2020 was a challenging year for, well, everyone — but retailers suffered the particular challenges of shutting down or restricting in-store shopping. That left some stores without ecommerce capabilities without a revenue stream.
While vaccinations are slowly becoming available, many consumers will likely remain unable or hesitant to shop in-person through much of 2021.
A New York Times article reported that experts suggest thinking about day-to-day life in terms of an individual “risk budget” and to continue wearing masks and avoiding indoor gatherings when possible even after receiving the vaccine.
“Scientists said they were waiting to learn many things before they would feel comfortable doing more high-risk activities, like how many people wind up being vaccinated, how long immunity lasts (after vaccination and after infection) and whether the virus evolves,” the article said.
You need to prepare your business for an increasingly digital world — and that world doesn’t have clear boundaries between it and the “real” world. The two will continue to meld and augment each other. It’s vital to develop an omnichannel marketing strategy to ensure your customers can reach you on their terms.
What is Omnichannel Marketing?
Traditional retail relies on in-person sales. Ecommerce relies on selling online. Omnichannel selling takes both of these approaches and more to ensure a seamless shopping experience across all sales and marketing channels.
An omnichannel approach can include all or some of the following:
- Brick-and-mortar stores
- Ecommerce websites
- Social media accounts
- Email marketing
- In-app purchases
The Importance of Omnichannel
McKinsey reports that three out of four American consumers have tried a new shopping behavior during the Coronavirus pandemic. More importantly, most of these people plan to continue these behaviors, even after the pandemic ends.
Failing to engage customers across channels and devices can weaken your position and cost you sales. Taking an omnichannel approach ensures this doesn’t happen.
Five Ways to Master Omnichannel Marketing in 2021
Retail marketing strategies must be tailored to suit your particular audience. However, there are some general omnichannel marketing methods that nearly all retail businesses should implement.
1. Get to know your buyers.
No marketing strategy is effective without understanding the target buyer. You need to identify who this buyer is to know what messaging most suits their needs.
Start by researching your target buyer personas. These hypothetical shoppers are your ideal customers, and they will be the most responsive to your marketing.
Follow these steps to find your personas:
- Review your customer database to identify similarities in geography, age, shopping habits and more.
- Collect detailed information from your customers to see what brought them to the store and which channel they use the most.
- Look over your products’ cost, quality and purpose to see which segments of society would benefit from them the most.
After you establish your target audience, you need to connect with them where they spend most of their time.
Social networks continue to be handy tools for this. Each social network serves a different purpose, so think carefully about where you will invest your time and energy. For example, if you want to reach a young audience with an interest in fashion, Instagram is much more effective than LinkedIn.
2. Optimize your digital presence for mobile.
Data from November 2020 shows that 53% of all web traffic came from mobile devices. With so many mobile apps built to connect us with one another, this should not be a surprise. However, too many businesses fail to consider how many people use their phones for online shopping.
If your website is not mobile-friendly and offers a poor user experience, you will come across as unprofessional and outdated. Worst of all, you will lose sales.
On top of refining your website, you need to optimize all digital marketing materials for mobile devices as well. For example, many businesses send out long emails full of large images and graphics. Not only are these messages slow to load, but they’re hard to read thanks to poor formatting.
Instead, emails need to be easy to digest with small images and short text. Mobile users should be able to quickly scan the message and then click a link to your site.
All social media posts should be scroll-stoppers. This starts with high quality, captivating images. Instead of posting a photo of your product in a lightbox, try featuring an image of it in use, or positioned in an exciting environment. For example, if you sell outdoor gear, post an image of someone atop a mountain with your product.
Next, make sure your copy is attention-getting and readable. Emojis are perfect for catching someone’s eye, especially if they venture out from your everyday smiley face. Pair these with short sentences and plenty of line breaks, and your content will be mobile-ready.
3. Integrate all your shopping and marketing channels.
Everything is connected these days, so why use dozens of tools to run your business? With the right omnichannel marketing toolkit, you can manage your physical and digital presence in a single place.
Sales and Inventory Management
If you run a brick-and-mortar store and an online shop, your point-of-sale is the perfect place to run your business. For example, the Epos Now retail POS can track and process all in-person sales and sync with your BigCommerce account. Whether an item sells online or in your store, your inventory will automatically update on both systems.
Digital Marketing Presence
With the BigCommerce multi-channel solution, you can also manage your entire digital presence from one place. When it comes to selling, you can link your website with social media and leading ecommerce marketplaces like Amazon. As for reports, you can track all data from one location to simplify accounting and other key functions.
No social media marketing campaign is complete without the Facebook pixel. This helpful advertising tool tracks who visits your store, then serves ads to them on Facebook. Remarketing like this is perfect for encouraging someone to buy from you, and it helps you build a lookalike audience who may have similar interests.
Lastly, link your store with an email marketing platform to stay in touch with shoppers. With the MailChimp integration, you can follow up on abandoned carts, recommend products for existing shoppers and send out special offers.
4. Make every touchpoint count.
Never pass on an opportunity to sell a product or promote an aspect of your business. All marketing messages should end with a call to action.
Not every social media post should be an ad, but make sure to include easy buying options when you do feature a product. BigCommerce integrates with several apps that make this easy — with ContentPlum, for example, you can make shoppable Instagram posts to drive customers directly to your store.
Never send an email that doesn’t promote something or encourage the next stage in the customer journey. Something as small as a confirmation email can prompt the recipient to sign up for your newsletter or loyalty program.
Even negative interactions can be a marketing opportunity. If a customer has a complaint or wants to return a product, give them a discount or other incentive. A coupon or free item will prompt them to return to your store and buy more.
5. Use social media for more than sales.
Social media users are inundated with ads and sponsored content. Stand out from the crowd by making your brand accessible and relatable. Valuable content and communications will support your omnichannel marketing strategy.
Change up your feed by featuring user submissions or influencers with your items. Users will enjoy the authenticity of the content and will see it as more organic than generic product images.
Next, offer prompt support. Even if you redirect support cases to another platform, you are helping the customer resolve their case and providing real value. Moreover, fast response helps you avoid negative reviews.
If you do get bad reviews, however, make sure to respond respectfully and offer a resolution. Try to understand the customer’s concern and provide them with a replacement or a discount. You may lose the customer, but the quality of your response will show potential shoppers that you are responsive and dedicated to customer service.
In June 2020, an eMarketer article headline asked, “Is Omnichannel Retail Brick-and-Mortar’s Saving Grace?” As the pandemic kept brick-and-mortar businesses closed or operating at reduced capacity for much of the year, it certainly became clear that in-store-only businesses were at risk of catastrophic loss.
We don’t believe that fact heralds the end of brick-and-mortar, or that online storefronts are the only answer. We do, however, propose the importance of a holistic omnichannel strategy as both shoppers and retailers grapple with moving forward in “the new normal.”
To pursue the most powerful omnichannel strategy, you need to:
- Use customer research and social listening to get to know your buyers.
- Optimize your digital presence, whether it’s your website, your social media channels or your email marketing.
- Integrate all your shopping and marketing channels so you have a 360-degree view of your sales and inventory as well as your marketing across channels and devices.
- Make every touchpoint count, from social media to email marketing to customer support.
- Use social media for more than just sales — take advantage of user-generated content and leverage social for customer support as well.