Content Strategy for Omnichannel Marketing: Not Always About the “Buy” Button

Online “personalized” marketing often mimics traditional direct response advertising: Brands post multiple promotional messages across various media with the goal of leading shoppers to “Buy Now” or submit personal information via a form or call.

But implementing an effective omnichannel content strategy doesn’t have to result in an online purchase to be successful.

The strategy can succeed if the content meets audience needs during the awareness and consideration phases of the shopping journey. The right content served to the right audience at the right time may lead to an eventual offline sale, or simply raising a brand’s profile. High ticket items, including jewelry, automotive and housing, have a particularly long sales cycle that can be supported by messaging served across various media (including TV, web, streaming, social media). The end result may be interaction with a sales person rather than an ecommerce transaction. These high consideration purchases require more journey-specific KPIS than lower priced items.

The touchpoints along the customer journey vary by industry, product, and brand, each fueled by customer pain points, needs and motivations.  Touchpoints include browsing through online product descriptions and demos, reading specs, stats, and reviews, viewing product images and videos, and gathering input from friends and social media influencers. The messages can be evaluated on whether they’re helping move shoppers closer to purchase and can be served across media including rich digital stories, in-store personalized customer service, collaborations with tastemakers and unexpected partners, and glossy magazine-style mail pieces. AR/VR can also enable shoppers to experience a product without physically seeing it, and a retailer’s websites can be organized in a way to encourage an offline purchase (more on that below.)

A strategy that seeks to educate consumers as well as raise brand awareness needs to be rooted in audience needs: figuring out what a consumer wants, rather than what a marketing plan calls for. As OMD’s CEO John Osborn writes, “People know what they want, and they’re telling us what that is through a wide range of signals — from views to searches to clicks to shares. If brands want to cut through the noise, they need to pay attention to those signals and let them inform the story they’re creating.”

Serving the right content to the right audience at the right time is the goal of omnichannel marketing and of content strategy. When considering what content to recommend for a shopping journey, a content strategist asks a variety of questions, with the answers provided through various data inputs, as well as user research and industry trend data.

  • What are the phases and steps of the shopping journey? What do different shoppers need to know at each of those steps? How should we communicate that information to them (the message)? Where should we communicate it?
  • How many audience segments are there and how do their shopping behaviors differ across segments?  What do results from user testing reveal about a particular segment’s preferences?
  • What content is most popular on a site, clicked to from email and on social media?
  • What messaging vocabulary will be viewed as intrusive and what is familiar?
  • What does search engine data show about the path people take to view content and what content is being searched?
  • What is the competition excelling at and where are they coming up short?
  • What is the favored device and method for consuming content (mobile, desktop, email, social media etc.?)
  • What online and offline activities does the target audience take part in?

Expensive luxury items in particular need a content strategy that will marry online and offline experiences. Take, for example, luxury retailer Tiffany & Co.  Much of its website and social media content is focused on the awareness and consideration phases of the shopping journey, geared toward marketing the experience of the brand (craftsmanship, heritage, beauty and most importantly, emotion).  Not all of the retailer’s jewelry can be purchased online, such as the Tiffany True engagement ring line. Shoppers are encouraged to contact the Tiffany Concierge (“Experts in all matters of the heart”) schedule a store visit, call, or request a consultation through an online form. There’s even a form to ‘drop a hint’ to send to the purchaser of the desired ring. Like many luxury retailers, Tiffany’s sales cycle can start online and be completed through an offline interaction with a sales person.

If Tiffany & Co. wants to expand its digital reach to continue the conversation with particular audience segments as they move through the shopping funnel, it can build apps to appeal to different age and income levels of its target customers. These apps can feature content that help the user through the various stages of the engagement process by offering tips on buying engagement rings (building on the brand’s digital “Tiffany Guide to Yes”), and displaying products with varying price points. Earlier this year, Tiffany announced an Engagement Ring Finder iOS app utilizing AR to help with ring sizing.

Creating an omnichannel content strategy can be challenging but can pay off in time. Serving informative messaging along various channels leaves many options for creative executions. Satisfying the needs of particular audiences are at the root of a strategy that recommends content that lives offline, in an app, or through augmented and virtual reality. By weaving together a compelling and useful omnichannel shopping journey, brands have a better chance of converting shoppers into loyal customers rather than losing them after an online purchase.

Content Strategy Links

A place to post links about CS and personalization:

1. Interactive Storytelling 101: Where It Fits in Your 2016 Content Strategy

2. Content Strategy – The Engine of Your SEO

3. Top Skills to Look for When Hiring a Content Strategist

4. 10 Definitions of Content Strategy

5. What is Content Strategy?

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