Omni-Channel Marketing: The Power It Brings to Small Businesses and the Advantages They Have Over Big Box Retailers

Small businessman looking at the shadow of a much bigger businessman, symbolizing small businesses competing against giants.

In the ever-changing world of retail, where the line between traditional brick-and-mortar and online retailers has blurred, there is a new term floating around: Omni-channel marketing. Omni-channel marketing is the ability to provide a seamless experience to the consumer regardless of channel or device. Once just a ‘buzz word’ created to describe the survival strategy of many traditional retailers to combat the rapid growth of low-cost online merchants, today omni-channel marketing is a necessity for retailers of all shapes and sizes to survive and succeed.

Unlike multi-channel marketing, where a retailer would advertise on TV, radio and newspaper, omni-channel marketing is the creation of a 1:1 experience, where marketing is not separated by platform, but becomes a cohesive experience and journey through the buying process. Marketo, a leading marketing automation company, provides this explanation:

“Marketers now need to provide a seamless experience, regardless of channel or device. Consumers can now engage with a company in a physical store, on an online website or mobile app, through a catalog, or through social media. They can access products and services by calling a company on the phone, by using an app on their mobile smartphone, or with a tablet, a laptop, or a desktop computer. Each piece of the consumer’s experience should be consistent and complementary.”

Macy’s, one of the world’s largest and well-known big box retailers is using omni-channel marketing to its full advantage:

  • Visit its website, and you have 24 different tracking cookies installed onto your browser.
  • Watch television and you see ads with Justin Bieber urging millennials to download the Macy’s mobile app.
  • Visit a store and use that mobile app to scan QR codes on merchandise

They’ve created a seamless experience that leaves no consumer out of the buying / sales loop. But the great thing about omni-channel marketing is you don’t have to be as large as Macy’s to create a successful program.

THE SMALL BUSINESS ADVANTAGE

For small brick-and-mortar and online retailers, the thought of learning and employing yet another marketing strategy can be overwhelming. After all, most have just started thinking about mobile marketing efforts. But mobile is yesterday’s problem and focus needs to change in order to survive. And, while they don’t know it, small retailers have a few advantages that the big box retailers don’t, which will help them make their omni-channel marketing more effective and successful. Here are four distinct advantages that small retailers should capitalize on:

  1. KNOWING YOUR CUSTOMERS

    Omni-channel is all about knowing your customer – really well – and this is one thing that small businesses are particularly good at.

  2. PROVIDING EXCELLENT CUSTOMER SERVICE

    While this should be a standard for all retailers, we know that it just isn’t. Small businesses that excel at customer service have built a solid foundation, and from there, they can build a successful marketing strategy.

  3. TECH AND DATA

    There are a number of affordable technology tools, like data analytics, website building, app development, etc. that small retailers can take advantage of to help them manage customer information and additional methods of engagement.

  4. LESS HURDLES

    Because you are small, you have less hurdles to jump over to get started. You can move faster than your larger competition – take advantage of it!

getting started and doing it right

Now that you know what omni-channel marketing is and the clear advantages you, as a small brick-and-mortar or online retailer, have over the big boys, it’s time to get started. Scott Bowen, General Manager at Webs, a DIY website and social media tool for small business, offers these tips for those getting started:

  1. Create a consistent brand experience across all channels. Make sure that all channels match one another in terms of logos, imagery, tone, and general look and feel. Ensure that marketing campaigns are designed and executed such that customers have a similar experience regardless of the channel.
  2. Engage customers regularly, and across multiple channels.
  3. Employ tactics from one channel that drives engagement to another. For example, a social media post that drives traffic back to a website. Or an email or even physical postcard that drives traffic to an interactive contest on social media.

Omni-channel marketing is providing new opportunities to think about your customers and their buying experience. By opening your eyes and paying close attention, you will be able to reach them in more ways, provide them more value and create a more positive buying experience that will reflect favorably on your business and brand.

For more insight, check out our ecommerce tips and trends page.

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