement successful omnichannel campaigns, especially for companies that are new to the space or looking to scale their efforts.

Past, present and future of Omnichannel Marketing

Businesses that capitalize on omnichannel marketing have witnessed an average annual revenue increase of 9.5%.

Source: McKinsey & Co. March 15, 2021. Article: Omnichannel in B2B sales: The new normal in a year that has been anything but.

Track record of Omnichannel marketing has been promising

Since its inception, omnichannel marketing has been a force to be reckoned with, especially in the B2B SaaS industry. In contrast to earlier times when in-person meetings were crucial, which they still are, and they somewhat hold a significant value for enterprise deals, the fact is shopping journey for 87% of B2B buyers starts digitally, be it, inbound or outbound marketing, single channel, multichannel or omnichannel. And over 90% of B2B buyers complete a purchase digitally.

Running successful omnichannel marketing has been democratized up to a great extent. Capitalism still exists and marketing budget will always be a strong factor. But, we are all aware of the story of OpenAI and how it is going neck to neck (and even beating) with behemoths like Google, Amazon and Apple. This is just an example that with the right approach, qualitative factors have played a decisive role in the success of a lot of B2B and B2C organizations of all sizes.

Technology is trickling down, as always, and will continue to do so

I think all of us have experienced firsthand the virtual try-ons in our online shopping experience. And now we have products like Meta Quest and Apple’s Vision Pro which are leaning heavily on productivity and collaboration. And I think we should expect a lot of businesses down the line to develop B2B products and apps that will include these new devices.

The application of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) in omnichannel marketing experience is already anticipated to grow by 108% annually through 2025.

Source: McKinsey & Co. Mayu 2023. Report: AI-powered marketing and sales reach new heights with generative AI

AI tools have already changed the way we do marketing in 2023 and are on an upward curve to increase marketing productivity. Research suggests that a fifth of current sales-team functions could be automated. Companies will then need to focus on working on things that matter the most – making the content humane through context-aware communications.

My Parting Thoughts…

Companies that perfect their omnichannel marketing have immense opportunities for growth and innovation. The focus has already started and will increasingly shift towards creating more integrated and customer-centric experiences in the future.

Omnichannel marketing for small businesses can seem daunting, but with the speed at which AI and other technologies are expanding, it is increasingly becoming a necessity rather than a choice.

By embracing these principles and continuously adapting to the evolving market trends, you can not only meet the current demands of your target audience but the sooner you incorporate them, you can also anticipate future needs. And that is how omnichannel marketing can set the stage for sustained growth and success for you in the competitive global marketplace.

Grayscale Image of Anoop Singh Yersong the marketing consultant.

Anoop Yersong

I have 10+ years of experience in innovating, building & implementing growth and marketing strategies for 100+ clients. Firm believer in working for a vision that gives a sense of fulfilment and motivation to do better every day and inspire people around me to do the same. Love hard rock, grunge & thrash metal music to achieve zen! Passionate conversationalist and avid podcast, interviews & documentary enthusiast

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