Heart of omnichannel
- 08 October 2015
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Mobile is playing an increasingly important – and complex – role in the customer journey. It can strengthen customer interactions in every channel.
Mobile is now the primary device for consumers accessing the web, with mobile and tablets accounting for more than half of our time online, according to recent research from the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) and Smart Insights. Globally, more than one-third of e-commerce orders now come from a mobile device rather than a desktop, Criteo’s Mobile Commerce Q3 2015 report has revealed. Meanwhile, Google has recently confirmed that mobile search has overtaken desktop search in 10 key markets (including the US and Japan).
The ubiquity of mobile devices means they now play an increasingly pivotal role in omnichannel strategies, and as the penetration of smartphones and tablet ownership continues to grow, this mobile trend will only accelerate.
“The main objective of any marketer, advertiser or brand is communication with their consumers,” says Ben Phillips, Global Head of Mobile, MediaCom. “These consumers are checking their devices 1,500 times a week, making mobile the most important and effective channel to understand and utilise.”
Mobile technology has become an indispensable part of the marketing mix, enabling marketers to reach out to their audiences at all times, in all places and in situations where they previously wouldn’t have been able to. And it offers a wide variety of marketing mediums for brands to present their messages.
“It’s simply ubiquitous in every way,” says Phillips. “Our approach and thought process at MediaCom is that mobile is part of a systems-based strategy rather than a silo. When used in combination with traditional and digital channels, mobile supports and enhances consumer experience.’
Creating an omnichannel approach is crucial for leveraging the potential of the mobile device, which plays an increasingly complex and dynamic role in the purchasing journey.
“Mobile tends to be only one part of a customer journey, but it's the part that ties together all touchpoints used in the journey,” says George Skaff, CMO of TouchCommerce.
“Mobile offers a massive opportunity for brands and retailers to be there ‘in the moment’ – the moment they make an impulsive decision, or when they’re conducting a search or making a transaction,” says Hedley Aylott, CEO of online retail consulting agency Summit.
Understanding the way the customer interacts with mobile and other channels along that journey is key in executing a cohesive, successful omnichannel strategy.
“Consumers don’t think in terms of desktop, mobile and tablet when they’re browsing online and neither should marketers,” explains Todd Tran, Global SVP of Programmatic and Mobile at Teads, the global digital video advertising company. “We constantly jump from device to device throughout the day, and a successful mobile strategy should mirror this behaviour. A successful omnichannel strategy will provide consumers with the same brand experience, no matter what size the screen.”
Nick Evans, Head of Strategic Consulting at Celerity Information Services, believes this focus on the customer experience across media is essential. “With the huge proliferation of channels and fragmentation of consumer attention in the digital age, marketers must think holistically across the entire purchase journey and all customer touchpoints. If your business is based around a predominantly mobile user experience – for example, Uber – then this task is, of course, simplified. However, traditional businesses, such as bricks and mortar (or even e-commerce) retailers, must understand the various paths and channels a customer can interact with, and ensure that they are met with a consistent message and experience each time. The customer has no concept that these different areas might be run by different teams; for them, it’s one company – and they expect one excellent experience.”
Joe Friedlein, MD of Browser Media agrees: “You should aim to create a brand rather than a destination for any particular channel. People will use different devices to engage with your brand and it should be a consistent – and fantastic – experience, whichever channel you use.”
One key challenge is to lead a customer seamlessly from one device to another at different times, engaging them at all points of the customer journey. The role of the mobile in this process is multi-faceted and dynamic; many consumers are using their mobile devices not only for online search and purchasing and research before going into stores, but also while in-store to compare devices and find information. This creates a complex, multi-platform scenario that is a challenge for marketers.
“Mobile devices have raised consumer expectations, with customers demanding a consistently high-quality experience, whenever, wherever and however they choose to interact with brands,” says Youtse Sung, Senior Manager, Global Marketing Programs at digital commerce and marketing platform services provider EPiServer. While this demands a coherent omnichannel strategy, marketers should also be careful to incorporate both digital channels and traditional offline tactics as well. EPiServer’s research has shown that 50% of consumers list ‘on the high-street’ as one of the top three locations where they use their mobile devices, providing a strong opportunity for in-store crossover experiences. This could include services such as click-and-collect to in-store product finders. “This merging of the digital and physical worlds is a vital part of omnichannel success that should not be overlooked by marketers,” he says.
Maintaining that single customer view and brand experience across all channels is a significant challenge for marketers. So how can this be achieved? One important element is putting in place the right systems and bringing in the right partners where specialist knowledge and insight is required.
“Mobile is a specialist function that requires the right expertise to navigate and understand both its limits and opportunities", says Phillips of MediaCom. “Marketers need to work with existing departments to fit mobile into a media strategy and find out how it can help existing efforts by providing new insights into consumer behaviour.
“Be agile,” he advises. “Mobile is a very forgiving medium, and fortune favours the brave. Try, learn and adapt – and work backwards by thinking about what the post-campaign insight should be before you start planning. Look around – mobile may still be an emerging market, but there are some highly commendable examples that are easily replicable.”
Sung from EPiServer believes proper integration within the organisation is essential. “Too many businesses attempt to silo these channels, even so far as to provide dedicated teams for each individual platform. This creates a natural asymmetry throughout an organisation’s marketing content, ultimately trickling down and damaging the end-user’s experience.” An effective omnichannel strategy, instead, should be able to deliver a personalised real-time experience, and a growing number of service providers are now offering systems and platforms capable of running content over multiple devices to support this.
“Services need to be able to speak to one another and the web team needs to be agile and adapt to changing standards,” says Aaron Dicks, managing director of digital marketing agency Impression. “Once the technology is in place, then the only other real limiting factor will be the marketers’ ability to determine mobile as a platform that adds to the bottom line.”
So what practices should marketers consider to ensure omnichannel strategies are executed successfully?
“Measurement is everything,” says Phillips. “Being able to track and measure engagement and attribution correctly is imperative. Remember that what works on desktop often doesn’t in mobile, so think about mobile specific technology partners. Where’s your audience? Location plays a significant part in mobile strategy, in terms of understanding not only where your audience is now, but where they have been – and predicting where they are going to.”
“Tracking, analysing and testing in all digital arenas is key – and it’s the same for mobile,” says Dicks from Impression. “
Compelling content is also important, says Phillips: “Think mobile-first creative. Pushing a 30-second TV commercial into a mobile experience simply doesn’t work. Build for the platform that your audience engages with, whether that is native editorial content through to a five-second snackable video with no sound element.”
Omnichannel success: five key elements
- Ensure a joined-up user experience: where possible this should include both online and offline, to focus on one single overarching customer experience rather than multiple different platforms.
- Put the customer first: understand how they interact with each channel and know how to exceed their expectations accordingly. Understand what the customer wants from a mobile site as part of the journey – and don’t simply replicate the desktop website.
- Invest in content: content is the most effective way to keep customers engaged throughout the buying journey. Tailor appropriate types of content for channels and ensure it is optimised to achieve the desired effect.
- Be agile and flexible: take a holistic view of the marketing strategy and bring together people from different teams to develop a consistent, organisation-wide perspective. Avoid siloing channels.
- Get the technology right: ensure the right technology is in place to back up a joined-up approach with joined up-technology to deliver that seamless customer experience across all channels.
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