Loyalty Marketers Still Face Challenges with Omnichannel Customer Engagement

Loyalty marketers have long discussed omnichannel customer engagement as one of their top priorities. Effective omnichannel customer engagement is a critical piece of the customer loyalty puzzle and drives the engine behind brand advocacy.

Given the plethora of delivery channels available today—including physical channels like a retail location, digital channels, or a company website—marketers have significantly evolved their approach to engaging and connecting with customers. As a result, marketing leaders have turned toward achieving a true omnichannel experience—an approach that revolves around a comprehensive view of the customer—to combine channel availability with customer centricity.

But, according to a new CMO Council study, Omnichannel’s Missing Link — conducted in partnership with digital marketing intelligence company Netsertive—the strength of the entire omnichannel experience may lie in the last mile of the journey, where customers are choosing to transact, as well as in local retail partnerships and touch points.

Although marketers almost unanimously agree that delivering an omnichannel experience is central to future business success, the challenge lies in identifying and optimizing critical local experiences that are so often at the center of the customer-defined experience.

According to the study, 94 percent of respondents said that presenting an omnichannel approach is either important or critical to reaching their business goals. But, only 6 percent indicated that they were still trying to figure out what it means for their respective companies.

Fewer than one in four marketers—21 percent—have tapped into third-party tools (e.g., Google Store Visits, LiveRamp, FourSquare Attribution, etc.) to measure the impact that digital marketing efforts have on the brand’s ability to drive in-store sales and engagement, the study says. Most marketers (42 percent) admit they are struggling to measure the connection between digital engagements and local commerce, which is troubling considering how critical both digital and local commerce are to the bottom line.

Digital customer experiences top the list of marketers’ most critical channels to achieve business outcomes. In fact, the top five most critical channels include digital advertising, corporate websites, mobile (including mobile web, search, and messaging), social media, and email.

The biggest challenge to achieving true omnichannel customer engagement, the study notes, is that marketers are struggling to align strategies with their local retail partners. What’s more, just 7 percent of marketers believe they are fully aligned with local partners, feeling that both brand and retail partners are in lock step with seamlessly executed brand campaigns.

According to the study, its findings reveal a straightforward call to action for marketers to refocus on where and how the customer intends to engage and transact.

While marketers have committed to the omnichannel experience, the study says, “the majority of their attention to date has been paid to establishing robust, personalized and data-driven digital channels that can be measured and controlled within the safe confines of the brand’s own walls. But sadly, this is in contrast to how customers are defining their own experiences. Certainly, customers are just not willing to only shop and engage in channels that are most convenient for brands.”

Netsertive CEO and Co-Founder Brendan Morrissey said customers prefer to buy from brick-and-mortar stores.

“Unfortunately, eighty-eight percent of brands don’t consider local retail partners to be a critical ally in achieving business outcomes,” Morrissey said in the study. “It’s time to think like a customer and consider how your digital marketing is driving consumers to local stores. It’s the customer who suffers when misalignment in local markets leads to poor experiences, which—in turn—leads to lost opportunities.”

Morrissey added: “As major e-commerce players launch brick-and-mortar strategies to extend their reach into local markets, it is more important than ever for brands and local partners to align and meet the competitive challenge. By focusing on customers’ purchasing behaviors and aligning the digital and physical elements of an omnichannel strategy, brands can enable a seamless customer experience.”

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