Today’s brand marketer is tasked with the intricate challenge of delivering a customer experience that spans both the digital and physical worlds. The evolution of marketing, driven by the rise in digital mediums and mobile adoption, has complicated the process of delivering a seamless customer experience across all touchpoints. A vast amount of time and budget are spent on aligning the customer experience online and across devices, but many overlook the channel that connects online and offline: the local brick-and-mortar store.
Marketers that fail to see local storefronts as a critical channel are missing out on a rich sales opportunity. In fact, 92 percent of transactions still occur in physical retail locations today. Ironically, brands invest $70 billion in local markets each year, but a significant portion often goes to waste because brands fail to work collaboratively with their local partners.
It’s time for brands to wake up to this opportunity and realize the role brick-and-mortar retail plays in an omnichannel marketing strategy and the influence it has in shaping the customer experience.
The challenge for marketers is figuring out how to align their digital marketing efforts with the customer experience in-store. Aligning these unique worlds is anything but elementary for brands. Unfortunately for marketers, there is no one-size-fits-all strategy for doing this efficiently or effectively. Complicating matters further, a new research report from the CMO Council reveals that more than half of brand marketers admit that they’re unsure of how digital marketing efforts impact in-store sales, leaving few insights for brands to grasp as they try to align the customer experience across these channels.
How can brand marketers begin to close the gap between a customer’s digital and physical worlds?
Broaden Your Definition of ‘Omnichannel’
The elements that comprise an omnichannel strategy should be those that drive customers to make a purchase. Why, then, is local retail so often left out of the mix? In part, it’s because marketers believe digital advertising is the most critical strategy for driving successful business outcomes.
The CMO Council’s research indicates that 60 percent of marketers emphasize search, display and social media advertising ahead of in-store promotions, digital video or other traditional forms of advertising. Ironically, while this is a focus for brand marketers, more than 75 percent have yet to measure the impact their digital marketing is having on driving sales in-store.
While digital is a necessary piece of a marketer’s mix, it’s time to think beyond the digital channels and realize how the customer receives marketing messages and how it impacts their purchase decisions.
We know that most of the time, digital drives customers into physical retail locations. In fact, the National Retail Federation estimates that up to two-thirds of in-store visits are driven by something a consumer saw online first. Therefore, if the in-store experience doesn’t align with the other digital touchpoints a customer is being exposed to, then a sale – and even brand loyalty – are compromised.
Consider the impact that a cohesive brand-to-local marketing strategy could have on bridging this gap in the customer experience. With 93 percent of brand and local retailers misaligned, any brand that succeeds in extending omnichannel campaigns across this chasm has a ripe competitive advantage.
Extend Promotions ‘From Click to Brick’
Imagine the frustration of a customer who saw an online promotion for a product and was moved to purchase, but was later told that the promotion was not available in-store. As a marketer, it’s critical to think like the consumer. In this case, overlooking local retail as a crucial component of an omnichannel strategy will lead to you lose customers and, more importantly, sales. Despite this realization, more than half of brand marketers admit their alignment with local retailers is hit or miss.
Making this reality even more shocking is the amount of financial support brands dedicate towards executing local marketing programs. Research shows that many brands earmark up to 50 percent of their annual marketing budget to support local marketing campaigns. Collectively, it’s estimated that brands put aside up to $70 billion annually, but see a significant portion of those dollars go to waste because of the misalignment between brands and local retailers.
The reason for this disconnect ranges from not having the appropriate level of education to not having the right technology or tools to help enable better alignment. This includes: arming retail partners with ready content, education and financial support to tackle the last mile of marketing.
Today’s brands have the opportunity to deliver seamless campaigns and promotions from “click to brick,” but continue to fall short because of the gaps that exist between them and their local partners. Brands must commit themselves to communicating more effectively with partners and enabling campaigns and promotions that are fluid and cohesive from an initial click until they visit the brick-and-mortar store.
Omnichannel Delivers Ideal Customer Experiences
Like it or not, shoppers love buying from brick-and-mortar stores. Unfortunately, the disconnect and misalignment between the brand and local retailer is delivering poor customer experiences, which in turn hurts a brand’s bottom line.
Marketers need to refocus on where and how the customer intends to engage and transact. Brands are increasingly committed to the omnichannel experience, but their attention has been solely focused on establishing robust, personalized and data-driven digital channels, rather than determining, with local retail partners, how these efforts can help translate to local sales.
As we look ahead to retail trends in 2017, an emerging threat brands must watch closely is how e-commerce will coalesce and enter the brick-and-mortar environment. We’ve already begun seeing this strategy manifest as Amazon opens additional bookstore locations across the nation. For brands, this should serve as a call to arms to bring together online and offline marketing efforts. An e-commerce brand like Amazon has the advantage of knowing how to master the customer experience across digital and by adding a physical component, stand to gain more business as they adhere to the inherent customer journey, which includes in-store transactions.
It has never been more important for brands and local partners to align and understand how their customer is interested in engaging and transacting. By focusing on customers’ purchasing behaviors and aligning the digital and physical elements of an omnichannel strategy, brands can enable a seamless customer experience. For marketers, this means embracing and empowering their retail partner network. They must look to align around the engagements, tools and technologies that can turn a loosely connected string of campaigns into a holistic experience that delivers a seamless customer experience, and ultimately, a profit for both the brand and partner.
Brendan Morrissey co-founded Netsertive in 2009 after serving as the VP of Business Development for Motricity, an interactive mobile marketing technology company. Immediately prior to this role, he played a major role in the growth, subsequent sale and integration of venture-backed mobile marketing platform GoldPocket Wireless before being acquired by Motricity.