An omnichannel strategy is like an orchestra where each channel is an instrument. They can produce a nice tune on their own, but together they can create a memorable symphony that delights and engages the audience.
The same goes for the omnichannel approach. Every touchpoint must work together in a coordinated effort to provide a consistent brand experience. It might not be as moving as a concerto, but it certainly can be memorable.
Social media plays an increasingly important role in creating these memorable experiences. It’s a center point of consumers’ daily lives and the brands integrating social data beyond their marketing efforts are reaping major benefits.
This article will dig into the “why” and “how” behind omnichannel strategies that power sales, service and marketing efforts. Plus, we’ll also explain how social can help your symphony stay in tune.
What is an omnichannel strategy?
An omnichannel strategy is a sales and marketing method designed to deliver a seamless and consistent customer experience across all touchpoints. That might include brick-and-mortar shops, websites, email, social and mobile—anywhere a brand is present.
With the right tools, omnichannel strategies create a data feedback loop that helps you refine brand messaging and target consumers in a personalized and relevant way. Over time, this cohesion builds trust, strengthens brand loyalty and drives customer retention. All it takes is consistency.
What’s the difference between multichannel and omnichannel?
“Omnichannel” and “multichannel” sound like they could be synonyms, but there are differences that separate the two strategies.
A multichannel marketing strategy also focuses on marketing to an audience across multiple channels, but each channel operates as a silo.
An omnichannel strategy, on the other hand, integrates each channel to break those silos down. That way, no matter what channel a customer prefers, they can always expect the same level of service and care. The goal of an omnichannel strategy is to create a customer journey that’s so seamless, it becomes a source of differentiation and a driver of customer loyalty.
What are the benefits of an omnichannel strategy?
Now that we’ve covered all the necessary definitions, let’s get into some benefits. Here are the top three benefits of adopting an omnichannel approach.
Creates better brand experiences
Delivering relevant content consistently across channels can drive emotional bonds that keep customers coming back, even when faced with alternatives. To put it simply, it can make or break customer connections.
A successful omnichannel strategy helps brands build trust as customers come to expect a high level of quality from your brand. That trust encourages customers to return and spread the word, bolstering your brand reputation.
Gives you a competitive advantage
Maintaining a consistent, customer-centric brand presence across all channels—IRL and online—translates to deeper customer relationships over time. These relationships can help you win and retain customers in a crowded market.
From there, beating the competition is simply a matter of informing your approach with the right data.
For example, say a competitive analysis reveals that your competitors are consistently underperforming when it comes to customer care. That single insight can inform an entire roadmap to a major competitive differentiator. You might:
- Revamp your own customer care approach to create an experience that goes above and beyond consumer expectations.
- Emphasize customer testimonials about your service across marketing efforts.
- Reduce sales friction by making the shopping experience as convenient and trustworthy as possible.
Impacts sales growth
What do you get when you combine a superior brand experience with a clear competitive advantage? A healthy sales funnel, that’s what.
An omnichannel approach to marketing, sales and customer success sets the foundation for building connections at scale. According to a Q1 ‘23 Sprout pulse survey, more than two-thirds (77%) of customers are more likely to increase their spending with brands they feel connected to.
How social media impacts more than just omnichannel marketing
According to The Sprout Social Index™ 2022, 44% of brands use social data to inform customer experience strategies. More than half (66%) also use it to inform sales strategies.
Most recent memorable brand moments involve social conversations to some degree. These moments aren’t just driving brand awareness. They’re driving sales and creating customers.
For example, when a creator’s NSFW shout-out to skincare brand Eos went viral on TikTok, the product sold out at Target locations across the country. Their website also received a boost in engagement, with online orders increasing by 25 times and visits to their shave category increasing by 450 times.
Eos could have simply enjoyed their moment in the spotlight, but their marketing team had bigger plans. They worked with their merchandising colleagues to create a limited edition version of their viral shave cream, renamed in honor of the review.
This social-first omnichannel sales strategy helped Eos establish relevance with new audiences to make the most out of their virality. Their omnichannel customer service strategy relies on social to build trust and loyalty with that same audience.
You never know when your brand’s moment is going to strike. To be ready when it happens, you need an omnichannel digital strategy that prioritizes social at every stage of the funnel.
An example of a successful omnichannel strategy
The best omnichannel strategies create an identical, recognizable vibe across several channels. Let’s look at an example of the omnichannel approach in action with Barnes & Noble to break down what we mean.
In recent years, the former mall-favorite has undergone a perception transformation powered by the rise of reading influencers on “BookStagram” and “BookTok.” Now, they’ve revamped their digital approach to build on their in-store experience and vice versa, creating a customer experience worth reading about.
Here’s a high-level look at their approach by channel:
- In store, they’re the classic Barnes & Noble you know and love, complete with a coffee counter, cozy reading nooks and staff recommendations. If you pop into any location, you’ll likely notice an entire section dedicated to BookTok picks. The emphasized placement makes it easy to find the internet’s most popular reads.
- They also dedicate an entire page of their website to BookTok so people who prefer to order online can quickly find what they need and check out.
- On social media, they let their staff’s expertise shine. They feature their booksellers on their primary brand account and on accounts specific to local stores. Their content mimics the recommendation experience one might have in store, complete with an easy path to purchase.
- They also host a podcast called “Poured Over” where a career bookseller talks to guests about their favorite books. The title of their podcast is a clever reference to the coffee shops they have in store.
These combined efforts bolster the Barnes & Noble brand across every stage of the funnel. Their social presence and podcast builds brand awareness and expand reach for marketing, the BookTok sections of their website and app create easy paths to purchase, and the tailored recommendations support better customer service.
No matter where you’re interacting with the Barnes & Noble brand, it’s sure to evoke the same feeling of coziness, curiosity and peace. You can always count on Barnes & Noble for a good book recommendation, whether you’re a new customer buying online or an existing customer buying in-store.
How to craft an omnichannel strategy that supports marketing, sales and service
There are plenty of frameworks out there that can help you create an omnichannel strategy. However, it’s difficult to tailor broad advice to the complex needs of an individual organization. The following tips will help tailor your strategy to your brand and market.
1. Align to company goals
Monthly performance reports keep marketing goals top of mind, but what about sales and service goals? To create a strategy that supports all three functions, you’ll also need to know cross-departmental objectives.
Before crafting your strategy, take a moment to review any available documentation on business goals for the year. This will provide a clearer picture of each department’s priorities, so you can identify opportunities to align your efforts toward better customer outcomes.
A clear understanding of company goals can help you identify which channels are best suited to reach and engage with your customers at every stage of the funnel. This knowledge will help you act as a better strategic partner to other collaborators across your business.
2. Update your customer journey map
Consumer preferences are constantly changing, meaning the customer journey is, too.
Set yourself up for omnichannel success by researching customer behavior. Use that information to refresh your understanding of your target audience. How have their preferences, pain points and needs evolved? Combine information from multiple sources to accurately understand who they are today.
These sources might include surveys, questionnaires, analytics tools, focus groups, CRM data. Use whatever you have at your disposal.
We’re biased, but social listening insights are a must-have for this step. A social listening tool (like Sprout’s) can help you detect customer pain points before your competitors catch on. It can also illuminate new opportunities for personalization or superior customer care. The timeliness of these insights are crucial to keeping your strategy effective and up-to-date.
3. Identify key collaborators
An omnichannel strategy is made up of several moving parts. It’s not something that can be implemented with the flip of a switch. There’s an adoption period, where you’ll figure out who you should work with to make your vision a reality.
Once you’ve assessed company goals and identified optimization opportunities, you’ll need to connect with the stakeholders who can help you develop a plan of action.
For example, say your company wants to increase repeat purchase rate among customers who made a purchase over the holiday season. Coming up with a strategy to make this a reality would require input from stakeholders across marketing and customer service.
These are must-have conversations. You need input and buy-in from all relevant teams to ensure everyone is working toward a shared objective. Embracing collaboration can help ensure that your omnichannel strategy is well-designed, sustainable, and adaptable to market and customer behavior changes.
4. Tailor your approach by channel
Sharing a consistent message doesn’t mean sharing the same message. You should adapt your content by channel and network to get the most return on an omnichannel communications strategy.
Meryoli Arias, Senior Social and Community Manager at Chili Piper, considers each individual channel and network as a piece of a greater puzzle.
“Individual channels can help you meet different goals. They’re all tied to the bigger strategy, but how you develop your brand personality will require different timelines, tactics and formats depending on the channels you’re using.”
Arias relies on shared content pillars to tailor an overarching brand message to specific channels. “That way, the message remains the same, even when the formats change. For example, you can create a text post about the benefits of your product on LinkedIn, a video to explain those same benefits on TikTok.”
5. Prioritize an integrated tech stack
Consistency doesn’t happen by chance. Showing up for your customers at the right time and place calls for a tech stack that can support backend data sharing and collaboration across teams. This automation is what makes the omnichannel vision a reality.
It’s unlikely that piloting a new strategy will come with the budget clearance to revamp your tech stack. That’s why it’s so important to keep the principles of the omnichannel approach top of mind when evaluating new platforms.
Integrations are far from one size fits all. It’s not uncommon for some to require connectors or additional resources for configuration and maintenance. It may seem simple at the start, but it creates opportunities for data flow deterioration in the long run.
To avoid this fate, prioritize tools that offer in-house support on pre-built integrations. That means they’re already programmed and tested, with minimal work required on the user’s end.
You probably won’t be involved in every purchasing decision that takes place at your company but if you evangelize this approach, others will champion the cause in your absence.
Put social at the center of your omnichannel strategy
You’ll find a world of potential waiting in sales and customer service when you look beyond your omnichannel marketing strategy. Unifying the three will help you own your market with a stronger, more cohesive brand experience.
Pulling it off may seem like quite the feat but with the right tech stack, it’s simply a matter of improving your processes over time. Sprout Social President Ryan Barretto has great tips on using tools to optimize customer relationships that will help you along the way.