This time of the year is for one of two things: planning your holiday or worrying that you haven’t started planning your holiday. And as you strategize the best approach for every stage of your journey, take consolation that many businesses are scrambling to do the same.
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Alongside classic holiday experiences like discovering a new allergy or finding out the hotel’s advertised “five minutes from the beach” means “by helicopter”, there’s always a particular satisfaction when the journey goes smoothly. And though hassle-free air travel may seem far-fetched, especially right now, it’s worth considering what customer experience airlines aspire to provide people under extreme pressure.
Be it early check-in, pre-booking seats and food, spending and collecting loyalty points on the plane and at home or even home delivery for items purchased on a plane - the aim is to maximize convenience and minimize friction. Travelers should be able to avail of any airline service whenever and however makes sense for them.
This aspiration is not unique to air travel, global brands in every space chase the same experience by investing in omnichannel. The omnichannel philosophy focuses on a holistic approach to customer experience which provides retailers with the opportunity to blend in-store and online channels in order to create frictionless and memorable customer journeys.
But what makes a great omnichannel strategy? And though it may differ completely from business to business, what’s the common thread between brands who get it right?
The recent push toward e-commerce, a space characterized by intense comparison shopping, has made it more vital than ever for a business to distinguish itself. Before this e-commerce explosion had even begun, a 2017 Harvard Business Review study revealed 73% of shoppers used multiple channels. Businesses that acknowledge this customer activity and bring these channels into harmony are sure to reap the rewards
In fact, according to Tim Mason and Miya Knighs, customers’ expectations for seamless shopping are now so high that in the near future a consistent customer experience online and offline will be seen as mandatory.
To understand the omnichannel strategy that’s best for your customers, you must see your business from your customer’s point of view. No matter how innovative your ideas, your customers’ motivations must be central to your strategy - on every level. And if the data a customer knows you have isn’t reflected in their experience, there’s a good chance they’ll feel alienated and frustrated.
That’s why the highest quality omnichannel strategies don’t just offer consistent service, they use data from all channels to universally enhance the customer experience. A study by Deloitte detailed how hyper-personalization is the most advanced way brands can tailor their marketing to individual customers, creating custom and targeted experiences through the use of data, analytics, AI, and automation.
However, it’s useless to develop a sophisticated system to process this information that isn’t correct. A single source of truth is a must for businesses seeking to harmonize their customer experience across channels. A true picture of customer behavior cannot be created if they have multiple records for different channels. According to Forbes, achieving this single source of truth “is one of the most significant challenges facing today's data-driven organizations.”
Another reason omnichannel hyper-personalization is the future? Customers are much happier to share personal data if it’s used to give a quality, personalized experience. According to Accenture, 83% of customers are happy to share data to get a more personalized experience. As much stricter legislation is rolled out in response to concerns about privacy data concerns, a quality, tailored omnichannel experience is an effective way of gathering quality first-party data through a fair exchange.
“[Omnichannel] means being everywhere your customer is. It used to mean being online or in stores. Now your customers are everywhere. It’s about telling a relevant story and reaching them wherever they are”.
Director of Digital Marketing and CRM at Gap
Covid-19 changed retail forever. According to McKinsey, at the start of 2020 e-commerce in the US experienced a projected ten years of growth in just three months. On Talon.One’s blog we focused on how this flood of customers to new channels will shape customer expectations around omnichannel in the coming years and who’s already setting the standard.
With the focus on establishing a single point of truth, uniting channels can seem like largely a technological project. However, it’s often about simple solutions to common problems people associate with your brand. Online retail giant Amazon has introduced Hub Lockers and Hub Counters where customers can pick up their item at any time, ensuring they never have that “missed or missing” delivery experience with an Amazon package ever again.
A similarly straightforward step: if customers see a product they like on Instagram, they shouldn’t have to leave Instagram to buy it. Most major social platforms have introduced marketplace features, quickly becoming an important point of sale. According to Instagram, 44% of its 1.1 billion users shop directly through the platform at least once a week. Consider the potential appeal of a business that promotes, sells and offers support through an app its customers use every day.
Social isn’t the only channel to blossom from a purely promotional role into a potential key pillar of an omnichannel strategy. Augmented reality, superimposing digital content (images, sounds, text) over a real-world environment, has many surprisingly practical applications when it comes to retail.
Last year, an Australian comedy podcast announced they were crowdfunding a single promotional billboard in Yazoo, Mississippi. In reality, they funded the billboard themselves and donated all their Gofundme proceeds to Flat Out, a homelessness support charity. It’s unclear how effective their reassuringly Australian “no big deal if you’re not into it, have a good one!” slogan was among potential listeners in Yazoo but it did wonders for their fundraiser and they did make it onto Google maps.
This has become a common approach to billboard advertising. If your idea is innovative, or silly, enough to capture the attention of social media, the reach-to-spend ratio can be incredible. The CEO of spreadsheet startup Rows.com recently explained how they got 100k twitter impressions and 2,000 new sign-ups from a single billboard campaign that cost €1,300 total to create.
The low overheads for renting billboards also leave far more space for creativity, just look at the shadow portrait of Dracula cast by stakes or Nando’s giant coupons customers could rip down and actually redeem. By focusing on creating attention-catching installations the public want to share, billboards increasingly seem like a more innovative and impactful means of online promotion than the banner advertising customers have spent decades learning to ignore.
That’s not to say billboard campaigns can only innovate through one-off virality. Global brands have also been using them to get hyperlocal. McDonalds turned sections of its classic logo into signs giving minimalist directions while also boasting about its convenience for drivers compared to Burger King in a separate campaign. Ikea promoted their most sustainable branch ever with a series of billboards that told people the most eco-friendly way to get there from that billboard’s specific location.
Of course, innovative hyperlocal campaigns are even easier now as more billboards turn digital. The adaptable nature of the digital out-of-home (DOOH) means that brands like Liv Up can create a discount code for their delivery service that matches the highest temperature in São Paulo that day or Google can supply context-sensitive suggested searches for the areas nearby the billboard.
What’s the lesson? Great promotions meet customers where they are, sometimes literally. The importance here is not the billboard but the potential impact of small-scale, location-specific campaigns. Technology like geofencing can combine an enterprise-level marketing budget with irresistible local appeal.
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