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Jim Yu Headshot

Marketing to the Omni-channel Consumer

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Customer expectations have skyrocketed when it comes to the digital experience. Today we live in a multiple-screen world with 90 percent of consumers using more than one device before completing any tasks. Not only are consumers constantly engaging on devices, but they are hopping from mobile to tablet to desktop without hesitation. However, while consumers may use each channel for a specific purpose, they demand a unified brand experience as they traverse from one device to the next.

According to a recent Zendesk study, 87 percent of consumers think that brands need to work harder to create a seamless experience. The first step in creating a fluid user experience is using customer behavior data to tailor channel-specific content; from there, marketers must ensure that content has a strong company voice that is uniform across all channels. For the best results, marketers should move beyond guesswork and determine the ROI of content across each channel to put muscle behind the content the sees the most returns.

Identify The Right Content

We've all experienced the painstaking job of navigating a mobile site that was clearly not designed for a tiny screen. It's a frustrating experience for the user and a point of contention for brands. This is especially true for online retailers, with four out of five consumers using smartphones to shop. Online shopping is no longer constrained to brick-and-mortar shops or home and office purchases. Consumers are constantly on the move, researching products, comparing prices, and making purchasing decisions from the palm of their hand.

According to Gleanster research, three out of five retail organizations support a separate mobile website that is disconnected from the main website. This inconsistency begs for customer drop-off and puts brands in a precarious position with competitors. To remedy this situation, optimizing for the mobile form factor is the first step, but it's equally important to understand what content performs best and adjust content accordingly across each channel.

One of the biggest challenges companies face when addressing channel-agnostic consumers is a drain on resources. Creating unique content for each channel is a massive time-suck, which may or may not result in customer retention or conversions. Instead, marketers should focus on identifying the content that is working and develop a strategy that spreads this effective content through every channel. Utilizing search can be a boon for pinpointing this critical consumer-interest information. Uncover what topics consumers are interested in, what products they are pining after and adjust content to meet those needs. This approach can reduce time spent on content creation and offer a fluid customer experience when these learnings are applied to desktop, mobile and tablet.

Create A Unified Experience Across Multiple Touchpoints

Once you've nailed down the best content for each channel, ensure that the message and interaction across channels is uniform and works in tandem with the brick-and-mortar experience. Consumers are berated with content at every touch point, so failing to create a strong, consistent company voice may leave consumers susceptible to the noisy market. In a recent study of more than 340 ads, only 23 were identified as having a clearly positioned, differentiated brand message! As so few companies have been able to successfully set themselves apart through messaging, marketers across industries have a distinct opportunity to rise above their competitors by simply defining their company POV and voice. A brand's voice is essentially the soul of the company's communications. It goes beyond specific words and phrases to encompass the tone in which a company speaks, the way it connects with its audience and the values it hopes to convey.

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Starbucks is a prime example of a multi-channel brand. Starbucks has established a distinctive in-store experience that ties into local preferences and community events. The Starbucks mobile app supports those local events, allowing customers to find nearby stores, pay for their coffee, earn rewards and access free downloads. The company mission is to inspire people through quality products and diverse partnerships and it uses its communication channels to keep customers actively engaged in the brand. Consumers have embraced Starbuck' efforts wholeheartedly as made evident by their robust global social presence -- Starbucks has more than 36 million Facebook likes and 6 million Twitter followers!

Execute Across All Channels

Marketers don't need to be part of a massive, well-known brand like Starbucks to develop a unified brand voice (and massive social following). Starbucks has picked an overall theme of "inspiration" -- to smile, to get involved in charitable work, anything -- and that theme is referenced on every channel, in almost every post or page. Marketers should identify a major theme that works for their goods or services that will speak to their target audience. All content should allude to that theme in some way; not only will this help shape the company's voice, it will carve out a solid following among users that value your message. If Marketers have no idea where to start, they should turn back to data to unearth some answers. Any content the garner a spike in engagement is a great place to start when mining for future content ideas.

When the consumer is everywhere, marketers face a major opportunity and challenge. They have more opportunities to connect with consumers, but they also must be more coordinated, omnipresent and data-driven. Simply "being" on every channel won't cut it. Content needs to be tailored specifically for the channel where it will be placed. Furthermore, companies must put forth a unified brand voice to elevate their businesses above the fray and leave lasting impressions on consumers.