The below is an excerpt from “Omni-Channel Marketing: The Key to Unlocking a Powerful Customer Experience,”originally published by Target Marketing Magazine, written by Thorin McGee

“Omnichannel” marketing often seen as a retail buzzword. But with devices and communication channels proliferating faster than ever, the omnichannel customer experience is no longer something other marketers can ignore.

Target Marketing conduced a broad survey of their audience to ask how they approached omnichannel marketing and the customer journey. The complete results were just released in the report “Omnichannel Marketing: The Key to Unlocking a Powerful Customer Experience.

The report reveals just how important omnichannel marketing is across all industries, what aspects of it are most important to the modern customer journey, the challenges marketers face in implementing omnichannel best practices, and how marketers are building strategies to meet those challenges.

Here are some of the report’s core findings:

Who Cares About Omnichannel Strategy?

While omnichannel marketing is often seen as a priority for retailers, the need for omnichannel understanding, optimization and delivering a cohesive customer experience has become important to marketers across all industries.

We asked how important the omnichannel experience was in each respondent’s own industry. Only 6 percent said it wasn’t important, the lowest answer option, while 34 percent said it was very important, the highest possible response and the most common answer.

Overall, 74 percent said it was important, fairly important or very important (essentially a 3 or higher on a five-point scale). That’s a high number for an issue that is often seen as a predominantly a retail problem. But when we look at how the different industries responded to this question, below, “retail and e-tail” wasn’t even in the top five.

Retail comes in at 74 percent, but healthcare, travel, IT and financial services all had over 80 percent of respondents say omnichannel was “important” or more.

“In today’s environment, [omnichannel] is extremely important, no matter what industry you are in,” said one non-retail respondent. “Today’s customers are self-educating and want the ‘Amazon’ experience. We struggle to provide anything close to this.”

Whether you’re marketing financial services, healthcare, consumer package goods or B2B services, the omnichannel customer experience is an issue you have to take seriously. It will have a bigger impact on your brand reputation than any ad  you’ll ever buy.

Marketing Budgets, Customer Data and Other Obstacles

Creating an integrated, personalized, satisfying omnichannel customer journey is not easy. We asked what challenges stood in the way of delivering a better experience. For each challenge, we asked whether it was “Not a Challenge,” “Somewhat Challenging,” “Challenging,” “Very Challenging” or “Extremely Challenging.”

We distilled that into a 1-to-5 scale (1 for “Not a Challenge” and 5 for “Extremely Challenging”) to produce this Chart:

Overall, the answers to this question suggest that marketers do not feel overwhelmed by any aspect of the omnichannel experience. But they lack the budget, cross-platform data and customer recognition capabilities, and personnel with the necessary skills to create the omnichannel experiences demanded by today’s customer journey.

By far, lack of budget is the biggest challenge, with an average score roughly 10 percent higher than any other answer. That’s followed by lack of personnel with the necessary skills and knowledge, and accessing the data across channels (which can be viewed as a function of the first two, because it takes marketing technology and data know-how to track customers across platforms).

When we compare that to the answers for what respondents said made an omnichannel experience good — the report has room to get into those answers more, but they emphasized consistent brand experience, channel integration and tracking customers across channels — it becomes clear that the things necessary to create a great omnichannel experience are exactly what these challenges are preventing.

Marketers are aware of those gaps, and closing them is a major goal for many brands in 2018. While a quarter of respondents say they are decreasing omnichannel budgets, nearly half are increasing them, including 5 percent who are doubling their budgets to enable omnichannel marketing strategies.

Recalling that budgets were the top challenge, this is great news. Marketers need to invest in these capabilities in order to deliver those seven keys to a great omnichannel experience.

But as important as getting the budget for omnichannel is, marketers must apply those funds to the right portions of the customer journey to create a great customer experience.

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