As modern expectations become the norm with customers expecting to shop and communicate with retailers at their convenience, many brands are necessarily rethinking their marketing strategy with a focus on omni-channel integration.

Still in development

In March this year at the Retail Business Technology Expo in London, experts came together to discuss how and why omni-channel communication remains in its infancy. Experts sought to frame the work that is ahead of businesses both small and large to achieve their customer service and sales targets. Speaking to an expo audience, Edgar, Dunn & Company’s Mark Beresford explained that ‘our shoppers are not thinking, “what channel am I going to use?” They’re channel agnostic. There are opportunities and challenges, and any approach to omni-channel has to approach both of those.’

Shopping on social media

Companies are using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram not only to market their products, but to sell them too, with integrated ‘buy’ buttons that make shopping fast and easy. Research has shown that four out of five people are influenced by friends on social media when making a buying decision. Jake Sorofman of IT research firm Gartner points to the power of social marketing and shopping: ‘Here, the inspiration for a particular look isn’t sparked by some vacant-eyed model, but by friends and frenemies, alike.’

The rise of beacon technology

Since Apple first announced its proprietary iBeacon technology in 2013, the expectation was that it would revolutionise shopper engagement. By tracking customer locations, retailers can then send them customised offers and discounts. The challenge lies in making sure the content is properly tailored and that third-party apps are clever enough that customers will happily engage with them. Take-up of this tech has been slower than expected, but pundits predict that its impact on personal shopping experiences will increase in 2016.

Multi-level marketing (MLM) via social media

While MLM isn’t a new concept, its application via social media is increasing. Retail watcher Sudir Holla of market analytics company Ugam explains it thus: ‘In the retailer context, what is social, if not a changed version of multi-level marketing? Get rewarded for posting reviews. Get rewarded if three of your friends buy the same offer. Like me and I will give you 10% off.’

Getting there

Retailers are a long way from using omni-channel marketing to its full potential, but changes are being seen in the innovative use of social media platforms, location technology and modern marketing techniques. For those able to exploit the most effective aspects of omni-channel, such changes will result in meaningful customer engagement and increased turnover.