Omnichannel in retail and e-commerce marketing: What is it and why is it important?

At yesterday’s WWD Digital Forum event in NYC, the term “omnichannel” was on every marketer’s mind. This post looks at “omnichannel” is, why it’s important, and what leading e-commerce marketers had to say about it at the WWD Event.


1) Omnichannel means “all channels.”

The marketing industry has no shortage of buzzwords and jargon, and for however vague and cliche omnichannel might sound, it’s been on our radar as one to watch. Omni means “all” in Latin, so in a nutshell it means that marketing should (and does) incorporate all of the different ways customers interact with a retailer.

The benefits of omnichannel marketing can be enormous. Diversifying and tracking the different ways you interact with customers allows you to find new and better ways to spark the conversations that lead to higher engagement and loyalty. Understanding which channels perform best means you can spend your resources more efficiently. However, it takes sound planning and investment to adequately track and optimize performance across the different channels. Without that infrastructure you run the risk of wasting time and money on ineffective marketing efforts.

Gap the Customer Journey

Rachel Tipograph, Director of global digital & social media at Gap, mentioned during her talk at WWD that the customer journey from awareness to purchase can include as many as 12 different brand touchpoints.


These include both offline marketing channels such as print ads, TV ads and billboards, and online marketing channels like display ads, social media, email and online video. In their recent "Back to Blue" campaign, Gap created channel-specific campaigns on Tumblr and Twitter that leveraged the unique characteristics of each platform: A crowd-sourced contest on Tumblr and a TV ad teaser campaign on Twitter.


Julia Goldin, Revlon’s Global CMO, talked about the plethora of social channels that are available to any digital marketer today. Having so many channels at the marketer's fingertips makes things easier and harder at the same time: Easier to reach customers, harder to choose which channels to focus on.


Daniella Yacobovsky and Amy Jain, co-founders of BaubleBar, referred to “active” and “passive” channels. Active channels like Facebook or Customer Service allow a company to hear their customers’ desires (or complaints) directly. For example, a customer might write on BaubleBar’s Facebook page to say how much they crave that new statement necklace, just in a different color. Passive channels let a company infer their customers’ intentions based on actions such as site searches, browsing behavior and clicks on paid marketing campaigns. So if a customer searches for “statement necklace mint,” they are probably expressing the same wish for a different color necklace, only passively.


2) Omnichannel means Online / Offline Convergence.

Tracking online and offline purchases in one place is now an essential task. With many brick & mortar retailers now living in the e-commerce world, and many e-commerce-only retailers opening “real life” stores, the distinction between the two is becoming increasingly blurry.

Jennifer Kasper, Group Vice President, Digital Media & Multicultural Marketing at Macy’s, talked about the need to ensure a seamless experience for a Macy’s customer who walks into a store, tries on a dress and wishes she could have it in a different color - and then goes on the Macy’s iPhone app to complete the purchase.


Or the Macy’s Black Friday shopper who receives a Macy’s email about Black Friday deals and then comes into the store to get a few deals and experience some of Macy’s famous Black Friday holiday cheer.


3) Omnichannel means multiple devices.

A few speakers at WWD cited that 30-40% of their e-commerce traffic and purchases came from mobile devices (phones and tablets). Many retailers invest considerable resources in developing and promoting dedicated iPhone, Android and iPad apps to create a device-tailored shopping experience. Tracking users across mobile, desktop and tables can be tough though, especially if your site does not require the user to login. But understanding what makes mobile customers unique is also important: Do they spend more? Do they tend to live in certain cities or states? Are they acquired through social media channels vs. search engine marketing? It’s increasingly important to consider these sorts of questions and to develop ways to answer them.


Custora's Take (and how we can help)

Custora is a predictive analytics platform that helps e-commerce retail marketing teams acquire, retain, and segment their customers. Our mission is to make marketing better for both retailers and their customers - both sides of the coin. Which to us, in today’s omnichannel world, means analyzing data across all marketing channels and devices, to build better relationships.

Custora analyzes purchase transactions and provides answers to many omnichannel related questions, such as: Which marketing channels are bringing in your most valuable customers? What makes your mobile customers different than non-mobile customers? Who should you send your print catalog to? Are your online customers younger than your brick & mortar customers?  What is the value of customers who come through social media channels, and should I continue to invest in maintaining presence on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram?

Custora works with leading e-commerce innovators and established retailers such as Fab, Bonobos, LivingSocial and Etsy. If you’re interested in learning more about Custora, you can request a demo here. If you’d like to learn more about e-commerce analytics, check out our courses on Custora U.


Like this? You might also enjoy these.

Big News: Custora's Next Chapter

  I am excited to share that today we announced the acquisition of Custora by ...

Swatting Buzzwords: 360-Degree View of the Customer

There are some terms in the retail marketing tech world that get tossed around...

Meet the Marketer: Kelsey Foy of Eloquii

In this ongoing series, we chatted with some of our customers to learn more...