What channels do businesses use to connect to their customers? If you were to have asked that question a few decades ago, the answers you would have received would likely have been limited to print, television, telephone, radio, and perhaps one or two others. However, with the recent proliferation of internet accessibility, the number of marketing channels has exploded.

Now, to reach a target audience, businesses need to do more than send out a few flyers and maybe create a television commercial. Modern customers occupy dozens of media channels —  from social media sites, to apps, to online search engines, and more. Reaching those customers means maintaining a presence across all media channels, and converting them means providing a consistent customer experience.

Unfortunately, reaching customers across every channel is easier said than done. According to Gartner, over 90% of marketers struggle to seamlessly connect more than three channels on the buyer journey. But while new technologies have created a customer landscape of almost limitless channel options, they’ve also given us the tools to effectively navigate that landscape: omni-channel marketing.

A simple definition of omni-channel is a cross-channel business model designed to optimize the customer experience. Whether customers are on desktop computers, mobile devices, conventional advertising channels, or inside actual brick-and-mortar retail establishments, omni-channel marketing gives businesses the ability to integrate channels through the back end.

In marketing, then, omni-channel tools use integration capabilities to connect data sources. These sources give marketers a complete view of the customer journey, and allow them to configure marketing messages to specific channels and devices.

For example, marketers can collect data or customer habits across all social networks, and use that data to automatically know which channel is the best to reach certain customers, with the best offer for them at exactly the right time.

When a client makes a purchase in a store, emails can automatically be sent to the client with coupons for similar products. Retailers can track shopping frequency with reward apps to gamify the experience, allowing customers to collect points, load cash cards, and set personal preferences of various retail rewards programs. Omni-channel marketing strategies make it all possible.

Retail doesn’t exist in a vacuum. As customers enter your store, you can bet that they’ve already completed the first steps of their customer journey. Eighty percent of consumers research a product prior to entering the store, and 44% of customers are so well informed that they believe they know more about a product than store associates. In fact, 71% of in-store shoppers who use mobile smart devices for research say their device is actually more important to their shopping experience than in-store resources.

The point is that when it comes to retail, customers already expect some form of omni-channel accessibility. Going beyond fulfilling those expectations shows customers that you care more about their overall experience than you do about your store’s bottom line. When you do, the advantages can be game-changing.

Customer satisfaction may be the most prominent of those advantages. Companies with strong omni-channel marketing strategies retain on average 89% of their customers, while companies with weak omni-channel marketing strategies retain only 33%. This is because, as stated above, customers expect a unified experience. Providing one leads to increased customer satisfaction, resulting in loyal customers who continue to bring in business well beyond the first sale.  

Improved, unified, consistent cross-channel data provides other benefits. Retailers can be more confidant in their decisions, and create a more accurate picture not only of their customers, but also of their business and industry. Additionally, accurate inventory and forecast data can lead to improved inventory management, in turn leading to decreased markdowns and resulting in improved margins.

All of these benefits are a natural result of effective omni-channel marketing strategies, but only if you find the right omni-channel marketing platform.

Data is the lifeblood of effective omni-channel strategies. As such, the best omni-channel retail platforms are the ones that are built on a clear understanding of data. Salesforce, the foremost pioneer of the CRM industry and the world’s most-trusted CRM solution, brings its advanced data-gathering and analytics tools to bear on retail-focused omni-channel solutions. Salesforce for Retail unifies the customer experience and gives business the power to create consistent messaging across every available channel.

With Salesforce retail solutions, retail stores can provide an immersive, unique experience personalized to each shopper. Customer intelligence, analytics, and internet-of-things tracking (such as through mobile devices and wearables) mean that you’ll know who your customers are, what they want, and how best to provide it to them — all in real time. Connected, coherent customer data leads to faster innovation and better conversion rates.

Personalized messaging across all channels gives retailers the chance to join shoppers on the customer journey. With a single view of their customers and their inventory, businesses can be there at every touchpoint, collecting relevant, reliable data across desktop, mobile, email, digital advertising, and more. Retailers can develop an accurate profile of individual clients. This makes it possible to provide a custom customer experience — the kind that shoppers will come back for, again and again.

Additionally, Commerce Cloud takes things a step or two further, by providing users with the ability to build and launch retail sites easily. Likewise, with an extensive library of prebuilt, certified integrations, you can deploy business logic across any and all channels. Commerce Cloud also lets you manage your sites across all currencies, languages, and available regions, taking things like cultures and customs automatically into account.      

Order management solutions, combined with a flexible POS that accommodates all different types of transactions, help Salesforce users ensure that every order is completed with precision through real-time updating across the cloud. Customers can make purchases online or in-store, check inventory in other stores, return items in-store that were purchased online, ship in-store items home or have them transferred to other locations, and so on. Likewise, endless aisle solutions extend store inventory, so that customers won’t have to shop somewhere else just because a specific product isn’t in stock.

All of these features — coupled with the ease of integration, usability, flexibility, and cross-channel support that Salesforce is famous for — come together to create an omni-channel solution like no other.

What channels do businesses use to connect to their customers? In the case of successful retailers, the answer is “all of them.” Salesforce retail solutions can give your business the power to reach clients across every channel, and do so in a consistent, personalized way. After all, modern customers are in charge of their own journey, but with Salesforce omni-channel tools, you can help ensure that the journey is a successful one.

Be where your customers are, and you’ll never be too far from a sale.  

Contact us to talk about the latest Salesforce retail solutions, and let us help you set up a strategy to connect with your customers like never before.