Consumer preferences are increasingly shifting toward shopping online. In a recent Salesforce report, researchers found digital sales in the United States rose 36% in December 2020. While online shopping was already on an upward trajectory before the pandemic, you can expect more people to complete purchases online going forward. 

At the same time, consumers are also looking for simple ways to connect with local businesses. Whether it’s to handle returns, experience more personalized customer service, or simply support their local community. 

But how can traditional brick-and-mortar retailers compete with this rise in digital engagement? How are smaller online businesses supposed to raise awareness for their emerging brands? By developing an effective and budget-friendly omnichannel marketing strategy. 

What is omnichannel marketing?

Omnichannel marketing focuses on the delivery of consistent, personalized experiences for your customers across all channels and devices, both offline and online. The goal of any omnichannel marketing initiative is to provide more value for your customers by connecting the ways that they communicate with your business. 

In short, they should have the same customer service and purchasing experience wherever they communicate with your brand. No matter if they’re shopping in-store, on your website, across social media, or anywhere else.

How to create an omnichannel marketing strategy

How do you plan an omnichannel marketing strategy on a tight budget? You’ve seen the big players in the industry offer similar promotions and tie offline and online worlds. However, you have limited resources and worry whether you’ll be able to successfully implement a similar plan. 

Fortunately, there are several things you can do inexpensively to offer a complete multichannel experience.

1. Understand your customers

As with any marketing plan, you must first understand your customers. Who are they, and what are their pain points? It doesn’t matter if you reach your target audience online or offline — it’s vital to express the unique value proposition (UVP) you provide.

Your UVP must be tied to a solution to their problem. One example might be a local heating and cooling company. After surveying their average customers, they find the biggest concern is pricing. Their UVP should then stress that the business is reliable and affordable. 

The message resonates across social media, in print ads, and when your sales staff interacts with leads. Every experience someone has with your brand should tie back to the way you fix clients’ pain points. 

2. Repeat taglines online and offline

What does your business stand for? Once you know the pain points of your customers and your UVP, it’s much easier to come up with a short sentence describing what you do. 

You must repeat your motto online and offline. Some of the more effective ways of creating a positive brand image and name recognition include ads on social media, videos outlining solutions to common customer problems, and real-life ads.

Think about where your typical customer hangs out and how you can most easily reach them. For example, vehicle wraps are one of the most effective advertisements for trade industries, such as plumbers, electricians, and painters. 

If you need to reach parents, you might want to advertise at the local Little League park or the school newspaper. Think about where your audience is most likely to see your ad. 

3. Refine your business structure

One problem many companies have when going to an omnichannel experience is getting all their departments functioning together effectively. Explain the importance of the approach to your sales team, the marketing department, sales staff on the floor, and even warehouse workers.

When a customer comes to anyone who works for you with a question about a promotion or policy, they should be able to answer it. If they’re not, they should direct them to the appropriate person for an answer.

Think about how each section of your business works together and how you can smooth any processes for buyers, creating a customer-centric environment.

You also should invest in a marketing technology stack, so every element works together seamlessly. Some of the things you want to integrate include your customer relationship management software and your eCommerce store. 

You should also automate as much of your marketing as possible, especially for online promotions. Automation frees up time and gives you more opportunities to focus on the customer experience. 

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4. Create quality content

Do you want customers to visit your website for answers? If so, you must create an omnichannel experience where they know you are the go-to expert in your field. Quality content drives traffic to your website and establishes you as an authority in your industry. 

For example, if you run a local bakery, you might be seen as the place to order wedding cakes. An omnichannel approach would include targeting newly engaged couples on social media who live in your area. You would indicate they can come in for a free consultation.

During the visit, you would share your knowledge from doing past weddings, such as that some people love vanilla cake while others prefer chocolate, so they should consider offering both. 

You might also add content to your website with tips on choosing the perfect design for a wedding cake and how to ensure it’s fresh. Offer suggestions on ways to save money, such as going with fewer tiers and having sheet cakes to serve more people. 

Think about what you know and do best and turn it into content. This will drive traffic to your site, which serves as a lead generation tool. At the same time, you can direct those who come into your bakery to the website for tips on saving money or pictures of other cakes you created. 

5. Utilize social platforms effectively

Social media is an expansive way to advertise your business. After all, almost everyone has some sort of social media account. Your first step involves figuring out which one your customers frequent most often. 

Once you have an idea of the platform, you can narrow your audience to include those who live in your community and have interests that match what you offer. 

Join groups related to your industry. If you bake wedding cakes, join wedding planning groups. Make sure you understand group rules, and never create blatant self-promotion. It’s seen as rude and may hurt your reputation more than helping it. 

However, there are plenty of opportunities to help others and drop your business name in the process. Get out in the community as much as possible to drive traffic to your brick-and-mortar store.

6. Put the customer at the center

Think about the needs of your customer, and more omnichannel opportunities become clear. Instapage offers an example of a company selling trench coats. It identified an issue most of its customers had, which was losing the belt. 

Instead of ignoring the problem, it came up with some solutions. It started a campaign to get customers to share their creative solutions to the issue —such as adding a wider belt or using a scarf around their waists. 

Instapage ran the campaign via email, social media, its website, and even through in-store ads. It also involved some influencers and created a contest where it invited customers to design a new look for the coat. 

Asking clients for input on different platforms got their target audience involved. It also solved the problem without actually changing the product. 

7. Connect print and digital ads

Your online and offline advertising can work together to enhance the omnichannel experience. For example, put a display in your store with a hashtag customers can use to upload photos of them using the product. Tie it to a contest or discount.

Invite online users to print a code or save it to their phones and bring it into the store and save money. Look for ways to mesh the real-world and digital experience. 

8. Support local causes

One way to get the word out about your business and very inexpensively hit multiple channels is by supporting local charities or youth leagues. For example, if you sponsor a Little League team, it will put your banner up at their ballpark.

You can also ask for a charity to share your sponsorship on its social media profiles and newsletter. Every bit of exposure you receive helps grow your brand recognition. 

Extra effort equals more sales

You might wonder if the hassle of coordinating an omnichannel experience is worth it. Perhaps you already have a strong local following. However, implementing digital marketing tactics can expand your audience and bring in new leads and people who otherwise may not see your message. While simultaneously, reinforcing your message everywhere your target audience comes across it.

You can create an omnichannel experience without spending a fortune. Why not give it a try and see how your customers respond? Try one or two tactics at a time, and get a feel for how well it works with your base.

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AvatarEleanor Hecks

Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. She was the creative director at a prominent digital marketing agency prior to becoming a full-time freelance designer. Eleanor lives in Philadelphia with her husband and pup, Bear.