Data has been dubbed “the new oil”, giving a whole new meaning to the expression “knowledge is power”. As we emerge from the era of lockdowns and see brick-and-mortar retail pick up serious steam, savvy retailers are waking up to the fact that to maximize sales, they need to cater to a new, omnichannel style of shopping, by understanding their customers’ preferences and buying habits in a way that allows for much more intuitive targeting. With third-party cookies scheduled to be phased out in 2023 and privacy restrictions on the rise, the emergence of CDPs and data intelligence platforms aren’t just a timely alternative, but potentially a superior option for marketers, because it allows them to automate sophisticated customer personalization using their own first-party data.
Until recently, single-channel and multi-channel marketing has been the norm, often using audience segmentation that lumps customers together based on shared criteria, so they all receive the same messages at the same time. Omnichannel marketing, however, represents a shift toward customer-centric marketing. Made possible by technological advances in recent years, it targets individual customers based on their own personal circumstances, preferences and interactions with the brand, giving them a unified, personalized experience across multiple touchpoints, including brick-and-mortar stores, social media, email, SMS, and other marketing or sales channels.
Today’s customer journeys are no longer as ‘linear’ and predictable as they once were. With a typical, modern buying journey now consisting of an average of 27 buying interactions, marketers have a much tougher time identifying a clear path from need, to awareness, to consideration, to purchase, in order to target customers with offers and messages that make sense depending on where they are in their buying journey. Omnichannel marketing, however, leverages data that is automatically updated, so it can trigger relevant messages to customers throughout their buying journey in real time, from the first touchpoint to the last.
They may start their journey on one channel, such as a brick-and-mortar store, for example, then jump to social media and then finally make the purchase on the store’s website. They use multiple channels to compare prices, hunt for discounts, or use in-store tablets to shop online. Now, thanks to omnichannel marketing, all channels are reflective of each other and can respond to the customer’s actions in a cohesive manner, regardless of which channel they last used.
An omnichannel approach puts customers first by providing them with an integrated and seamless shopping experience across touchpoints, in-store and online. The more personalized and relevant the marketing communications, and the more convenient the buying journey, the happier and more satisfied customers are with their overall experience. And the better their experience, the more loyal they are to the brand, and the more inclined they are to become repeat customers and refer the brand to others.
“Customers crave engagement. More and more, we not only want to feel known by the brands we support—we expect it,” says Gavin Flood, Senior Director at AdRoll. “People don’t remember brands that don’t engage them. By being everywhere [customers] are with an omnichannel strategy, you grow engagement, which drives goodwill toward your brand.”
CDPs – The tech stack showpiece for effective omnichannel marketing.
Omnichannel marketing is facilitated by CDPs (Customer Data Platforms) that use AI and machine learning technology to automates the mammoth task of data collection, aggregation and segmentation at scale. CDPs offer such an abundance of data to marketers, it actually requires a new approach to marketing altogether, where instead of structuring strategy around separate channels, marketing efforts should now be focused on audiences (whose buying journey involves multiple channels) with performance goals adjusted accordingly. With everything shifting towards a customer-first philosophy enabled by sophisticated data-driven insights, it’s likely we might even see new roles created for relevant experts to lead these efforts, like ‘Chief Customer Officers’ or ‘Chief Data Officers’.
Omnichannel marketingis beneficial for businesses of all sizes, and reduces data silos across departments and teams, giving marketers a much more holistic view of the customer experience. But before embarking on an omnichannel strategy, there needs to be buy-in from all the relevant stakeholders, because they will all be using the same repository of data for their various activities. CDPs centralize all data collected and keep it as clean and up-to-date as possible at all times, so it won’t be used just by the marketing department, but most likely by other teams too, like Product, Sales, Customer Success and even Finance. This first-party data repository and collection engine will become the lifeblood that influences strategies and decisions across the entire organization. The more each team member knows about the brand’s customers, the better they’re able to respond to and interact with them.
Although CDPs give brands an edge thanks to a game-changing technological advantage at their fingertips, the marketing initiatives they devise will only ever be as effective as the data models fed into the platform, and the data-driven insights that inform their goals. Although the technology itself is powerful and impressive, it will be up to humans to learn how to get the most out of the AI-powered tools that expand their capabilities. To succeed with an omnichannel approach, marketers will need to learn to think strategically in order to master the contextual personalization that customers expect across all touchpoints. Those who understand how to marry the data with the right marketing opportunities, will be the ones who wield CDPs and omnichannel marketing to their full potential.
According to a chiefmartec.com and WPP report, research by IDC and Seagate23 estimated that 44% of all data available to enterprises goes uncaptured, and out of the data that is captured, 43% remains unused. Barely one third of the total is put to work today. The rest is “dark data.” The first mission of big ops is bringing all the relevant data into the light… Organizations that excel at distilling data into insights (data intelligence) and activating it in real-time in their operations (data reflexes) will achieve a competitive advantage.”
Hyper-personalization for the omnichannel win!
Personalized omnichannel marketing offers customers communications and experiences tailored specifically for them, and are far more effective than previous forms of advertising because their increased relevance and timeliness significantly improves the odds of conversion. Research from Omnisend, for example, found that compared with single-channel campaigns, omnichannel campaigns resulted in a 287% higher purchase rate, a 13% higher spend rate, and a 90% higher retention rate. And although customers are highly sensitive about the privacy of their data, an Epsilon survey of online shoppers aged 18 to 64 found that 80% of respondents indicated they were more likely to do business with a company if it offered personalized experiences.
“The brands that speak to everyone speak to no one”, says Morgan Brown, VP Growth Marketing, Shopify. “Whether brand differentiation means what the brand stands for, the way the product is made, or the way they engage their audience, consumers are looking for differentiated experiences and brands they can connect to.”
As data becomes more democratized and more easily accessible to marketers, it empowers them to create extensive buyer personas, presenting a world of useful targeting options. They can use profile data, such as demographics, age, gender, marital status, location, etc., or campaign engagement insights, or shopping habits, and more. Plus, savvy marketers can target active customers at different stages of their buying journey with appropriate messages designed to address any obstacles and ‘nudge’ them along the sales funnel at the most optimal times. For example, they can send a reminder to a customer who abandoned a shopping basket to complete the purchase, or alert a shopper about an in-store event taking place at the last physical store they visited in person.
The more first-party data accumulates over time, the easier it will be to create a comprehensive 360-degree customer view for each shopper, and for marketers to use powerful insights to enhance their customers’ experience, improving cost effectiveness, increasing ROI and boosting revenue. Even the smallest tweaks to campaigns thanks to CDP data intelligence can make a significant impact on performance, so marketers who are stalling on implementing an omnichannel strategy are most likely leaving money on the table.
Once you have hundreds of thousands of customers in your database, even a .2 or .3 percent increase in any of your metrics can drastically have an improvement on your revenue overall.”David Sung, SM Global Shop digital marketing director
To make the most of their data, it’s also important to measure performance of specific touchpoints along the customer journey, because it’s possible that either the technical flow or even the messaging encountered by the customer at a particular touchpoint could be problematic. Marketers should therefore regularly ‘walk through’ various customer journeys themselves and review all messaging to identify any opportunities for optimization to maximize conversions at each touchpoint. This can also help them divert their budgets to areas where they are most needed, either to repair or enhance a particular touchpoint, or to repeat campaigns that have historically delivered a consistently high ROI as opposed to campaigns that flopped.
Speaking of budgets, one of the trends identified in Shopify’s recent Future of Ecommerce report is the skyrocketing advertising costs across platforms, with the cost per click for paid search ads increasing by 15% between the second and third quarters of 2021 alone. Obstacles like privacy laws and ubiquitous ad blocking also impede marketers’ ability to target ads to consumers, making it tougher to get a decent return on their ad spend. According to Marketing Evolution, $37 billion is wasted in ad spend every year from ads that fail to engage the target audience.
The right data and insights, however, can help marketers eliminate wasteful ad spending, making the adoption of CDPs an even more urgent priority for retailers, because they keep data cleaner and more up-to-date than is possible manually, minimizing targeting inaccuracies and helping marketers optimize messaging for maximum effect. Many hope that further advances in hyper-segmentation will make their advertising dollars even more effective by targeting consumers who are ready to purchase.
For businesses that have yet to prioritize omnichannel personalization, departmental silos and legacy infrastructure are key barriers to success. To thrive, brands must invest in the omnichannel customer experience and in the technology that powers it, to create powerful personalization that wows consumers and positions themselves way ahead of competitors.
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