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Omni-channel marketing

To become an average god, you only need omnipotent powers. To become a marketing god, you need omni-channel marketing.

Over the past ten years, there has been a seismic shift in consumer habits. As usual, the challenge for businesses is to adapt and meet these new expectations. One of these is moving from multi-channel to omni-channel marketing. The difference between multi- and omni-channel marketing might not be immediately clear, with the Latin root of multi meaning ‘many’, and omni meaning ‘all’.

In this context, multi-channel marketing is the practice of selling products through more than one ‘channel’. For example, a company with a brick-and-mortar store might enhance their print advertisements with email newsletters and a website. The types of adverts used for each channel can vary, meaning the consumer experience is different depending which advert they see. Put simply, multi-channel marketing is about trying to reach as many people as possible by casting the net wider.

By contrast, omni-channel marketing entails communicating a consistent message across all channels, putting the customer at the centre to create a holistic, integrated shopping experience. Omni-channel marketing relies on ‘big data’, large datasets that are analysed to reveal patterns and trends in human behaviour and interactions to help make intelligent decisions for successful marketing.

Power in the hands of the consumer

The increasing use of smartphones has had a transformative effect on consumer habits. We consult our phones while simultaneously using our laptops and watching TV. We use social media to ask friends for tips and advice on products or services. We research as much as we can before making purchases. Because of this, a company must present itself across all channels seamlessly and consistently.

A consistent message across all channels builds a relationship of trust with the customer, with brand reputations increasingly determined by what people say about them. Omni-channel marketing helps to create a coherent and consistent perception, helping to nurture strong brand advocates.

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A truly awesome example of omni-channel marketing is found with the UK fashion retailer, Oasis. Having identified the priorities of its customers, the company has been able to apply omni-channel marketing to provide a simple shopping experience across their ecommerce site, mobile app, and brick-and-mortar stores.

Upon arriving at an Oasis store, customers will find sales assistants equipped with iPads who are able to provide accurate, on-the-spot, and up-to-date product information. The iPad also acts as a point of sale, so customers can make their payment anywhere in the store. In the event that a desired item isn’t in stock, sales staff can use the iPad to order the item and have it delivered directly to the customer’s home.

This ease of service is continued for Oasis’s online shoppers. If an item is sold out online, the ‘Seek & Send’ service means that Oasis will search its stores to locate the product. Once this has been done, the company emails the customer that the item is being shipped to them, and provides the relevant tracking information.

As if all this wasn’t enough, another aspect of the holistic Oasis shopping experience is found in the returns policy and procedure. If an item of clothing needs to be returned, customers are provided an array of convenient and free options to do this. In addition to the expected method or returning an item in person or by post, Oasis exceeded their customers’ expectations by allowing shoppers to return purchases via a network of almost 4,000 drop-off points in local shops, even outside of the normal working hours, as a direct response to customer concerns about the convenience of returning unwanted items.

Certainly, omni-channel marketing isn’t the singular solution to successful marketing. The value proposition and economic model are equally vital to sustainable success. But it is necessary for a business to be flexible and responsive to changes in consumer expectations, and perhaps this is now truer than ever.

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