Omni-channel marketing is growing in prevalence among marketers, to the point where it comes up in my client meetings all the time. A few years ago, I’d estimate that less than 20% of marketers I spoke to were actually trying to execute an omni-channel initiative. Based on what I see today, it’s probably safe to assume that the number has doubled, and even more marketers are at least thinking about omni-channel, even if they aren’t executing it just yet.
If there’s one remaining issue, it’s that even the marketers who realize they need omni-channel marketing often don't know how to go about it. There is a hesitancy with omni-channel that often stems from a fear of the new and uncertain. For marketers immersed in reaching the affluent through traditional means, omni-channel carries with it the idea of change. Marketers don’t necessarily want to assemble a stack of different technologies and partners who can help execute a campaign across more channels. They often fear that they need to throw out their existing successful strategy and start all over from scratch.
While some may invest heavily in point solutions that supposedly tie together their marketing efforts, there are much easier paths forward. Omni-channel doesn't have to be scary, provided marketers do it thoughtfully, via a measured expansion of their existing campaigns into new channels.
Let’s start with a tried-and-true direct marketing tactic, direct mail. Successful direct-mail campaigns to affluent consumers are generally the result of carefully curated mailing lists and data mining to help find the best prospects. Some marketers have spent years refining their tactics, so it makes sense that they’d be afraid of having to start over. Fortunately, there’s no need for that.
By translating this mailing list online, the marketer can ensure that whenever a consumer on the core list goes online, regardless of publisher, they see the same ad from the mailer. In fact, marketers can use digital targeting technology to help ensure only these consumers see the digital mailer. And just like that, by adding one digital campaign built from one direct mail list, the marketer has linked the customer experience across two channels and taken a step closer to omni-channel.
By taking that same list and extending it into new channels, the conversion level will usually grow. Even if the additional omni-channel components are only driving awareness, that almost automatic bump in awareness frequently can result in higher response rates. If marketers are reaching the same consumer population across multiple channels, those consumers will be more likely to convert, because they saw the ad more often. Marketers already buying direct-mail services want to be able to leverage that same list online. If their direct-mail provider can’t help them go omni-channel, then it may be time to find another one.
Taking a successful direct-mail campaign and extending it to digital is just one possible option. Marketers can also send their anonymized customer lists to TV providers who offer addressable services, so that only the consumers on the mailing list will see the ads on TV.
Keep in mind that this strategy isn’t about buying multiple media at the same time and executing a multi-channel campaign. Many marketers run one campaign online, another on TV, and a different one via email, but they’re likely hitting three different audiences with those three messages. That may provide less benefit, because those three ads may be accomplishing different things by reaching different audiences across different income and wealth tiers. Omni-channel helps keep the customer at the center, uniting different channels into complementary forces, reaching the same audience with the same message across channels, building awareness, loyalty and hopefully conversions.
It’s also important to remember that omni-channel isn’t an all-or-nothing strategy. While the approach outlined here may seem overly simplified, there’s no reason to invest heavily, rush into multiple channels, or completely scrap an already successful marketing strategy simply for the sake of “going omni-channel.” By expanding slowly and strategically, channel by channel, marketers can build an omni-channel strategy that works for them at a pace they’re comfortable with. A simple, thoughtful approach allows any direct marketer focused on the affluent to go omni-channel, taking their direct mail campaigns and applying them to email, online, and addressable TV more easily, confidently, and stress free.