Omni-channel marketing is now a core strategy that brands use to engage with customers across multiple channels. These channels include physical storefronts, websites, social media, mobile apps, and catalogs. Customers interact with brands through so many channels and devices, each with a completely different set of expectations. As a result, brands struggle because there isn’t a set pattern to follow for how to interact and keep track of these audiences.

The Omni-channel Marketing Challenges

In addition to knowing exactly when and where audiences will be — or will want to be contacted — brands also have to be seamless and consistent in their actions. Plus, brands must personalize all marketing messages in an authentic, engaging way. While it can be a formidable task to implement an effective omni-channel marketing program, it’s also necessary for matching customers’ expectations.

It has to be customer-centric because there is a different approach in terms of how the customer shops. For example, a customer could be simultaneously using two channels as they shop in a physical store but compare prices and product availability online.  However, even after many years of putting omni-channel marketing into practice, some brands have yet to master an effective strategic program.

In addition to succeeding at effective omni-channel messaging, brands also face the serious challenge of how to track across all of these channels. Not all tracking mechanisms are integrated across the various channels and devices nor is there a system for sharing the data gathered in a way that helps the entire organization leverage the insights.

Add to this continually shifting preferences for how to undertake this journey and companies are perplexed how to track and attribute the data to various audience segments. Therefore, it’s essential that brands have a clear dashboard to monitor the effectiveness and results of their marketing efforts. However, each channel presents its own specific challenges for collecting this critical data.

Become the Customer

In 2019, more brands must focus on gaining a better understanding of the customers’ perspectives in order to address these challenges and create a cohesive experience for their audiences. In seeing it through their eyes, brands can develop a better understanding of how to create integrated, consistent, and customized customer experiences that their audience wants across all channels.

In becoming the customer, more brands will see the context for the different journeys customers take across channels and why they start and end purchase decisions this way.  Also, it’s not just one part of the marketing team that has to buy into the idea of becoming the customer; it’s the entire organization that has to embrace this viewpoint and make it part of the company’s culture.

Acknowledging 2019 Trends

Numerous trends in the coming year are set to impact the state of omni-channel marketing and may signal potential solutions for past challenges. First, artificial intelligence continues to migrate into the marketing world. This technology is adding value in the speed and scope to which it can collect insights about search patterns and buyer behavior. In leveraging AI, a brand may be able to more seamlessly jump between platforms with personalized experiences at a response rate that couldn’t be achieved otherwise.

Another trend connected to AI is the use of chatbots, which can essentially take over customer service and tech support, providing answers and assistance around-the-clock. Being able to accurately address customer needs at a much more fast can also improve the overall experience for customers no matter what device or channel they are using.

One trend that continues into 2019 is consumer aversion to advertising and selling, in general. The increased use of ad blockers means that marketers have to find other ways to approach their audiences. The trend toward more native advertising is based on findings that show spend in this area is set to go from $25.12 billion in 2017 to $41.14 billion by the end of 2019. That means a move from banner ads to using stories in instagram and other techniques to blend the advertising format with a content informational feel.

Next, advanced voice search will increase as more consumers get accustomed to using virtual assistants like Google Home or Amazon Echo to now receive information about products and services, including promotions and purchases. For example, 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020, according to comScore while another source estimated that 30% of all searches will be done without a screen by 2020. That means changing an omni-channel strategy to consider the growing popularity and preference for these new devices as part of the overall shopping experience.

Customer Data Reveals All

Measure everything you do related to omni-channel tactics, including determining what is effective for each segment of your audience. This will address the personalized experiences customers now expect and reveal if you need to further personalize them.

The extraordinary amount of customer data now available is both a blessing and a curse. It’s knowing how to use the data correctly to reveal performance insights that further direct how to improve the overall omni-channel marketing approach.

These challenges have made it so marketers are forced to smarter solutions for handling their omni-channel marketing strategies. Now, the best way to track these channels is a combination of strategies. According to Sam Darawish, CEO and Co-Founder of Everflow Technologies, noted, “Smart omni-channel marketing reporting has only recently become possible thanks to the accessibility and affordability of solutions like Google Cloud. Cloud technology enabled our platform to break down all channel and marketing segments in real time at scale, and compare the data against each other for better decision making. The continuing massive growth in mobile users generates an overwhelming quantity of data that makes it impossible for older solutions to efficiently process or provide effective analytics.”

Sam noted that having a partner that makes it easy for you to segment your data across specific metrics. This helps marketers understand the multiple perspectives of different audience segments and how they responded to omni-channel marketing efforts on specific channels and devices.

His suggestions for how to handle multi-channel tracking include utilizing postbacks to return the data from every channel directly into their reporting. This method works on both mobile and desktop and avoids the massive tracking changes/requirements. For influencer channels, marketers can track partners through clickless promo codes that automatically credit their influencers for every action taken when those codes are used. From going offline to online companies, there are data companies like LiveRamp that take brick and mortar customer data, transform it into encrypted data, and enable marketers to find those users across online and mobile channels.

Migrating From Past Marketing Practices

The most important challenge for marketing strategies is figuring out how to first track each of these channel’s data and then how to collect it in a single location to make smart decisions about the best way to utilize these insights. However, part of the issue for advancing the effectiveness of omni-channel results has been that marketers may be defaulting to previous marketing practices. For example, marketing used to be tracked via cookies placed on a desktop.

However, with the migration to ITP 2.0, GDPR and the legal requirements to adhere to specific privacy laws regarding personal data, and the fact that mobile has never tracked well with cookies, it’s time to move on from these practices. Otherwise, the stronger guidelines around data privacy will add further challenges to tracking capabilities and further prohibit marketers from understanding their audiences.

Establishing Omni-channel Marketing Best Practices

With these challenges and trends in mind, more brands may want to develop and execute on specific omni-channel marketing best practices. First, track all the platforms, devices, and channels that customers use to interact with your brand. Take that journey yourself to experience what they do as they engage with you across these channels. Seeing it this way will tell you what is working and what needs to be changed in order to align messaging and experiences in a consistent way.

Collaboration and shared insights across the organization is integral to omni-channel marketing success. With everyone on the same page with messaging, infrastructure, and resources, the marketing tactics will feel seamless to customers on the receiving end.

An Evolutionary Marketing Process

Continually track trends like those mentioned previously to determine if there is a need to adopt newer technologies, such as virtual reality, if testing reveals that this addition would be something your audience valued. By undertaking these omni-channel marketing best practices in 2019, your brand may realize greater customer engagement and a deeper understanding of the complex journey that defines today’s shopping and purchase environment.

Brad Anderson

Brad Anderson

Editor In Chief at ReadWrite

Brad is the editor overseeing contributed content at ReadWrite.com. He previously worked as an editor at PayPal and Crunchbase. You can reach him at brad at readwrite.com.