Omni-channel marketing: how to build a winning strategy

Interview with Antonio Ferrandina, teacher and Marketing specialist

Embrace the sea with a delta mouth. Just like the biggest rivers such as the Po, the Danube, the Nile, the Ganges and the Mississippi do, successful companies embrace their consumers.

This beautiful metaphor comes from Antonio Ferrandina’s and Silvia Vianello's book Omnichannel marketing. They compare two different approaches: the multichannel one, like parallel water flows that never combine (the sales channels), in contrast with the omnichannel approach, in which there’s a total convergence of digital and physical channels, ensuring an integrated and dynamic shopping experience.

By the way, consumers are unaware of being “omnichannel”: quite simply, their mastery of technological tools leads them to develop high expectations of the brand, which in turn has to recognize potential customers when they arrive, speaking to them with a consistent language across all touchpoints, and leading them to purchase at any time, regardless of the channel.

Someone, citing the phenomena of showrooming and webroomingexpressed fear about the prevalence of one channel over another, but in reality omnicanality goes deeper than that: the entire organizational structure and business processes are reviewed, along with the adoption of the necessary technological solutions and the development of new skills.

If we have a look at the major digital innovations of the last few years in the retail sector, we can see that, together with the innovations at the back-end and in store customer experience, those that support an all-round approach stand out. At this point, we can go beyond the concepts of e-commerce and retail and start talking about Commerce in a global, holistic way

What are the characteristics of an omnichannel approach according to Vianello and Ferrandina? Let's see them:

- a unified distribution planning and management

- interaction, communication and interdependence between channels

- a dynamic approach to the customer, with emphasis on those technological tools that develop cross-canality

- use of appropriate and integrated performance indicators (KPIs)


The tools enabling Omni-channel Marketing

After an initial phase of careful analysis and planning, an omni-channel strategy can rely on some operational, often technological, tools.

The book mentions solutions such as responsive mobile sites and related apps (with mobile growth, shopping on mobile devices grows too), Click and Collect formulas (online orders and in store pick-ups), geolocation services with Store Locator, social media integrations (live chat), “smart” stock management improving order processing and shipping. 

Among the 9 pillars for omni-canality identified by the SDA Bocconi research of 2015, ther are three that are particularly relevant for us:

  • Single Customer View

Having a global view of your customers, regardless of the channel they use: to achieve this, it is essential to have uniformity in data collection and processing.

  • Data Analysis

Developing the ability to acquire and process cross-channel data, tracking and verifying both "declared" and "incognito" interactions.

  • KPIs & Incentives

Reviewing measurement systems in an omni-channel perspective.


A technology in detail: THRON

In this context, one of the most advanced tools mentioned by the authors is THRON, the intelligent Digital Asset Management (DAM), developed in Piazzola sul Brenta (PD, Italy). It is a Content Strategy Platform that manages and distributes any type of content on different channels, without ever duplicating files.

THRON has two features that make it an evolutionary leap forward from traditional DAMs: Integrated Delivery and Content Intelligence.

Thanks to the semantic classification made by AI algorithms, the platform offers a centralized, omni-channel distribution, automatically adapting assets to the specifications of the target channel.
At the same time, the delivery process becomes bi-directional with Content Intelligence, which enables content itself to collect feedback from users in real time, obtaining data on their interests.

The centralization of content and the tracking of their "consumption" allows you to enrich your CRM with unique data about each user, including their navigation path, a complete Single Customer View which can be used to support editorial strategies, as well as upselling and cross-selling activities.

Let's delve deeper into the subject with Antonio Ferrandina (here is his blog), one of the two authors of the book.

Q: In your book, you underline the importance of evolving from 1.0 and 2.0 metrics to omni-channel metrics. What does it mean? 

A: Web Marketing metrics need to keep up with the evolution of the web. The first phase of web 1.0 was unidirectional, only quantitative data were collected; we moved on to a second phase, web 2.0, in which emerged the need to support statistical analysis with qualitative analysis, semantic analysis of texts, and netnography

What has changed? While in web 1.0 visitors used to be considered as aggregates, in web 2.0, because of their interactions with the Net, users are seen as individuals with specific behaviors, to be profiled in their uniqueness, in order to send them targeted messages.

In this perspective, you should also try to go beyond vanity metrics provided by advertising (pageviews, clicks, etc.) and rather measure engagement, or the time of interaction spent on the various corporate touchpoints.

For omni-channel metrics though, a further step is required: the data about visitors, hyper-connected individuals who surf without interruption and purchase across different channels, has to be related to one another. Only with an integrated customer profile will it be possible to obtain smart data, i.e. insights to improve omni-channel sales performance. Otherwise, data will just be stored in silos, isolated.

Q: What are the steps for an omnichannel marketing plan?

A: The first step to be taken is an in-depth analysis of the company and of its business area (sector, competition, political, economic, social, technological environment). Above all, it’s important to define the reasons leading to an omni-channel approach, and the expected results must be very clear.

Secondly, the Marketing strategy itself has to be shaped: carefully defining the products/services to be sold, to whom, how, through which channels (online, offline), and the tactics and communication tools.

The third step is an estimate of the economic results (revenue, expected margins for markets, segments, and channel) which will lead to the final step of implementation and control.

In the end, the operations necessary for the implementation of the omni-channel strategy will be defined  and the monitoring tools set in motion. For further details, I recommend reading the book, which can be purchased at this link.