But it can be even harder to make sure your brand is consistent across your storefront, website, blog, social media, webcasts or podcasts and every other customer contact point you have to wrangle.
A buzzword from the retail world – omnichannel – has never been more relevant. It's not only a way to offer multiple entry points for customers to engage on their terms, but a way to make sure your message is consistent across all channels.
Do it right, and it's a win-win. Nowadays, customers decide how to do business with you and that goes much further than the traditional opening hours and salespeople but, as Richard Turnbull, Telstra National Business Development Manager explains, it helps you too. "Providing your customer with a seamless ability to research online and buy in-store—or vice versa—and being able to track the pathway to purchase is very powerful," he says.
For example, you might offer wi-fi in-store, which customers love. Use it to your advantage too—many Telstra retail stores use proximity apps that customers can use to interact with products and offers.
One program sees customers to Telstra stores handed cards with near-field communication (NFC) chips embedded. After tapping on information about a product they like, they can take the card away to research online later and the website remembers the information the customer was interested in because of the NFC identifier.
It's a very simple but powerful way to track and measure your customer's purchasing pathway. "If [customers] visit you or even your competitors’, website while in your store and you don't know how to leverage that, that's a lost opportunity."
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Push the brand, not just the product
How do you avoid losing those sales? Consistent brand presence with an omnichannel approach is your best mode of attack. Many marketing experts still contend brand trumps product every time, and Turnbull agrees. "Customers are more aware of brand value. Products come and go but they need to trust the brand to provide the best products and overall value."
A good example is when your retail store projects the same image as your website, social media or other portals in everything from special offers to the aesthetic look and feel of the premises. It sounds obvious, but it means customers recognise and respond to you as a brand.
"The edge you get over the competition is the fact that the customer has chosen to engage and you have a marketing strategy to keep that customer engaged," he says.
The opportunities for putting that engagement to work are exciting and effective. If customers have location services activated on their mobile device and have opted in to SMS marketing, for example, you could send them special offers as they enter the store.
Even tracking where users are clicking and scrolling through your website can help you strategise where to place products or ads effectively. "Understanding what customers like can assist you with rewards to help you drive repeat business and build brand loyalty," Turnbull says.
Now, digital is enabling that consistent brand experience like never before. Turnbull points to the explosion of digital signage across Australia, one Telstra is maximising.
"Imagine having a hundred locations and you're about to launch a new product or campaign," he says. "You need to replace all your old marketing material like brochures and posters. Now we simply schedule the new content and all signage changes [across in-store screens and your website]."
He says that, while the cost benefits are significant in themselves, it could make all the difference to your brand. "The omnichannel experience of how your customer recognises and consumes your brand is a reality that can't be ignored," he says. "If your business doesn't yet have a digital marketing strategy, you're already behind."
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