in the mix1The term “omni-channel” has been creating a buzz in the marketing world for some time. Just Google it and you’ll find an exhaustive list of articles and blogs discussing what it means and how it differs from multi-channel marketing. According to Daniel Newman, a contributing writer for Entrepreneur.com, “Put simply, omni-channel marketing refers to a business delivering a consistent and uninterrupted brand experience across all channels and devices a customer uses to interact with them.” But what does that really mean for marketers? It means that instead of just using multiple channels to communicate your marketing message, you need to make sure that each channel is seamlessly tied to the others, and when you put them all together you are creating a holistic experience for your audience. It’s kind of like the difference between a spider web and a divided highway.

Omni-channel marketing is inherently customer-focused, so in order to effectively plan and execute this kind of campaign it’s helpful to start from the finish…from the desired end result. Imagine the experience you want your target audience to have; then work backwards to create it. Let’s take a look at what that encounter might look like in real life.

Imagine a member of your target audience at her place of work during a lull in activity. She remembers that she has a party the following weekend and realizes she has nothing to wear. She opens the web browser on her smart phone, does a quick search, and finds an embedded video about a sale at a popular retailer.  She watches the ad, opens up said retailer’s web page, and starts browsing. When she finds something she likes, she puts it in her “shopping cart.” Suddenly, her manager walks up to her desk and she quickly puts her phone away.

Later, at home and on her laptop, having completely forgotten her earlier shopping experience, she receives an email from that online retailer with an incentive: purchase what she left in her shopping cart and receive free shipping, today only. Thinking it must be her lucky day, she quickly logs on to the retailer’s web site, goes to her shopping cart, types in the promo code from her email, and makes the purchase.

Already happy about the reminder this retailer gave her, not to mention the free shipping incentive, she is even more pleased to receive a “thank you for your purchase” postcard in the mail inviting her to the store for an exclusive VIP sale event. Now, not only does she feel like this company went above and beyond her expectations for customer service, she feels they made a genuine connection with her. She marks the date of the VIP sale on her calendar and sets a reminder so she’ll be sure to attend.

In this scenario, the retailer’s campaign utilized several interconnected channels to get the consumer’s attention, retain her interest, and close a sale. Let’s hit the rewind button. The invitation the customer received in the mail reinforced her previous decision to purchase, which was encouraged by the email reminding her of the unpurchased items in her shopping cart. And the video ad she watched was the reason she went to this company in the first place. The key, however, is not the use of multiple channels, but the way those channels work in intelligent synergy to create a positive customer experience.

So, as you are preparing your next marketing campaign, don’t just incorporate multiple channels. Strategize ways to make sure each channel reinforces the others’ validity and impact on your target market. Step into your audience’s shoes. Envision the experience you’d like them to have and then design your campaign by working your way from the desired finish to the first connection you make with them. The results will be “omnificent”!