Consistency, effectiveness and customer experience in an omni-channel environment

The retail industry has changed dramatically over the last decade, largely due to the influx of technology and the way it is shaping shopper behaviour and expectations. This is particularly true for the omni-channel environment, the combination of in-store, online and mobile shopping. For retail brands and their marketing agencies, one of the main challenges in addressing customer needs and expectations is consistency; consistency of messaging, of content, and ultimately of the customer experience. All of these elements should work together to help attract new customers and retain loyal shoppers — something aided by consistent messaging.   

There’s little doubt that the omni-channel approach presents tremendous benefits to brands, both from a revenue generation point of view and in terms of longer-term sustainability. While the approach is a way to reach more customers and improve revenue streams, customers also benefit because they are offered more choice and better offers because the environment offers a chance for two-way engagement. Retailers can use the  sheer wealth of data gathered from customers  to personalise messages and offers, and engage with audiences in a more meaningful way. Just consider that brands with strong omni-channel customer engagement boast a retention rate of 89% versus just 33% for companies with weak engagement, according to research from the Aberdeen Group.

But in order for this to be achieved, and be done properly, marketers need to be mindful of that consistency. And in dealing with multiple channels, the challenge is compounded.   

This also becomes even more of an issue when an organisation or brand is an international one, or part of a franchise. How does the global marketing team ensure that there is complete consistency in all materials, logos, graphics, and videos, in all languages, in all regions, and for all channels? 

With the sheer volume of content being created, approved, managed and distributed — 70% of B2B marketers will produce more content this year than the previous year — very often agencies or brands will employ more people and create larger teams to deal with the problem. But for most it’s not really an issue that can be solved in this way. Instead, it requires a more strategic approach and for the past several years it is technology that has been useful in providing a solution. These organisations use digital asset management, content management, marketing resource management, or database systems to provide a smoother process internally. By deploying these technologies, marketing organisations have made their production workflows vastly more efficient — and those efficiencies have gone directly to the bottom line.    

But with so many disparate solutions, systems and applications that are not connected in a meaningful way, sometimes technology can actually add to the problem. So how can agencies, brands and organisation ensure that technology acts an enabler instead of a barrier? 

Centralisation 

Very often the answer is centralisation. For brands active in multiple regions or even organisations with a multitude of sub-brands, having all assets and materials created, hosted, approved and managed on a centralised platform or marketing hub can add that stability and also streamline operations.   

With all materials hosted in one central place brands, and their agencies, can ensure only the latest assets are being used, regardless of region, language or promotion. In addition to the assets being current and relevant, approvals can be effectively managed and any material that is out of date in terms of style, tone or time can be automatically removed, ensuring accuracy across the board.

Of course with so many systems and capabilities needed, there is no one platform available that can actually perform all these tasks perfectly. Instead, a likely scenario would be to have a solution that could effectively do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to keeping control of the messaging, the creation of assets, internal and client approvals and even access to the relevant assets. This same solution, used by both the brand and its agencies, can make the production process more efficient and bring greater control to creative content. It can also eliminate errors, make it quicker and easier to search for specific assets, accelerate time to market, and make it simpler to repurpose content across campaigns and regions.   

By combining solutions such as PIM (product information management), CRM (customer relationship management), and DAM (digital asset management) systems on a content marketing hub organisations are able to manage data across the business and gain updates and insights in real time. 

Content in context 

This type of centralised solution can assist in making regional marketing campaigns and promotions more effective. Instead of using general or broadly appealing assets — be those brochures, adverts or videos — that are translated directly or tweaked per country, proper localised materials can be developed, taking into account cultural and language differences, managed and used, making campaigns more effective.   

In the same way, personalised content that is  developed based on actionable intelligence, provides context and can be used to excellent effect. If this isn’t done well, brands are missing out on opportunities to increase customer loyalty, and by extension, retention.   

A content marketing hub, for example, can gauge the interests of the desired target audiences, which informs marketers and helps them discover, upload, share, create, collaborate, and distribute content to a specific marketing channel. Knowing how customers are choosing to interact and engage with these marketing efforts is precious information that drives omni-channel strategies. In addition, by learning your customers’ past behaviour and their interests, companies gain a unique power. This data can help marketing teams develop personalised and relevant offers, which leads to bigger conversion rates and higher sales. 

Conclusion 

Attaining consistency across channels and assets can be challenging, especially in today’s competitive environment where the customer experience is king. For the most part, centralisation and associated technologies can be used by brands and agencies to ensure brand consistency, potentially cut costs and streamline overall operations. The trick then, is finding the right platform to bring those capabilities to the business and, of course working with the right partner to implement and support it. 

Mike Watson, Sales Director, IO Integration   

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