Now that consumers are largely comfortable shopping online and across channels, brands are finding themselves increasingly challenged in meeting the demand for a consistent, cohesive experience.

It’s particularly worrisome in retail, where 78% of companies admit they lack a single brand experience across channels, despite the fact that 62% of brands have launched omnichannel services. However, the need for an effective omnichannel strategy is universal across industries, and it could be the single most important puzzle to solve in 2017.

Learn more about The Open Local Platform.

Learn more about The Open Local Platform.

This April, attendees at Rio SEO’s Local Search Summit will explore the omnichannel challenge in a structured roundtable led by Anthony Stagg from thinkDigitaldirect. Stagg, alongside Mattress Firm’s Bert Jackson and Rio SEO’s Cynthia Sener, will guide participants through an interactive discussion on the trends winning companies use to create seamless omnichannel experiences, whether the brand is mobile-first, mobile-only or primarily brick and mortar, but mobile sometimes.

We asked Stagg to help marketers identify and understand the greatest omnichannel challenges marketers face today, in advance of #LSS2017. Here’s what he shared:

What’s the greatest omnichannel challenge facing marketers right now?

Stagg: “Marketers have to use an increasing number of different tools and technologies at their disposal. Some are quantitative like Google Analytics or Adobe Analytics, while others, like surveys/voice of the customer, are qualitative and used to understand not only what’s going on in terms of user behavior across content, platforms, apps, and campaigns, but also why users behave or don’t behave the way do.  

I think it’s unlikely that there will be any consolidation in the number of tools and technologies any time soon.”

What makes omnichannel more than just another marketing buzzword, and why should it be high on your priority list?

Stagg: “Understanding omnichannel behavior is the key to understanding so many different aspects of online marketing, from allocation of marketing spend to the customer journey; from channel synergy or lack thereof to conversion rate optimization.

Having said that, it’s not easy and requires more than just analytical skills. You need an understanding of human behavior, and a level of technical competence in order to run omnichannel measurement and modeling tools.”

What are the risks of ignoring the omnichannel trend or failing to prepare?

Stagg: “Sub-optimal allocation of marketing investments, sub-optimal engagement and conversion rates, and an inability to tie marketing strategy to desired outcomes.”

How has omnichannel changed over the last five years, and how does that shape where marketers should be focusing now?

Stagg: “Yes, consumers start the journey on one device (like a smartphone) and switch during the course of the conversion process to using other devices, often within a short space of time.  

Consequently, the challenge becomes one of unifying behavior across devices, platforms, content, and media and attempting to tie those behaviors to a single individual, rather than viewing them as separate user behaviors (which they still might be, in some cases).  While ‘single sign-on’ and analytics tools implementations can help, there is no perfect or 100% reliable fix to this challenge.”

What one piece of advice would you give a multi-location brand struggling with measurement across channels?

Stagg: “Begin with a deep dive into the attribution function of your web analytics or ad management platform and try to understand what’s going on there. You may not be able to get all your questions answered, but you should be able to run different attribution models and, from the reports, see how the pattern changes from one model to the next.  

Also, start with just the online marketing portion first, before attempting to incorporate offline marketing, such as TV, print, direct mail into the mix. Most multi-location brands are using offline and online media, but trying to make sense of too much data too early in the process risks confusion and frustration.

Make a list of questions or hypotheses you’re seeking answers to before you dive into the platform. It’s too easy to get sidetracked with spigots of data and reports and lose sight of your original questions or hypotheses, if you don’t.

What one piece of advice would you give a multi-location brand struggling with data accuracy, consistency and optimization across channels?

Stagg: “Make sure you pay a premium to hire the most talented analyst you can, who possesses not just technical expertise (when data problems arise, it may be a technical issue), but also an understanding of marketing and consumer behavior. This person needs to be a strategic partner to the business, not just somebody who churns out Excel spreadsheets.  

He or she may not have all the answers, but knowing where to find them is a rare asset, which is why these people earn a lot of money. Too many companies are simply paying below market rate and getting mediocre talent.  This is a highly skilled job requiring a varied set of hard and soft skills. The daily challenges are varied and complex, so you need to hire someone with the intellectual stamina to stay the course. This is much more important than what tools or technologies you invest in. It’s the complete reverse of how most companies have tackled this area to date, unfortunately.”

Want to keep expanding your omnichannel knowledge?

Join us on Facebook and Twitter and stay tuned to the Rio SEO Blog for more omnichannel insights and helpful highlights from #LSS2017!