What are the challenges that come with adopting an omnichannel marketing approach?

Looking from a “multichannel” present to an “omnichannel” future can feel intimidating. Admittedly, the reality is that delivering omnichannel marketing is far easier said than done. 

On the one hand, you’ve got the pressure that you have to adapt to keep up with consumers ever-increasing demands, but on the other, you’ve got already established inventory, logistics, distribution, marketing channels and tech in place, and everything feels overwhelming. That’s what we’re here to help with. 

The good news is you don’t have to dive head-first into making a dramatic overnight overhaul. Infant, we strongly advise against that as diving headfirst into omnichannel marketing without first knowing where you’re going opens a whole can of worms of challenges. 

Creating a seamless omnichannel marketing requires thorough strategic planning first to coordinate and link marketing, inventory, logistics, and distribution across all of these channels.

So, from here on out, let’s change focus. The question isn’t “ How do I change my multichannel approach to an omnichannel marketing one?” it’s “What’s my plan to get there?”  

First, you need a well-designed strategy, including clear goals, and then you need to carve out an incremental – not immediate – journey to get there. 

To put your omnichannel marketing strategy together, it’s first helpful to look at where you have gaps between your channels and processes to see where you can make improvements as you build out your strategy and start to implement it as appropriate.

To help you, we’ve put together 5 of our top common challenges that come with omnichannel marketing to get you started, and what you can do differently. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but where we recommend you first focus. 

You don’t know where your customers are coming from

Good attribution is critical to omnichannel. Like taking words out of context, if you pour your efforts into channels you believe are effective, but they aren’t, your strategy will fail. If you don’t have full visibility of how all your various campaigns and channels are performing, it’s worth planning and implementing processes that track the source of those leads.

For example, an ad campaign might have first caught a new customer’s attention, but they end up purchasing in-store. The credit for that lead goes to retail footfall, not the initial ad. Or, off the back of listening to a podcast, a customer is scrolling Instagram and buying through Insta shop, which is going to log as a social media lead, not one influenced by the podcast. If the whole purpose of omnichannel marketing is integrating what works, but you don’t have full visibility of all of your data yet, this is an area of improvement for you. 

By harnessing tracking capabilities across your channels, you can start to build a picture of where you should focus your efforts. This can be something as simple as asking the question across the board. Technology that integrates with your point-of-sale (POS) and e-commerce platforms is a good idea to elevate your accuracy. 

Your online and offline data is siloed

The ability to start placing an order on your desktop when you’re bored at work but then abandoning the cart because you got distracted, completing it on your phone on the way out the door, and then being able to pick it up in person, is powerful. It is the epitome of a seamless experience for your customer. It’s also their expectation that they should just be able to do that. But you cannot create it when your online and offline data is siloed.

It’s likely you’re tracking your digital channels to a high standard. It’s easier to plug into monitoring tools with a digital campaign. It’s harder to log how many eyeballs saw your stickers or OOH campaign that day. Thankfully, retinal tracking isn’t a thing (yet). But your offline data is unhelpful without the offline campaign data, too. 

Depending on the tracking solutions you decide on to know where your data comes from, can also start to at least log your offline efforts. Another layer you could consider adding is tailored links for different resources. Your letters, flyers, brochures, and OOH might all have a unique link or code; discounts or perks for your customers can incentivise them to use them. The important factor here is making sure all your data -both on and offline – speaks to each other. 

You’re measuring the wrong KPIs

You might be reading this thinking, “We’re good on the measuring front. We have lots of data, and we track everything”. It’s worth spending time reviewing how you’re tracking, not just what. 

As is the case with having the wrong data, following the wrong performance indicators can overinflate or downplay the success of a campaign.

It’s important you build out the right KPIs for every layer of your omnichannel marketing strategy and your customer journey.  As you define your goals and channels based on your customers, you can start to build out and categorise your KPIs. These will change as your customer moves through your sales funnel. When you know what you want to track, you can look for tools that will automatically and accurately track these metrics for you. 

You don’t have a good grasp on what stock is where

Ultimately, if your customers have nothing to buy, there are no customers. As omnichannel marketing involves selling in multiple locations, both online and offline, it’s important that you know the stock levels across all stores, both online and offline, warehouses, and 3PLs. Otherwise, you’ll be caught short, and chaos will ensue. Click and Collect doesn’t register the fact that you ran out of stock in-store last week, causing customers to show up and leave empty-handed. Your in-store staff make promises they can’t keep with products they don’t realise are no longer available, and so on. This is just for reactive customer service. Without visibility into in-transit inventory, your staff is unable to offer seamless proactive service by knowing what’s coming, when to expect it, and selling those items ahead of time. Poor inventory visibility is a significant factor contributing to drop-offs and lost customers. To counter this, a fully integrated inventory management system can make a substantial difference. You are looking for a tool that can track every channel simultaneously in real-time with live updates as transactions happen.

Your costs and availability aren’t consistent across your channels 

Price and availability need to be consistent across all of your channels. Depending on how many external partners you have, it could impact how at-risk you are for inconsistencies.

If your customers start finding your products cheaper across some of your other channels, especially on external marketplaces and partner sites or different retail outlets, they’re going to deviate from your main site and go for the cheaper option. This can lead to a drop off in footfall and traffic from your main platforms and send them to the other channels instead. Consistency is critical to make sure that doesn’t happen. If partnerships or distributors are having a universal sale that includes your products, you need to have visibility so that you can create a similar value proposition. Perhaps if you know their store is closing down, you can offer a free item or similar discount on the same item when bought directly from you. 

Sharing your inventory appropriately is important, too. If you’ve allocated too much stock to your distributor, but you run out, you’re going to lose traffic in the same way as they’ll purchase from your distributor or online marketplace instead. That might seem ok because the money is still coming back to the business somehow, right? Not so much. The potential damage has been done, and now they want to buy your product, they’ll go straight back to the last place they bought from. If that’s not from you, you’ll have to work to bring them back to your platform. That’s if they come back. 

To avoid channel conflicts, first adopt a demand forecasting approach. By reviewing all of the data of each channel individually, rather than just focusing on overall requirements, you can plan ahead and make better predictions. It’s important to create flexibility in your process so that if you need to reallocate stock, you can. Lastly, have clear rules for when you’re short on stock. You might have particular channels or customers that perform well that you reserve them for. To keep your product information consistent, use a centralised system to keep all inventory data in one place, and use connections to make sure this data stays the same across all channels.

You’re relying on manual processes

Omnichannel marketing depends on accuracy and seamlessness; therefore, relying on manual processes can significantly hinder your omnichannel marketing success. Often, if you’re using spreadsheets to monitor inventory, manually enter data for orders, or manually track customer emails, these processes can quickly become unmanageable. They are not only time-consuming but also prone to errors, hindering the seamless flow of omnichannel marketing operations. 

As much as possible, you want to leverage tech to automate various aspects of your supply chain, marketing, and customer interactions. A good, fully integrated system helps streamline purchase orders and inventory management to optimise customer communication, processing returns, and target advertisements. Not only do you reduce errors and create smoother processes, but you also free up your team to make more valuable contributions to your omnichannel marketing strategy.

Taking the next step in your omnichannel marketing journey

We’re not here to promise falsehoods that omnichannel marketing is easy because it isn’t. As you can see, there are lots of considerations and moving parts involved, and it takes a long time to implement and get it right. But it is worth it. And it’s more than being a tick box exercise to do so your business doesn’t get left behind.

Some of our favourite data-backed pro-omnichannel marketing insights demonstrate why: 

  • Campaigns employing three or more channels result in 90% higher retention rates
  • Omnichannel marketing customers make 23% more return trips to your store compared to single-channel shoppers.
  • Omnichannel marketing increases the average order value (AOV) by 13% when compared to single-channel campaigns.
  • Customers who rate their experience highly with your business spend 140% more on average and remain loyal for up to six years.
  • Engagement rates in campaigns with three or more channels soar to nearly 19%, compared to a mere 5.4% for single-channel campaigns. 
  • Omnichannel shoppers not only spend more online and in-store but also tend to recommend their favourite retailers to friends and family. 
  • 70% of shoppers still value the ability to shop in person, and the continued success of omnichannel marketing services like buying online and picking up in-store, driven in part by the effects of COVID-19, solidifies their place in the retail landscape. 

Embracing omnichannel marketing strategies is not only a necessity in today’s retail landscape but also a strategic advantage for businesses, leading to higher engagement, increased revenue, and long-term customer loyalty.

So, where do you go from here?

How you approach your omnichannel future boils down to your goals and your customers. Take some time to review your existing data, or put a system in place if you haven’t already to see what patterns you notice. Once you’re able to establish the channels you want to use to meet your customers, you can start to audit your channels, technology, and processes and create a strategy towards your omnichannel marketing journey.

Considering your omnichannel marketing journey can feel incredibly overwhelming, especially when you have different agencies and departments working on individual areas without one centralised coordinator. That’s where we come in. If you’d like help with your omnichannel marketing strategy, then get in touch at [email protected]. We’d be delighted to explore your options with you.