2020 Planning Mode: Omni-Channel Approaches to Marketing Strategy

Today’s brands face the daunting and exciting task of not only reaching larger audiences every day but also with engaging each and every customer within those audiences individually and personally across a multitude of channels both offline and online; email, social, in-store, and over the phone.

Successful omni-channel marketing means delivering excellence at every touch point of the buyer journey, and that journey is not becoming any less complex.

How can brands be prepared for omni-channel success in 2020? As usual, the lessons are simple, but the execution is not. In this post, we will explore tools and approaches that help brands deliver results across an increasingly complicated marketing ecosystem.


Understanding Customer Experience in an Omni-Channel World

While an omni-channel strategy is anything but simple in its implementation, it should always ultimately feel simple in its execution. Successful execution means providing helpful solutions at each phase of the journey and always being immersed in meaningful conversation with the customer. Brands that can deliver an easy and seamless journey from the customer’s perspective will ultimately enjoy the greatest benefit in the form of sales, brand loyalty, and lifetime value.

Your customer is everywhere — email, social, in-store, and online. You need tools to reach them where they are, by providing updates and being helpful at every stage. This level of personalization does not happen at scale without automation and software tools to track the entire journey.

Building a Buyer Journey

The buyer journey is robust and nonlinear. Customers move from online to in-store and back.

But that does not mean the path you lead them on should be built without intention. Every strategy should include purposeful, relevant responses based on actions taken by the customer. There should be no dead ends; always a next click, always a follow-up, always a chance to re-engage through an alternative channel.

Laying the Groundwork for Omni-Channel

Developing more relevant, real-time and effective buyer journeys requires accurate data. Without data to feed the machine, the engine won’t run.

Today’s marketing and advertising technologies create powerful opportunities for brands to engage audiences, but without source data there is not a starting point.

Third Party Data

Companies looking to create omni-channel marketing experiences typically collect data in two main ways: purchasing third party data or collecting first party data through CRM, MAS, or POS tools. The former is typically more in line with what we would call “Tier 1” data; data that is mostly demographic overlayed with some cookie-based behavioral analytics. Simple socio-economic statistics such as income, education, and employment provide high-level insights into various audience segments. While Tier 1 data remains important for broadly segmented campaigns, it is no longer sufficient on its own to deliver on the promise of personalized, conversational customer experience.

Third Party Data

First Party Data

  • Purchased data (e.g. email lists)
  • Data provided by ad platforms (e.g. Google Display Network; behavior data from DMPs)
  • Data collected from your own sources (e.g. CRM, POS, opted-in email addresses)


Third party data can be collected and acquired in a number of ways. Purchased email lists are one example, but more and more these data sets are generated by online cookies and site tracking. Larger publishers such as Google supply third party, Tier 1 data through its display network for use in advertising. Data Management Platforms (DMPs) aggregate data from a wide array of websites to create customer profiles based on internet activity, which can then be used in conjunction with first-party data to bolster targeting capabilities.

First Party Data

First party data sources open up more robust avenues for targeting because they are more contextually relevant and can leverage customized tracking methods for increased insights. This “Tier 2” data is essential for truly understanding consumer behavior. Opted-in email addresses, point of sale data from your own systems, and other in-store data helps complete the full picture of consumer behavior. Additionally, linking online and in-store data points together is increasingly easy using software such as Empyr.

Collecting First Party Data: Incentivization

Despite the growing need for privacy protections and GDPR compliance, the majority of today’s consumers (46-63%) are willing to share personal information in return for personalized offers and discounts. This information can have benefits beyond email communications, as lists can be utilized for retargeting or prospecting via audience lookalike tools.

Card-linked technology provides a valuable lever for brands to pull in incentivizing first party data collection. Card-linked offers provide convenient and instantaneous savings for consumers that choose to utilize the technology. In return, businesses get to see purchase behaviors on a micro level, which in turn can be utilized to refine incentives and deepen understanding.

So what does that look like in practice? Using first-party data (information on when the last time a person shopped with your brand, for example) can help with targeting specific offers to those people. If you have a lapsed customer, you can offer them a specific incentive to get them back into your store.


Behavioral Data: The Next Layer

What you do determines who you are.

Behavioral data is the foundation of omni-channel and the goldmine of smart marketing campaigns. By combining first party and third party insights, brands can move beyond generic buyer personas to create unique profiles based on actions taken — when, where, and by whom.

Behavioral data examples may include web pages visited, downloads, filled out forms, impressions, clicks, store visits, purchases linked to loyalty programs, frequency of visits, customer service tickets, returns, etc. By combining each of these behaviors with first and third party data profiles, we can create a holistic view of consumer behaviors that signal different intents.

Omni-channel marketing strategies successfully identify overlapping touch points in each of these behaviors to create a personalized experience that is so integral to successfully reaching today’s consumer. In harnessing this data, businesses create the opportunity to ask better questions. The question “how can we generate more revenue with shoppers aged 35-54?” becomes “how can we increase average order value for first-time purchasers aged 35-54 who were incentivised to visit through a mobile coupon?” The answers to these questions inform key data points for improvement and clarify growth goals.

Measuring the Data

Given the incredible volume of data and activity to track, there are, of course, a myriad of different ways to measure it. Attribution modeling provides a deeper understanding into which platforms, actions, and behaviors contribute the most to the final sale.

Traditional Attribution Models

Attribution models ascribe value to the different touch points in a buyer journey based on how much influence they have on the final purchase.

  • First Touch attribution ascribes the full value of the purchase to the first touch point
  • U-Shaped attribution typically assigns about 40% of the credit to the first and last touch point and evenly distributes the rest
  • Linear attribution gives every touch point equal credit
  • Time Decay attribution gives the bulk of the credit to the last touch, diminishing value assigned to each earlier touch point
  • Last Click attribution ascribes full attribution to the last click

While no particular attribution type is right or wrong, it is important to refine and customize in order to get the most in-depth understanding of which one best reflects your buyer journey or product type.

Leveraging the Data

As the need for personalized, omni-channel data grows and attribution becomes more complex, so too does the software segment poised to fill the empty space.

The good news is that brands need not worry about reinventing the wheel or developing their own technology to meet the demands of complex attribution and segmentation. The tools exist and are becoming more plentiful and capable each day.

Choosing the Right Tools

Digital Management Platforms

As alluded to above, Digital Management Platforms (DMPs) are essential to omni-channel because they break down traditionally siloed data, organizing it into a more cohesive view. According to Salesforce, 91% of advertisers have or plan to adopt a data management platform in 2020. A DMP’s ability to unify multiple data sources means that data can be leveraged to effectively reach current customers and identify new audiences. Oracle, Salesforce, and others are working to incorporate DMP functionality into their CRM software in order to make sense of all the data points along the buyer journey.

Marketing Automation

Marketing automation platforms can combine multiple criteria, including demographic, firmographic, and behavioral data with a lead scoring system to generate and identify sales-qualified leads and a multichannel view of prospect behavior.

Automation platforms combine with CRM data to put the customer at the center of all marketing activity. Due to the increased demand for customer-based, integrated marketing functionality, the automation market is quickly evolving. Marketing automation platforms such as Pardot, HubSpot, Marketo, and Eloqua continue to add more advanced features to provide marketing end-users with the ability to build, track, and manage campaigns across channels and/or devices, and provide more robust attribution information.

Data Onboarding

Some brands are using identity resolution software to enhance the online data they already have on file in their CRM. By syncing your CRM data with theirs, brands are able to gain a better understanding of their customers across online devices, channels, and platforms. These solutions take first party data such as CRM data or point of sale, and match the activity to known cookies to create digital audiences. Liveramp’s IdentityLink™, for example, “resolves first-party offline CRM, direct marketing, and point-of-sale data back to a single anonymous consumer identifier.” Other data onboarding solutions include Datalogix, Nuestar, Zipline, and Oracle.

Online to In-Store Tracking Software

While these solutions are important and fantastic for online targeting and audience building, an “online to in-store” tracking solution, such as Empyr’s, closes the loop on the entire customer journey. Empyr leverages the power of integration with the major credit card networks, including Visa, Mastercard, and Amex, along with the power of linking technology to provide insights into which online ads generate which in-store and online purchases. The card-linked platform tracks and measures opted-in consumer spending habits in-store and online. This provides a detailed view of attribution from online sources to in-store sales.

Empyr’s software can also pull in incremental in-store and online revenue reporting, spend and transaction analysis reports, average order value reports, and geospatial reports, and tie them back to online sources for full attribution capabilities. Each of these data points can contribute to understanding your customers and creating a personalized experience to drive whatever KPIs are important for your organization’s growth.

Related: Card-Linked Offers 101: All of Your Questions, Answered


2020 is just around the corner, but it is never too late to upgrade your expertise and capabilities. Omni-channel is the future of marketing, and brands would do well to explore the tools and strategies underpinning omni-channel marketing.

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