The way in which businesses market to consumers has been forced to change rapidly and repeatedly since the dawn of the internet. It used to be easy to interrupt a captive audience by advertising during a television show, radio program, or with print ads in magazines and newspapers.
Digitalization has completely disrupted all of these traditional methods of marketing. We now stream our favorite TV shows commercial-free, pay a premium to subscribe to non-interrupted music services and podcasts and go online to read magazines and get our news. And we’re doing all of this on different devices, from mobile phones and tablets to laptops and even voice-activated smart speakers.
In order to be truly successful in this Internet of Things/always connected digital age, today’s marketers have to figure out how to reach their audience with the right message at the right time across all available channels. Marketing and communication practices now must be completely focused on user experience, provide the utmost convenience, and be increasingly omnipresent, allowing consumers the ability to interact with brands on numerous different channels and devices at any time and place they choose.
The rise of the omni-user
Consumers now hold all the power, and they hold it in the palm of their hand and in the confines of their smart homes. The introduction of wireless technology combined with the massive adoption of mobile devices has revolutionized how we communicate. To be honest, these two things have changed how we do practically everything.
Take shopping, for instance. No other industry has experienced greater disruption by digitization than retail, and no company has benefited from this trend more than Amazon. In fact, most people would consider Amazon the “great disruptor” when it comes to retail. As proof, just consider the fact that the last few years have seen well-known anchor stores such as Sears and JCPenney struggle to survive, as they weren’t prepared to handle the new way consumers want to shop.
Amazon, on the other hand, is so good at omni-channel communication that its monthly subscription “Prime” members refer to themselves as “addicted” and part of a shopping cult. Amazon’s omni-friendly platform allows users to shop online, through their mobile app, or by simply giving a verbal command to their Alexa smart speaker. They can also stream Amazon original content along with other movies and television shows on any mobile device or smart TV. You can even walk into certain Amazon-owned Whole Foods locations and experience seamless “no-checkout” shopping, where every item is digitized and automatically charged to your smartphone app.
The success of Amazon is the best example that the way people want to shop and interact with companies has changed. If businesses don’t adapt, they will find themselves on the same sinking ship as Sears and JCPenney.
Smart devices call for smarter marketing across all available platforms
The rise of omni-channel communication systems calls for smarter marketing practices that take into account all the new touch points brought about by digitization. The good news is that smarter marketing is now actually easier thanks to the abundance of smart devices, the big data being collected from these devices, and the influx of artificial intelligence and robotic process automation (RPA) being used to analyze and implement marketing best practices. From wearables, such as smartwatches, fitness trackers, and health monitors, to smart speakers and connected home appliances, we now know more about consumers, their habits, and when they are most likely to buy than ever before.
We also know where they like to buy. According to Adweek, 71% of millennials say their mobile device is their preferred way to shop. And even the way they shop on that device is changing. Social media sites, including Instagram and Pinterest, now offer “shoppable” content that allows users to click and buy from within a photo or post without ever having to go to a company’s actual e-commerce site. Smart marketers are finding new and interesting ways to reach consumers by showing up in the social media channels and feeds they are constantly viewing throughout the day. The mobile device home-screen is the new television screen.
The new normal for marketing campaigns will encompass not only mobile apps and social media touch points, but also things such as smart home devices, voice-activated speakers, and interactive gaming & educational channels featuring augmented and virtual reality. The focus will switch from merely marketing to a customer to observing and capitalizing on the way the customer interacts with the brand on a day-to-day (and even a minute-to-minute) basis.
Omni-channel development challenges
The biggest challenge to the omni-channel marketing trend is simply the ability to keep up. More touchpoints brought about by more connected devices leads to more development. Most companies are already outsourcing some or most of their development projects because they simply don’t have large enough IT departments to handle the load. This trend will only grow in popularity thanks to globalization and the ability to have teams of developers working around the clock to add new connected functionality to existing applications.
Another major concern is security and protecting users’ privacy. With so many recent stories of big-time data breaches, (looking at you, Facebook) providing users with convenient apps and new ways to interact means nothing if you can’t promise those users that their information and privacy will be protected. As the Internet of Things continues to grow, so does the feeling that “Big Brother” is watching and recording everything.
Finding the right balance between convenience and privacy will prove to be the holy grail when it comes to omni-channel marketing in the future.
The digital transformation has ushered us into a new era of connectedness. Learning how to communicate and provide real value to customers across all available channels is key, not only to an organization’s success but to its basic survival. It’s not enough to just offer “omni-channel” communication. The point is to be “omni-connected” with all outreach working together seamlessly.
From a website visit to an email to purchase from a mobile phone app, the whole point of omni-channel communication is to provide the customer with the most personalized and best user experience possible. Customers expect more from the companies they do business with these days. It’s up to the companies to meet their expectations and adapt to this new omnipresent marketplace. They simply must adapt.
Adapt or die.