As marketing strategies have evolved, many new buzzwords have been introduced. “Omnichannel” is the newest kid on the block. But what does it mean and why has it become so important? Also, how can this new style of marketing help your self-storage business gain customers?
Through the years, as technology and the customer buying journey have changed, there’s been a true evolution in marketing from integrated to multichannel to omnichannel. To understand this development, we need to go back to when omnichannel started in the early 2000s.
The movement to tie together all marketing channels began with integrated marketing, in which consistent messaging was used across all channels. This led way to multichannel marketing, or the practice of interacting with customers through a combination of siloed channels including the company blog and website, the phone, e-mail, and in person. But is simply being present on all these channels enough? A few years ago, the answer would have been yes. Today, that’s no longer the case.
Enter omnichannel marketing, which creates a seamless customer experience regardless of channel or device. It uses all the same vehicles as multichannel marketing but blends them to better focus on the customer. Here’s an example: using the Starbucks app when you’re already in line to purchase your morning coffee.
Today, customers tend to use multiple channels and devices to make a single buying decision. They want to shop from their phones, laptops, Amazon Echo and in store, all with the expectation of a seamless experience. They want to find products by themselves, but they also want the option to speak to someone on the phone or face-to-face. In short, they want choices. Let’s just say customers are becoming more complicated.
Omnichannel marketing isn’t just about the digital experience. Converting searchers to paying customers is still the end goal, but focusing solely on your website won’t mean much if your in-store experience is lacking. Statistics don’t lie; online marketing affects offline marketing and vice versa. According to Google, 40 percent of online searchers make a buying decision after being influenced by an offline channel.
Remember, your customers use multiple channels to make a single decision. To engage with them, you must be present everywhere they are and on whatever device they’re using. In this omnichannel landscape, it’s less important for a customer to be present in-store than for your business to be present in the way and at the time the customer prefers.
The New Buying Journey
So, where does this new journey start? How many touchpoints are there before customers buy? How do you ensure you’re providing personalized, consistent experiences across all marketing channels? The change in customer expectations is making your job as a self-storage operator more complex, and these questions may feel overwhelming. Let’s look at simple ways to start implementing an omnichannel approach to your business.
The best piece of advice I can give is to walk in your customers’ shoes. What do they face when they interact with your business online, face-to-face, on the phone, on social media, etc.? Map out the experiences and interactions they have as they shop with you today. This gives you a place to start, a benchmark for tracking and analyzing any changes you might implement.
Now look at your map. Do the interactions work together? Are they providing a seamless experience? Some might, but I’m going to take a wild guess that most don’t.
Let’s consider how you can adjust some of your channels to get them working together. We’ll start with something easy, like your website. (Side note: If you don’t have a website by now, you have bigger issues. Go get one and come back when it’s online.)
While a website is just one touchpoint within a multichannel strategy, because of the number of other channel interactions, it can become an omnichannel option in and of itself. For example, is your website adaptive, meaning that it adapts its layout and experience to the customer based on the device being used? A customer searching on a desktop needs a different experience than one who’s searching on a smartphone.
The point is you need to create your marketing strategies with the understanding that people will use their laptops, desktops and smartphones to communicate. Again, most customers use multiple channels to make a single buying decision! This means your content, while remaining consistent, may need to be adjusted to be scalable, so your message is clear and consistent on different devices.
Let’s say a customer is doing research on his smartphone and is looking at your self-storage unit guide. He’s confused about what size to reserve. Can this person click to call your store directly from the Web page? Send an e-mail, chat with a manager or get directions? Can he reserve or even rent the space once he decides?
Now, let’s say this customer has completed his research and reserved a space but wants to see the product in person. What happens when he walks through your front door? The face-to-face component of an omnichannel-marketing strategy is often the one that’s lost in translation. When this customer comes to your store, the close of the sale is now left up to your manager. What’s he doing to ensure a positive, personalized experience? Have past conversations with this customer been documented in your software? Is the manager using this information instead of asking the tenant the same questions over again?
Notice how all your marketing channels, when set up correctly, can work together to provide a seamless customer experience. This is just one, high-level example of how omnichannel affects the buying cycle. There are many other channels to consider such as e-mail marketing, text messaging, social media and printed materials. From online to over the phone and finally face-to-face, technology, automation and your marketing strategies should be working together behind the scenes to provide the customer with a smooth, personalized buying experience.
Track, Track and Then Track Some More
While we aren’t going to get into the nitty-gritty of data tracking here, it’s the last piece of the puzzle. Keep that benchmarking data from your initial research! You can use it along with tools like Google Analytics to see how your new omnichannel-marketing strategy affects customer engagement, improves your conversion rate and, hopefully, increases your monthly revenue.
Christina Alvino is the owner of FineView Marketing, which specializes in working with small and mid-sized self-storage operators. She has served as an executive-level marketing leader in the storage industry since 2011. Prior to launching FineView, she worked in marketing and operations for several large self-storage operators including Great Value Storage, Guardian Storage and LockTite Storage. For more information, call 724.413.6195; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; visit www.fineviewmarketing.com.