For years, the customer journey has been represented as a mostly linear, AIDA model, made up of phases that the customer traverses, from before they know what the product is all the way up to after they have purchased. In its most basic terms, it’s usually along the lines of attention, interest, desire, action.
Traditionally, marketers would break these sections down to the bare bones, mapping out consumer touchpoints along the way to work out how to boost engagement with the product or service. Understanding what the customer is doing at each point of their journey means that you can implement strategies, formulate ideas all while communicating effectively across the most relevant channels, depending on the customer’s current phase on their journey.
How does that saying go? “Out with the old and in with the new”. Change is here whether you like it or not and if you want to stay ahead of the game, you’re going to need to adapt.
Multichannel VS Omnichannel
Although multichannel and omnichannel strategies may appear similar, there are some fundamental differences that set them apart from each other.
Multichannel marketing refers to using several media channels separate from each other, allowing the customer to interact with a product along their preferred channel with limited interaction from other channels. Each strategy exists as a separate purchase opportunity. For instance, you could be operating a campaign for a product via your website, social media, email, and SMS. But the individual strategies would be constrained to their own media channel.
Omnichannel marketing puts customer experience first, rather than being product-focused. It breaks down the walls to which you were initially confined within a multichannel strategy. All of your channels operate in unity with each other, whilst maintaining a similar style, completely streamlining the consumer experience. Having an omnichannel strategy within eCommerce is incredibly important. If you want to maximise sales, you need to make sure that the buying experience is as frictionless as possible. The easier something is to buy, the more likely you are to get customers converting, whilst also retaining for future purchases. If you make something as easy as possible to buy, chances are you are going to get repeat business from those customers.
Omnichannel marketing is now the default path to purchase. According to yougov.co.uk, 81% of consumers are omnichannel shoppers with COVID-19 being the main driving force behind changing consumer behaviour.
5 Steps to Omnichannel
WARC have put together 5 key steps towards building a successful omnichannel brand, they outline those steps to be:
- Understand what drives the brand
Understanding the brand's core values inside and out means everything you create should end up being and feeling authentic. It will ensure that in everything you do you will be working towards what you want the brand to be and stand for.
- Think about assets differently
Use fluid thinking to develop distinctive assets that can be used across a range of channels taking into account what consumers value most.
- Don’t try to do everything
You don’t need to do everything at once. You should focus on aspects of brand identity that are working well and drive growth, build these areas before moving on to other aspects of the brand.
- Grow the identity
Connect emotionally to your target audience using assets that tell stories as well as shape experiences.
- Invite collaboration
Let customers use brand assets to create something personal which will drive engagement and connection with the brand.
As the marketing landscape evolves, instead of following the traditional AIDA model, it’s important that we look to newer, up-to-date theories and models. Linearity is thrown into question because now multiple phases of that customer journey can happen at the same time, with the introduction of social commerce. A great example of this is TikTok shopping. Now, customers can experience the awareness, consideration, and purchase phase all at the same time.
Hankins Hexagon has entered the chat.
Hankins Hexagon works on the theory that the customer journey is no longer linear and instead, there are 6 stages of the customer journey that that customer could be sitting in at any one time. The stages consist of ‘no current need to buy’, ‘trigger’, ‘explore possibilities’, ‘compare contenders’, ‘make purchases’, and ‘experience products’. This new theory takes into account that a customer makes their own journey to eventually buying a product rather than one fixed pathway. With different brands, there are likely to be different paths to purchase within the hexagon. Identifying the dominant path to purchase for your brand allows you to home in your marketing strategies in the places that really matter.
Instead of viewing customer journeys as a funnel, brands should be thinking about customer journeys being individual to each customer and look at data-driven ways to design new, unique pathways for each customer.
Demographics? No. Mindsets.
Instead of relying on base demographics such as age, location, and gender. Brands should now focus on consumer mindsets in regards to the mapping of the consumer journey to create a human-centric journey that understands culture as well uses data to leverage cultural differences. You can read more about mindset research conducted by TikTok here.
Online and offline retailing
Apologies in advance, I’m going to say the C-word… COVID. The pandemic has put a rocket in the backside of eCommerce, with people being locked indoors for a big chunk of the last couple of years, online demand has gone through the roof. Stores that would have traditionally operated solely offline suddenly found the need to adapt in order to stay afloat, completely rethinking their retail strategies. This change is likely to have long-lasting effects on the eCommerce industry.
While it is still very much possible for online and offline retailers to operate independently from each other, it seems counterintuitive in this day and age to completely separate the two. Instead, businesses should opt to operate both in tandem as both online and offline offer a range of benefits that both spaces can take advantage of.
While offline stores are limited to where they are located, bringing them online not only opens them up to collaborations from third parties’ advertising capabilities, but it breaks down the geolocational barriers that they could have been facing, propelling them into the global market. Having said this, the need for offline stores should not be understated. Items with sensory appeals as well as food benefit from the offline space. Online stores should also consider the benefits of offline opportunities such as opening pop-up shops or showrooms to showcase what they have to offer in their online space.
Product discovery is currently dominated by the online space. WARC state the future of the ‘Digital shelf’ to include 4 key elements:
A real trend we’re seeing at the moment is that customers are looking for new experiences.
Turn shopping into a social experience.
Make it as easy as possible for the customer to buy.
Make it personal to the target audience. Curate products and experiences based on the interests of your specific target audience.
TikTok is currently utilising this formula with their new TikTok shopping features.
Direct-to-consumer brands that have operated solely online now see offline stores as a way to directly provide value and improve customer experience, as well as drive revenue in an omnichannel world. Increasing amounts of brands are moving from ‘URL to IRL’, rethinking the digital-only approach.
Here are 3 brands that we love which are doing great things in the online and offline space:
Established in 2015, founders Charlie and Freddie identified a gap in the market when it came to vintage clothing stores lacking affordable but refined clothing. Their aim is to provide the most unique hand-picked vintage clothing for their customers. They specialise in a combination of old-school sportswear and 80s & 90s designer pieces. Not only do they have an amazing online shop, but a store in London too. As well as the store, you can also book studio visits VT HQ to see online stock, view the pieces that are yet to land on the website, and style different looks.
You can visit their website here.
Art of Football
Art of Football believes that football is a community, not a commodity which is reflected within their core brand values.
- To inspire creative expression.
- To celebrate originality.
- To champion togetherness.
- To support the community.
- To create common goals.
They have an online and offline store, which specialises in selling unique football-inspired designs with direct collaboration from fans. They operate pop-up stores up and down the country and focus on community-driven charity initiatives, consistently keeping customer and community value in mind, over product. A fundamental aspect of a successful omnichannel marketing strategy.
You can visit their website here.
Jaimie Geller Jewelry
Jaimie and Micheal Geller opened Jaimie Geller Jewelry Inc. in December of 2008, creating their ultimate vision, a place where friends and clients could come to fulfil all of their jewellery needs and dreams. They noticed a gap in the market, there wasn’t anywhere close to them where you could get a range of different designers all in the same place. They used their joint expertise to start the store as well as build a community as well as take advantage of clear offline and online advantages for the business to flourish.
You can visit their website here.
In the post-COVID (hopefully), omnichannel era, strategic planning around the customer journey as well as interaction between the online and offline world has become increasingly important and is something that all brands need to consider. Service integrations and cross-channel consistency are paramount to creating a seamless customer experience, online and offline.
- The WARC Guide to customer journeys in an omnichannel world
- Understanding the omnichannel customer journey: The effect of online and offline channel interactivity on consumer value co-creation behavior - Xingwen Cui et al,. 2022
- Online and offline retailing: What we know and directions for future research - Brain Ratchford et al,. 2022
- 11 DTC Brands Opening Physical Retail Stores in 2021 (And Why) - Shopify