Buyers today have access to a multitude of channels to discover, learn and purchase products or services. Your buyer may read one of your company’s emails, see a post on social media, watch an ad on TV, or see an ad on the subway, and then make a purchase on their smartphone. Companies that aim to maximize the performance of each individual channel on which they advertise, online or offline, have a multi-channel strategy.
“Omni-channel marketing” is more complex. And more than ever, an omni-channel approach to your marketing can generate substantially increased returns on your marketing investments.
Omni-channel marketing puts the customer at the heart of your marketing. It is based on the understanding that your customers not only switch between channels, but they often use different channels at the same time. For example, a CEO may simultaneously watch a webinar on her desktop about a project management solution, while searching for the company’s website on her smartphone.
Omni-channel marketing is a dance between you and your customer. As a brand, it is your job to engage your customer and to be there when and how they want to interact with you. No matter if your customer is walking down the street, flipping through their mail, checking out products in a store, using their mobile phone, at work on their desktop or at an event.
B2C and B2B
Omni-channel marketing may seem like a consumer-only tactic. But don’t be fooled. Omni-channel marketing is just as important for B2B businesses as it is for B2C businesses.
B2B buyers are the same people buying sweaters, cars and travel packages in their personal time – their online behavior in their personal lives carries over into their professional lives. They are using the same technology for their B2B research as they do for their personal shopping. In a Forrester report commissioned by Hybris and Acccenture, it was found that 49% of B2B buyers prefer making work-related purchases on the same websites and mobile apps as they do for their personal shopping.
This is likely because B2C sites often offer customers advanced features, such as filtering, internal search and reviews. Buyers today expect to have different options to learn and discover products and services. This is highlighted in the Forrester report, illustrating the expectations of today’s B2B buyers:
- 60% expect enhanced internal search functionality on B2B websites
- 58% want companies to show them ratings and reviews
- 50% expect improved personalized product or service recommendations
- 43% expect merchandising/recommending relevant products and services
- 69% want to use instant online forms for payments, such as a credit card, debit card or PayPal account
Omni-channel Marketing and the Customer Journey
How can you reach these new omni-channel buyers?
Understanding them is the #1 factor. Map your customer’s journey with you and also without you. Depending on your market, this may be a one-day, one-month or one-year journey. When are they thinking about challenges that you solve for them? What are the channels in which they engage? What websites do they visit? What are all the ways they consume content? What would compel them to complete micro-conversions along the journey?
For example, take an HR software vendor who targets HR professionals and CEOs. The HR software’s customers may not be thinking about buying a new application, but they may be talking to colleagues over lunch about the challenges of managing so many employees or they may be sitting in a meeting with an employee unsure of how to better illustrate the company benefits. These are challenges the HR software customers have that their software solves. With this customer knowledge the HR software marketing team is better equipped to put together a comprehensive omni-channel marketing plan, addressing the evolving questions that arise in their prospects’ minds as they move deeper and deeper into the funnel.
The omni-channel marketing you implement through the customer journey is similar to “Experience Design”. Your prospective customer is zigging and zagging through the consideration and purchase process. From awareness building, to connecting with prospects on an emotional level, convincing them of your value and compelling them to make the purchase, you are a designer of experiences across every potential touchpoint. Across all of your channels.
Buyers today have high expectations. They expect brands to keep up with their habits during their discovery, research, evaluation and purchase. That’s why 87% of the B2B companies surveyed by Forrester understand that providing an omni-channel experience is crucial to serving the customers of today. And the customers of tomorrow.