Brands and consumers agree—personalization is critical for a great customer experience and omnichannel is a must-have expectation for retailers. That’s sorted, then, right? Not quite.
While companies recognize the importance of omnichannel and personalized marketing, only some live up to customer expectations. Just 34% of customers think that retailers excel at personalization, so it’s clear there’s a disconnect between aspirations and outcomes.
The reality for brands is that omnichannel experiences represent an upfront and ongoing investment in an already demanding environment that will become a little more nuanced once Google phases out third-party cookies.
You might not need to radically change your omnichannel investment or strategy, but rather take on a perspective shift that moves the heart of your omnichannel efforts to the inbox.
Let’s dive into why email is an omnichannel powerhouse and how to use it.
Challenges of disconnected marketing channels
Your marketing and product departments are likely split into pieces, from social media to engineering and email marketing to support. That’s not how consumers view your brand, though.
Sure, they recognize that a mobile app and a website are separate, but that doesn’t make it less frustrating when they meticulously craft their cart on their mobile phone and then find a blank slate when they open their laptop later, ready to make a purchase. Your brand is your brand, and every point of contact they have falls under a single umbrella.
The same goes for marketing messages. If someone just bought a big-ticket item and then receives a text the next day about a huge sale on that item, it’s bound to leave a bad taste in their mouth. Your marketing messages and campaigns need to work together across channels to create a cohesive, personalized experience.
Disconnected marketing channels are also a missed opportunity for your company. The more you learn about customers across each channel, the more personal you can make each experience, and the greater the chance of closing each sale. Brands with a unified omnichannel strategy were three times more likely to significantly increase their revenue in the past year compared to brands without it.
Why email should be the central hub for connecting marketing channels
Email marketing may be one piece of your omnichannel experience, but you should view it as a core component. Here’s why.
- Direct communication. Unlike other channels, email gives you direct access to your customers to collect feedback, track activity, and deliver personalized information.
- High engagement. You can create personalized emails through segmentation and dynamic content that are more likely to have higher engagement, which results in more subscriber data you can use elsewhere and, ultimately, more conversions. For example, Kate Spade saw a 174% increase in revenue after combining email clicks and CRM data to personalize email experiences.
- Reinforced brand loyalty. While some subscribers joined your email list for a coupon code (and who hasn’t), they stay when they feel part of a community. And once they’re hooked, leaving that sense of belonging, especially if it’s been ongoing for years, is hard to do.
- Proven ROI. Email marketing is a consistently good investment, with an average ROI of $36 for every $1 spent. If you want to be wise about where you place your marketing budget, why not go with a proven winner?
- Consolidated data and insights. Carefully tracking email engagement and selections with interactive elements like polls lets you develop a more complete customer profile. This not only helps adjust your other digital channels, but also helps with Lookalike Audiences, or a new ad-targeted audience that shares characteristics with your existing ones, based on previous engagements with your business or ads.
How to use email to boost your omnichannel marketing strategy
Think of email marketing as a link in your omnichannel strategy. It drives engagement between channels, bridges customer data gaps, and provides insights to use across tactics.
Collect customer data for enriched CRM profiles, personalization, and targeting
Subscribers love to feel like they are part of the action, and incorporating interactive email content boosts engagement and excitement and helps strengthen CRM profiles.
Using dynamic content such as interactive polling to include subscribers in the brand experience, countdown timers to create urgency, or social signals to add real social proof to a product’s popularity gives subscribers a way to have fun with email content.
Then, you can update customer profiles with what you learn through email and look for trends. For example, suppose customers in a demographic voted overwhelmingly for a particular poll response. In that case, you can turn around and use that insight to reconfigure which paid social ads you promote to certain audiences.
Combine data for sophisticated segmentation
The inbox is the perfect place to apply what you know about customers to segmented experiences. For example, you can send exclusive app discount codes to customers with an account and information about your reward program to email addresses that checked out as a guest.
Automate engagement sequences to support the customer journey
Since emails are a direct line to customers, the inbox is the perfect place to link steps in the customer journey. Take Fashion Nova, for instance, who sends a “What did you think?” email after the purchase and then uses customer feedback and predictive analytics to send personalized “We think you might like…” recommendations to create repeat customers. Email automation lets you send the right message to keep customers engaged.
Beat the competition with real-time relevance
Email triggers like newsletter signups and purchases already give you a speed advantage, but dynamic and live content take real-time relevance to the next level. For example, a promotional message could have a live map of the nearest store location that updates depending on where a customer opens the message. Or, you could feed in live item availability or shipping times for relevant items.
Recover abandoned carts and browsing
One of the most popular ways to link channels with email marketing are browse and cart abandonment messages. To get these messages right, aim to make them personal (dynamic content is great for this) and actionable (like with a link directly to their cart).
Amplify social media
A great omnichannel email marketing strategy works as a unit with shared messaging and campaigns. Integrate your email and social media calendars so campaigns don’t overlap or interfere, but rather amplify each other for a consistent brand experience.
Quickly A/B test new ideas
The inbox is an A/B testing speed round of insights. You can test new angles, creative, and segmentation with an engaged email audience quicker and easier than running a paid ad campaign for one month and then another for another month. Then, you can apply what you learn in email to other channels or more expensive campaigns.
What to consider before implementing an email-driven omnichannel strategy
While your customers want an omnichannel experience yesterday, it requires intention before action. Here are a few questions to ask as you build (or evolve) your strategy.
- Are your privacy policies up to date? You need customer data for a personalized omnichannel approach, but you have to follow privacy measures. Read up on developments, like the loss of third-party cookies, and assess what data you have and how you collect it.
- Is there a culture of cross-team collaboration? Teams and departments need to share learnings, sync calendars, and have an integrated tech stack to make an omnichannel experience that feels truly seamless.
- What are your ESP and email tool capabilities? Review what you can do with your current tool stack and integrations, and decide if you want to branch out into new techniques like AI recommendations and dynamic content.
Start leveraging email as your central nervous system
In an omnichannel marketing strategy, it’s important to focus on how all channels are working independently and collectively to achieve your business goals.
The beauty of email is it works just about anywhere in the customer funnel to complement your omnichannel strategy.
A well-planned email marketing strategy can be a powerful tool to learn more about your audience and funnel that data to drive optimizations across all digital channels.
Jaina Mistry is the Director, Brand & Content Marketing at Litmus