We are already wading deep in the postdigital waters; our relationships to digital have evolved from technological obsession to an interest in enhancing the human experience. Many of today’s digital brands have caught the mobile current and are working hard to navigate the streams carrying them into the multichannel, postdigital age. Brands that make customer experience their guide are in for a thrilling journey that just might lead them to an ocean of digital possibilities.

The word omnichannel has been thrown around so much its real meaning and purpose have been obscured. Pure digital companies are looking for a way to create personal, local engagement without opening a storefront. Brick and mortars are seeking ways to be more useful and integrated with their customers’ lives outside the store. Think of Amazon offering same-day shipping, or West Elm partnering with Etsy to create a hyperlocal online experience. The whole point of omnichannel marketing is engagement. It’s the ability to consider all points of engagement and artfully use those that matter to your customers to increase brand value.

Multichannel campaign management emerged as a top priority for both B2B and B2C marketers in 2014. Digital marketers who are interested in growing a loyal, deeply connected fan base and delivering epic customer experiences should strive for seamless, omnichannel engagement. But many brands are struggling to unify their efforts across multiple channels, leading to disjointed content and messaging.

How can we enhance engagement across the proliferation of customer touch points without losing focus or spreading marketing teams too thin? How can we use omnichannel marketing to improve the quality of brand interactions and become meaningfully integrated with customers’ lives?

Engaging the Individual from Discovery to Loyalty

The anchor of multichannel customer experience management is the customer life cycle. According to Forrester, the customer life cycle is a “customer’s relationship with a brand as they continue to discover new options, explore their needs, make purchases, and engage with the product experience and their peers.”

To develop your brand’s unique customer life cycle, create a single view of the customer. Each individual interacts with you in various ways, from social accounts and user forums to website navigation and mobile app usage. Having a clear understanding of the behaviors happening at each touch point, and their value to your brand, is critical to building your omnichannel strategy. It’s not boxing customers into a preconceived path, it’s about better understanding and anticipating customer desires.

An effective single customer view is derived from well-integrated and constantly refreshed data, and powerful, real-time analytics. Here are three ways to develop a useful and flexible customer life cycle that will enable epic omnichannel customer experiences.

Set Sail to Omnichannel Excellence

1. Pack a Good Compass

Forty percent of organizations cite “complexity” as the greatest obstacle to delivering omnichannel customer experience. Customer relationships are becoming increasingly complex as people have more knowledge and information at their fingertips, grow more mobile and interactive, and expect brands to offer more value and convenience than ever before.

Your goal is not to shy away from the complexity, but make sure it doesn’t distract and dissipate your focus. Clarify what’s most important to the customer and what’s most important to your business, and identify where in the customer life cycle the two intersect. Then focus the greatest part of your efforts on those key touch points. Clarity of vision will help you make the right business and technology investments to support the customer life cycle, and help your brand shine where it counts.

2. Chart the Digital Waters

Seamless and memorable customer experiences don’t happen by accident. They are the result of bold and well-considered strategies. Your strategy will be your own, and should be led by your customers needs, problems, desires, and aspirations.

Ford demonstrated some successful customer-first strategizing with the release of its new Fiesta model:

“Ford figured out something very important—customers of its new models like the Fiesta are engaged in other media besides TV. . . . Rather than plan based on old media approaches, Ford jumped the shark during the recession and anchored the rollout of its brand-new Fiesta in social and digital media to appeal to new buyers in the channels they already use for information and exploration.”

Postdigital omnichannel marketing strategies are deeply in tune with the customer life cycle and able to anticipate where individuals will best engage the brand.

3. Invest in Your Crew

An excellent omnichannel customer experience takes a village. You need company-wide commitment, with dedicated support from executives and leadership. Your organization may need to commit with its dollars, skills training, hiring priorities, technologies, or all of the above. Employee engagement is the foundation; you can’t realize your plans without it.

Beyond your own offices, you need the commitment—or engagement—of a thriving community of customers, users, and brand ambassadors.

Before digital, companies used the Tupperware model: recruit customers to become your on-the-ground brand evangelists, and in turn recruit more customers. Tupperware made its way into everyone’s cupboards without ever opening a storefront. Similarly, Amway pioneered a multilevel marketing strategy founded on its independent business owners—individuals who market the products directly to their personal networks. Today’s online businesses are essentially following this same model of engagement, using digital channels to take it further than Tupperware ever could.

Building your customer community is essential. It’s a key ingredient in competitive omnichannel businesses, and integral to building positive brand relationships on an individual level.

Omnichannel Engagement Leads to Epic Customer Experiences

Delivering epic customer experiences is the mandate of all digital marketers who are interested in growing a loyal, deeply connected fan base. And epic customer experiences are built on seamless, omnichannel engagement. Clarify your business objectives and deepen customer insights to form a bold, customer-first strategy. Then foster an active, committed community around your brand. Your community is the glue that holds your omnichannel campaign together, and will help you populate and form connections between touch points, attracting new customers with an enthusiasm that’s recognizable—and undeniable—across all channels.

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