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Devising an omni-channel strategy for your e-commerce SME

6 minute read

Devising an omni-channel strategy for your eCommerce SME

Customer service should be at the heart of your e-commerce SME. And with advances in technology, your customers are interacting with brands in more integrated ways than ever before.

No longer is it enough for businesses to think of their online strategy in terms of mobile, computer, and tablet device. It’s not good enough to provide content on different channels – email, social media or online copy – in isolation. Instead, a holistic strategy is needed so that all the touchpoints between customer and brand are considered.

What do we mean by “omni-channel” marketing

Today’s consumer interacts with brands in a variety of interconnected ways. Switching seamlessly from mobile to desktop to in-store, from social media to online reviews, their buyer journey no longer takes a linear form from point A to point B.

Omnichannel marketing is the approach marketers employ to provide the best experience to their customer regardless of where they are in their buyer journey, what device they’re using, or whether they’re online or in-store.

An omnichannel approach considers all the areas of the customer experience, design, messaging, navigation, to provide a seamless, consistent experience of your brand regardless of what channel they’re using.

Where it differs from “multichannel” marketing, is that it aims to include all channels experienced by their customer, rather than just a few:

“All omni-channel experiences will use multiple channels, but not all multi-channel experiences are omni-channel.” – HubSpot

Why omnichannel marketing is worth doing

Marketing strategies rely on knowing the customer and ensuring the online and offline experience are as unified as possible.

It stands to reason then, that if the customer is operating in an omnichannel way, then it’s the prerogative of businesses to respond with their sales and marketing approach.

And the data backs this up.

Businesses that employ a holistic experience to their customers are more likely to see a better revenue. 47% of consumers engaging with brands on 10+ channels will make a weekly purchase from their favourite brand. This compared to 21% among those who engage on up to 4 channels.

How to create an omnichannel e-commerce strategy:

Persona workshopping

Before you do anything, go back to your buyer personas. If you’ve never developed buyer personas, then now’s a good time to start. And if you have, then you can revise them, this time taking care to look at them from an omnichannel viewpoint.

You might have focused your persona groundwork on how your buyers interact with your brand directly online. But for the purposes of omnichannel marketing, it’s worth developing your personas further to include their online, offline and omnichannel goals and pain points.  

Use your data

The best way to flesh out your customer personas is by employing your data. Use your on-site, social, advertising and CRM analytics to gain insights about how they’re interacting with your brand.

You’ll be able to back up your ideas about their goals, their pain points and where the customer journey falters.

Map your customer journey

Customer journey mapping is a central part of your omnichannel strategy. It’ll help you to define all the ways in which your customer engages in your brand, whilst identifying all the opportunities to fill those gaps to make the journey as seamless as possible.

Identify touch points

Touchpoints are the points at which your customer comes into contact with your business. Listing these out will help you to see all the many and varied channels your customer uses.  They might include:

  • Social channels
  • Your website
  • Paid ads
  • Email marketing
  • 3rd party review sites or mentions
  • Your online store
  • Printed leaflets

Identify actions

Throughout your customer’s journey with your brand, they will be making all sorts of different actions. Try to list these out, using your data analytics as back up. These might be passive or active; direct or indirect, including:

  • Seeing a Facebook Ad
  • Commenting on an Instagram post
  • Finding your website in search engine
  • Signing up to your newsletter
  • Reading an email
  • Looking at your online product pages
  • Entering your physical store
  • Making a purchase on your online checkout

Identify emotions/motivations

All your customer’s actions will be motivated by some kind of emotion, and the nature of this emotion will depend on the stage of their journey, as well as what channel they’re using.

Knowing their motivations and emotions will help you to deliver the right kind of message to provide them the best experience for that particular instance.

Identify obstacles/pain points

As you develop your customer map, you’ll begin to identify the not-so-seamless links between channels. There might be a messaging mismatch between your social media and your email marketing, or between your offline material and online product pages.

While its important to stay true to the channel you’re using at the time – for example, your tone on your email will be different from your tone on social – you need to make sure that your channels aren’t conflicting in their brand and messaging.

Use your customer journey map to identify gaps

The customer journey map will have identified all the areas you need to work on to improve the coherence of the customer experience.

Make a list of all these areas and strategize how you’re going to implement them. For example, you might want to look at:

  • Navigation: How can I fix all the transitions between promotional channels and the website?
  • Calls-to-action: Are the CTAs visible and click through to the right pages?
  • Mobile experience: How can I make the mobile and desktop experience equally positive?

Develop a consistent brand voice/design across all channels

A crucial part of omnichannel marketing is how you provide your customer with a consistent brand experience.

Your design and messaging will give your customers the instant clues that your website is the same brand that they saw in the Facebook Ad they’ve seen in the past. They’re the thread that stitches your brand together throughout the customer journey.

Having said that, each of your channels will have its own set of design and messaging “rules”. For example, the wording you use on your Twitter feed will be more relaxed and concise than the words you use on your email marketing. But the trick is to keep the flavour of your brand consistent regardless of which medium you’re using.

Firstly, keep true to your corporate colours, and use these as far as possible across all your channels, both on and offline.

The images and wording you use must also be carefully chosen to support your brand’s look, feel and tone.

Make each touch point an excellent (shopping) experience

While it’s tempting to focus most of your efforts on a certain aspect of the customer journey – often this is the product pages through to the checkout – it’s important to make every touch point a crucial one.

If a customer stumbles across your brand on social media, for example, their experience at this naïve point of their journey might make the difference between them going on to become a regular customer or forgetting about you immediately.

Your touchpoints experience must also be working towards moving your customer towards a conversion. Although you’ll use varying levels of urgency depending on the channel and on where your customer is on the buyer journey, there are ways of presenting the opportunity to buy – or at least convert – at all points along the journey.

Take your social channels for example. Traditionally, marketers have seen social as a research-based, top of funnel medium. But now, increasing numbers are making purchases through social media.

Pinterest’s buyable pins let customers purchase directly from your Pinterest pages and checkout within Pinterest. Shopify, Salesforce and BigCommerce all let you set up these pins.

Facebook has exactly the same tool. On your Facebook Business page, go to Settings, Templates and Tabs and add the tab “Shop”. On your page, click on the “Shop” tab and you can set up your payment preferences and begin adding your products.

Personalise the customer experience

Personalisation is the key to achieving an excellent eCommerce strategy. Given that 56% of consumers are more likely to shop with a brand that recognises them by name, it’s worth investing some time and resources in tailoring your content to your customers directly.

Take Pixels, as a starting point. Pixels are codes that you place within your content to help you gather information about your customers. It provides you with insights on which products your customers are looking at so that you can retarget them with further content.

For more about personalising the user journey, read one of our earlier blog posts here.

Provide help at the right time

Your omnichannel eCommerce strategy should focus on making it easy for your customer to find their way through your brand across a multitude of devices and channels. But this isn’t to say that you shouldn’t provide them with help every now and then.

You need to build your help facilities into your channels, making it easy for your customer to find the right information when they need it. And, when they can’t find what they’re looking for make a phone number or email address available to them.

In summary

Businesses who invest in an omnichannel approach to their eCommerce are responding sensibly to changing shopping behaviours. With consumers using a variety of devices and channels sometimes simultaneously throughout their shopping journey, the lines between online and offline, between channels, and between devices, are blurring.

But with omnichannel marketing still in its infancy, it would be sensible to proceed gradually. With a task this mammoth, it’s worth starting small and gradually expanding your strategy as you develop new insights.

The important thing is to at least begin thinking about your sales and marketing as an omnichannel experience. This way, as technology advances, you’ll be well placed to bring them into your strategy and quickly benefit from a more responsive approach.

Charlotte Jenkins is an Oxford-based content marketer. She has several years’ experience in content writing, editing and digital marketing, helping clients communicate their businesses online.

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