It’s not hard to see why marketers have struggled in this industry. Firms like Unilever govern a vast network of product with over 10,000 suppliers for raw materials alone. A huge product range can make it tricky for manufacturers to communicate what they do in a succinct way. There are also huge risks involved with brand reputation (particularly in the age of social media) – and this makes it difficult for marketers to test out bold ideas. And to top all of these challenges, many manufacturers are behind when it comes to digital, despite calls from leading brands to offer more smart products (such as products that interact with Amazon’s Alexa or Google home).
In the face of these difficulties, manufacturers need a marketing strategy that can deliver proven results for them and an outstanding experience for their customers. Manufacturers, meet omnichannel.
What is omnichannel marketing?
Omnichannel marketing is simply the practice of providing a seamless experience for customers, no matter what channel or device they use. That means every time a customer picks up their phone, opens their laptop or taps on their wearable device, they have easy access to a company’s services. It also means that all of those experiences marries together in a harmonious way. For example, if you start a transaction on your phone, you should be able to finish it from your tablet.
Omnichannel truly came to the fore with the arrival of smartphones. In 2014 omnichannel entered the mainstream as a key component of digital transformation. Brands flocked to multiple digital channels to keep up with tech-savvy customers.
You might be wondering – hasn’t multichannel marketing always been important? So what’s the difference between multichannel and omnichannel?
Multichannel vs omnichannel
Multichannel has indeed long been a staple of the marketing suite. Traditionally, it meant covering the bases of radio, television, outdoor advertising and direct mail. Today it incorporates channels across social media, digital channels (apps and websites) and direct communications such as email.
Multichannel originated as a means to give customers more choice about their interactions. It’s proven effective, especially since a customer experience study in 2017 found that the majority of customers browse for products through one channel before purchasing through another. But multichannel isn’t seamless. If a customer started browsing via a company’s website before switching to their app, their experience would have to start all over again.
Omnichannel can be seen as the natural progression of multichannel. It’s not just about being where your customers are, but about providing the same experience regardless of how your customers interact with your brand. In fact, omnichannel enhances the customer experience by tying the different channels and touchpoints together, so that the brand is consistently present and helpful across every platform.
Here’s an example of omnichannel in action:
Step 1. A customer is browsing furniture on Instagram from her phone and finds a desk from an influencer she follows.
Step 2. Later at work, she Googles the desk manufacturer on her desktop and puts it in her basket and clicks checkout.
Step 3. She doesn’t have time to finish the purchase during the day, but she receives an email reminding her to finish the purchase later that night.
Step 4. She logs in with her tablet the next day and orders the desk.
Step 5. She changes her mind about the order and calls customer service to change the desk for a different one. The advisor can see her account and changes the order.
Step 6. Three days later, she sees personalised ads for office chairs based on her desk purchase.
At each step, the customer engages the brand via a different touchpoint, but the company can track the buying journey and assist her without missing a beat. It’s this consistent, customer-centric approach that would hugely benefit manufacturing companies looking to gain wider appeal.
Why omnichannel is perfect for manufacturers
Now we’ve seen how omnichannel works and how it enhances the brand experience. For manufacturers looking to drive growth and reconnect with their customers, there are a few reasons why omnichannel is the perfect fit.
1. Omnichannel is digital first
For some manufacturing firms, outdated tech or a lagging digital presence holds their marketing back. Commercial companies in particular are struggling to match consumer counterparts, and 65% of B2B customers say their experience does not match services offered by Amazon or similar brands. Going digital is not just a good option for manufacturers in 2019, but a crucial to their survival.
Omnichannel addresses this challenge because you have to embrace digital touch points to provide an omnichannel experience. Forcing the C-suite to invest in online channels will empower marketers to leverage digital methods such as social media and digital advertising. It will also broaden the browsing options for customers.
But an omnichannel approach isn’t limited just to digital touchpoints. Manufacturers can continue to use traditional marketing methods like trade shows alongside digital channels. For instance, companies could offer a discount to customers who visit their trade stall, or use augmented reality to show customers how to personalise their purchase. Recently, car manufacturer Ford used Snapchat to show customers a true-to-life mini SUV through their smartphones. Omnichannel is great at joining the dots between on and offline. Ultimately, this gives customers more options and helps secure trust in the brand.
2. Omnichannel allows marketers to build trust
Manufacturers have to manage their reputation carefully or risk losing swathes of customers. Volkswagen’s incredible emissions scandal known as ‘Dieselgate’ in 2015 is a good example of how quickly a major manufacturing brand can lose customer trust. In the wake of the scandal, social media advocacy plummeted. Over a short period of time, positive recommendations for Volkswagen dropped by 67% and negative recommendations grew by 2000%.
So what can manufacturers do to protect their reputation with customers? One answer is simply to provide better service. Offering consistent, personalised experiences through an omnichannel approach is a great way to build trust. According to research, 50% of customers said they would buy again from a brand that provided a personalised buying experience.
Omnichannel experiences aren’t just about purchasing convenience. Manufacturing companies who get it right show their customers a high level of brand consistency. For instance, toy manufacturer Lego invested heavily in delivering the same experience both in stores and online. As a result, Lego has become one of the most trusted toy brands in the world by offering a clear, coherent service.
3. Omnichannel can bring clarity to the complex
Growing complexity is one of the biggest barriers preventing manufacturing companies from winning more customers. Manufacturers today operate with large, complicated supply chains. Their processes can be convoluted, but none of this should be a concern for the customer. Presented with too many options or too much information can put customers off the buying process completely.
By contrast, simplifying the buying process can drive sales. For example, car manufacturer Chrysler managed to increase sales by 20% by reducing the number of choices for customers. Customer satisfaction also increased, and sales managers found their jobs easier.
Omnichannel allows manufacturers to streamline and simplify the experience for customers through customer data. By building an in-depth view of the customer from their buying signals, sales professionals can get a deeper understanding of customer needs before picking up the phone.
The customer doesn’t have to explain what they want because the brand already knows, saving them time and helping them feel valued. The customer can also independently review information about products and services at their own pace, in the channels they prefer. In this way, omnichannel puts power back in the hands of the user.
Omnichannel is worth the effort
Although it may seem daunting for manufacturers to adopt omnichannel, the advantages are clear. Omnichannel is a significant investment that requires deep research into customer behaviour. But once the effort has been made, customers will benefit from a more pleasurable, personal experience. At a point when manufacturers struggle against international competition and reputational damage, omnichannel can offer the tools to regain the trust and loyalty of a new generation of customers.