It would be impossible for marketers to ignore the buzz about omni-channel retailing. Given the opportunities it presents to increase average order value, there’s no surprise that omni-channel is top of mind for CMOs.
As it continues to move from concept into everyday practice, let’s not forget about the role performance marketing plays in ensuring the success of an omni-channel strategy.
First, a quick refresher on omni-channel retailing and the omni-channel shopper.
Omni-channel retailing is all about providing a seamless consumer shopping experience across every platform including laptops, tablets, smartphones, brick-and-mortar stores, catalogs, and advertising. Essentially, omni-channel retailing ensures the consumer gets what they want, when they want it and where they want it. To meet this challenge, retailers need to meet consumers on their terms and present offers at the right time on the right device.
Consistency Is Key
If the concept of omni-channel retailing sounds familiar, it’s because it reflects the evolution of multi-channel retailing. However, omni-channel takes multi-channel retailing to the next level because it optimizes the shopping experience by ensuring consistency in the way brands, products and offers are presented to consumers.
Consider the shopper in the market for a new pair of casual shoes. That shopper is likely to browse several websites or blogs that are good at spotting the latest trends among multiple brands, read some reviews and fashion editorial, do some comparison-shopping, look at the brands their friends like on Facebook and narrow down the selection to three top choices.
From there, that shopper may go to a few brick-and-mortar stores to actually try on a couple of pairs of shoes. They might buy them on the spot or go back online to find the best offer for their number one choice.
Provide The Right Information At The Right Time
The smart retailer with an omni-channel strategy will make sure that each online and offline destination the customer visits is consistent and reflects where the consumer is at in the decision process. This way, the retailer can present the right offer at the right time through the right channel on the right platform.
The rise of the omni-channel retailer has resulted in a new category of consumers known as omni-channel shoppers. Omni-channel shoppers use all of the available online and offline channels simultaneously to conduct research, find the best deal and make their purchases in the way that’s most convenient for them. Affiliate sites today — fashion sites, blogs, loyalty sites and coupon sites — are a key stop on the path to purchase.
What’s great about this hyper connected, knowledgeable audience is that they typically spend 50 percent more than single channel shoppers and 15-30 percent more than multi-channel shoppers, according to IDC Retail Insights. Even better is the fact that they’re more likely to talk about their experiences with your brand in social media circles.
One of the greatest benefits to come from the omni-channel evolution is that both retailers and consumers now have a more comprehensive view of each other. The view is great, but only if it satisfies the needs of both parties. This is where the affiliate channel plays a pivotal role in an omni-channel marketing strategy.
For retailers embracing omni-channel, take note of the following three online shopping behaviors recently uncovered by Forrester that reflect the affiliate channel’s role in driving traffic and converting leads.
1. Deal-driven consumers turn to affiliate sites first and frequently. In fact, online shoppers often start and end the purchasing process through affiliate sites. This is due in large part to the ubiquity of affiliate deal sites, coupon sites and comparison-shopping sites and apps. Consumers are simply conditioned to look for value and the right price.
2. More than three times as many deal-driven online buyers believe promotional offers from affiliate sites are often better than the offers they see when they visit a retailer’s website.
3. The affiliate channel produces new, incremental customers. If you’re trying to attract new-to-file customers, keep in mind that online shoppers who frequently use the affiliate channel are four times more likely than average buyers to try a new brand after receiving an offer and typically spend more than average online shoppers.
It’s clear that affiliate marketing is aligned with the way consumers shop and behave. However, to make it a successful part of your omni-channel marketing strategy, consider the following three recommendations:
1. Dive into performance marketing analytics along with other sources of data. This way, you’ll have a better picture of your overall performance and online consumer shopping behavior, and can more quickly identify and respond to potential campaign issues before it’s too late.
2. Eliminate marketing silos. Your affiliate experts, both internal and external, should be looped into all of your marketing activities. This fosters team collaboration, provides different viewpoints based on real world experiences, and helps ensure consistency across the online channel.
3. Cultivate stronger ties to niche publishers. Since omni-channel is all about targeted, seamless online shopping experiences, niche publishers will continue to be an important community that attracts highly-segmented audiences.
Identify the publishers that most align with your target buyers, connect with these affiliates as you formulate your marketing strategy, and consider increasing their incentives on specific campaigns.
Today’s publishers are incredibly innovative and are building brands of their own as they work with advertisers that are willing to try new campaigns and marketing solutions, including mobile and social campaigns. No retailer has the time or resources to try everything, but almost all can tap into their affiliate marketing channel to try new things and test hypotheses.
So as you refine your omni-channel strategy and begin to roll out your first-quarter marketing campaigns, be sure to respect the critical role that performance marketing plays in driving online opportunities.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.