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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