Automating the omnichannel opportunity

For a while, multichannel was the thing, engaging with customers across a wide range of different channels and building a strong presence on each available platform.

Then, there was a shift. The days of multi-channel were ushered off into the wings as quickly as they had come. There was a new kid on the block. Her name was omni-channel, and you better get used to her; you’re going to be seeing a lot of her.

Like his big sister, omni-channel requires pluralized engagement with customers and clients. This new format also requires businesses to be everywhere, providing customers with what they need, when they need it and in the format and manner which suits them. However, there is a difference.

With multi-channel, marketers simply had to ensure that they were engaging customers in whichever key battlegrounds pertained to their particular field. This could include eCommerce, a physical presence on the high street, social media marketing, online live chat support and a telephone sales line among other things.

Omni-channel is all of this and more. It’s all of these levels of customer interaction delivered as a concerted effort, as cohesive elements of the same interactive whole.

OMNI-DILEMMA

If this sounds like it might be tricky to achieve, that’s because it is. Effective omni-channel engagement requires a vast amount of resources to get right. If we slip up, it doesn’t make us look good.

A customer may hear about a bargain item in your store through word of mouth, head online to check it out, then reserve the product for in-store collection. They may also download an app to enhance their experience of the product, and then contact your telephone helpline when the time comes for an upgrade. This translates to numerous points of contact across a range of platforms.

If a consumer feels they received poor service or low quality interaction at any point, the whole organization suffers. A comprehensive omni-channel experience is necessary, and if you can’t provide this experience, a competitor will.

This is where the omni-dilemma comes in: do I go it alone? Or do I enlist the help of automation software to lessen the load?

With so much at stake – and with such wide-ranging orchestration required to unify all your service and marketing efforts – going it alone is a big risk. Marketing automation software gives you a platform on which to build, and it gives you a fighting chance at taking on the omni-channel pioneers at their own game.

SERIOUS UNDERSTANDING

A company can’t survive without data. The more data we are able to gather, harness and utilize, the better. Unfortunately, customers don’t like being questioned too much, nor do they like having their privacy invaded. This limits the opportunities we can use to gain serious insight into our position in the market.

Because of this, good quality interaction is incredibly important. We need to capitalize on these opportunities to learn more about our customers and about our own companies. Natural interaction provides a point of contact.

But it can be difficult to make the most of these opportunities. What we need is a data storage system which can report on data in a variety of different configurations and from a multitude of different sources, giving us the insight we crave.

This system is – of course – a marketing automation system.

The benefits of this can’t be underestimated. This level of understanding is necessary for success – not simply in terms of an omni-channel marketing campaign – but in every aspect of business. As organizations become increasingly data-centric, and increasingly able to wield the advantages they receive from data, business owners who ignore this trend will end up missing out.

CUSTOMER SEGMENTATION

What are the different demographics you’re targeting? How are you engaging with each one? Which channels are most effective? You need to be able answer these questions, as this is an area of omni-channel in which marketing automation can give you a powerful advantage.

Understanding your customers and understanding the routes they take as they navigate your services enables you to enhance their experience of your organization. Use the information gathered by your marketing automation platform to segment your customers, creating specific customer groups which can be targeted in different ways.

Buyer persona profiles can help you and your team gain more insight into the type of approach to take. How old is the customer? What’s their preferred method of interaction? What do they value? What is their primary aim when they engage with you? Each persona will require its own specific set of interactions; something which will be easy to define and keep track of using the right piece of automation software.

MAP THE JOURNEY

Of course, defining specific customer-sets and identifying their preferred routes of interaction is one thing, but what about the future? Technology changes, market forces shift, customers change their minds and their behavior follows suit. Then what?

To answer this question, you need to keep track of the journeys your customers are taking. A report from several quarters ago identified your mobile app as the key point of contact for 18 to 25 year olds, but you recently updated your application, so is this data still accurate? Research showed that very few of your customer were accessing your site via tablet devices, but as tablets become more affordable, is this still the case?

The consumer journey is evolving faster than ever before. Not only that, but it’s becoming increasingly complex. Use marketing automation data to keep abreast of changes in your customers’ behaviors. If you need to rewrite a buyer persona profile in the process – or maybe even create a new one – so be it.

The future of customer interaction is unity. A modern marketer or business owner must work to encourage cohesion across all aspects of their business. In the current climate of intense competition and limited elbow room in the market, symbiotic relationships are required between each department, underlining the fact that one can’t exist without the other.

Automated systems, and the efficiency and effectiveness they provide, can help us to achieve this. In the increasingly choppy waters of customer interaction, marketing automation is what we need to stay afloat.

This article originally appeared on GetResponse.com, then published at Marketinginsidergroup.com, by author Michael Brenner.

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