Here’s how I think about my omni-channel marketing strategy: Picture a bike wheel.

What do you see? Rubber around the rim. Spokes that connect to the inner hub. Everything else rotates around and is supported by this central hub.

If you’re a multi-channel marketer, you’re used to thinking of your brand as the center of the wheel. You communicate to customers on the outside of the wheel. Spokes are channels to share your messaging.

But each spoke only attaches to a certain part of the wheel. As a result, your marketing initiatives often fail to reach your whole audience.

Omni-channel marketers succeed because they understand that customers – not the brand – are the core of any business. Instead of putting your brand in the center, you put customers there. So your omni-channel marketing strategy is ready to reach customers in any way that they choose. In the past, you reached different customers with different “spokes” of your campaigns. But now, every channel is directed towards your customer.

What Exactly Is an Omni-Channel Marketing Strategy?

Customers want a hands-on approach. Why? We like to feel listened to and important. Swarmed by ads and offers, today’s consumers give their time and dollars to brands that treat them well, recognize them as individuals and share their values.

“Interpersonal relationships are ingrained so deeply into our social fabric that a customer will view your entire brand as a singular relationship … [omni-channel] ensures that customers receive a personalized conversation with your brand.”

– Darr Gersovich, VP of Marketing at Ensighten

An omni-channel marketing strategy acknowledges that consumers have ready access to information and will move between devices and channels during the buyer journey. Omni-channel gives your audience a totally integrated and consistent brand experience. Wherever they look for help, there you are.

Let’s take an example. Imagine that a potential customer spots one of your ads on a related website. When they click through, they have a question about your products, so they turn to Twitter with a customer service question. Later, they’ll subscribe to your email newsletter, and eventually leave a review on Yelp.

Whether you’re trying to convert, retain, or sell, omni-channel marketing allows you to develop and sustain meaningful and profitable customer relationships in a hands-off way.

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How An Omni-Channel Marketing Strategy Benefits Your Business

The benefit to the customer is clear, but what about your business?

Research shows companies that prioritize the customer experience generate 60% higher profits than their competitors. Remember the mantra of inbound marketing: deliver the right content that brings people to you.

After all, well-nurtured prospects become happy customers. Happy customers remain loyal. Loyal customers make referrals and can be worth up to 10x their first purchase. What’s more, retaining old customers is much cheaper than recruiting new ones.

Keep reading to learn the seven key steps to implementing an omni-channel strategy that will help you streamline your marketing and sales funnel, retain your best customers, and drive your ROI to new heights.

1) Create Buyer Personas

For insights on what delights and displeases your audience, first create customer identities. Create rich personas full of information about buying habits, preferences, behaviors, and preferred ways to communicate. Get your whole team involved and try to think beyond your classic customer, to come up with a diverse and inclusive collection of buyer profiles.

For the purposes of your omni-channel marketing strategy, focus on the buyer’s journey. What is the purchase frequency? How are purchases made? Where is traffic coming from?

When you understand the journey, you can create a premium customer experience for every stage and persona.

One good way to do this is to “play the customer”. Go through the whole user experience, from the first click to the final payment. File a customer support claim. Order a product from a landing page.

Are there any pain points? Do you find any of the steps confusing?

Gather data first, then set out to ensure a frictionless user experience, starting with the channels favored by your users.

2) Segment Your Audience

Once you’ve uncovered who’s buying what, and how they do it, segment your audience for maximum impact.

CRM and marketing automation platforms will automatically segment your contacts based on the personas you’ve created, as well as any other behavioral or demographic markers that you choose. Then you can personalize your messaging for each segment – and even individual customers. (Read more about why your omnichannel marketing strategy needs marketing automation.)

74% of consumers get frustrated when they receive content that has nothing to do with their interests. To provide a top-tier experience and drive high ROI from your marketing, segment your lists and target accordingly.

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3) Align Content With Specific Buyer Journeys

Each buyer’s journey is different and should receive individual attention. That means designing content and support to match your customers’ habits. If you can provide a hassle-free experience for each customer, you will see conversions increase.

For example, Amazon gets personal with customers across email, social, Amazon Prime,  and even in their homes with Alexa. In the example above, we see a cart abandonment email that responds to the customer’s earlier actions, and offers them the chance to finish up their purchase.

These behavior-triggered emails succeed because they’re written on a first-name basis, and they reference a particular item. The customer feels like they’re receiving personal attention, so they’re more likely to stay in touch and make a purchase.

4) Prioritize Channels and Devices

Let’s get one thing clear: an omni-channel marketing strategy doesn’t mean that you have to use every form of modern communication, all the time.

80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts, right? So double down on the channels and devices your customers prefer, and invest in their experiences. Be everywhere your customers are, and don’t waste time on other channels.

The best way to identify what’s working is to listen to what your audience is saying across channels. Social monitoring and marketing automation analytics will show you where your time and efforts can be best spent.

Starbucks provides a great example of this. To appeal to the youth market, the premium coffee retailer added a rewards app to its omni-channel presence. Users can manage rewards, share with friends, purchase for pickup – and see their accounts update in real time.

By recognizing that its customers have gone mobile, Starbucks has been able to improve its brand experience, cement loyalties, and expand its market, all simultaneously. They’re also able to offer a personalized experience for every single customer.

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5) Invest in Customer Support

A few revealing statistics about the importance of customer support:

  • 54% of millennials will stop doing business because of poor customer service. 50% of Gen Xers and 52% of baby boomers say the same. – Conversion
  • 67% of customers have quit a brand because of bad customer service. But only 1 in 26 unhappy customers complains – Kolsky
  • 77% of people say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do. – Forrester Research

Customer service is a cornerstone of your omni-channel marketing strategy, so tune into what’s being said to the support teams. Your marketing and customer service teams should be in regular contact.

6) Measure Your Efforts

“We can now measure success in terms of the response of real people over time, in addition to measuring individual campaigns. We have enough data at the customer level to see how she interacts both online and in the store, so we can tailor messaging and offers to her appropriately by channel. ”

– Julie Bernard, Macy’s

It can be hard to analyze and compare results from so many different communication channels. That’s why it’s important to create a measurement strategy built around metrics, behavioral tracking, and comprehensive analytics reports.

A truly effective omni-channel strategy isn’t overwhelmed by cross-channel data. Rather, it enables you to get clear visibility on all of your initiatives, and it turns customer behavior and feedback into insights you can act on.

7) Integrate Your Findings

This last step will make all the difference to your omni-channel marketing strategy. Interweave your insights throughout your campaigns to create that often-discussed (but rarely realized) “seamless” experience. Make sure that you share feedback with everyone on your team: from marketing, to customer service, to product developers, and website managers.

Ask yourself questions like:

  • Does my social strategy support my web strategy?
  • Does my email strategy support my social strategy?
  • Does my web strategy support my mobile strategy?

When all channels are taking cues from one another, the customer experience moves up a level. Your customers can feel confident that wherever they meet you, they’ll get the same great response.

And by leveraging all of the data you’ve worked so hard to collect, you can make constant improvements to ensure your omni-channel marketing strategy is driving real results. Keep checking in and optimizing over time.

Time to implement your omni-channel marketing strategy

Providing a seamless customer experience is how leading brands are giving the old adage – “the customer is always right” – new legs for the digital era.

Modern marketers are empowered by more data and better integration between their communication channels. That means they can target every customer to offer value and support. The result? Better customer retention, stronger brand loyalty, and higher revenues.

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Isabel Hasty
Isabel Hasty writes and edits case studies to share client success stories and industry trends. She produces a variety of lead-generation content, including white papers, blogs, infographics, and thought leadership articles.