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Taking Advantage of the Omnichannel Opportunity

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Apr 22, 2020 | Brent Heslop

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The purchase journey is no longer as linear as it once was. These days, consumers often switch between many different channels and touchpoints before making a purchase. Then they continue to use various channels to engage with the brand in the after-sales process.

Let’s look at an example of how this might unfold. Christine hears about a great new laptop from a friend (offline) and does some research on her phone. In the process, she engages with a chatbot to receive detailed product specs. Next, she talks to a customer service representative on the phone to check local availability before going to view the laptop in-store.

In the store, customer service is ready for her and has set up the laptop for her to try out. She plays around with it and decides that she likes it, but she’s not sure if this is the best price she can get, so she goes back online using her home computer. She compares prices and reads some reviews. Satisfied that it’s the best deal, she begins the checkout process before getting distracted and stepping away for a phone call mid-purchase.

She goes about her evening and forgets all about her purchase for the moment. Two days later, as she’s commuting to work, she receives an email notification on her smartwatch reminding her that she has an item in her cart and offering her a 10% discount. She pulls out her tablet and completes the order using the retailer’s app. She immediately receives an email telling her when to expect delivery. On the day of delivery, she gets a text reminding her to be available to receive the package.

Soon after, she receives an email inviting her to rate her experience. Upon touching the link, the app opens to the ratings section, where she leaves a very positive review of her purchase experience. She receives bonus loyalty points for leaving a review and notices that the app is now showing her recommendations, such as a laptop sleeve and Bluetooth mouse – in her favorite color!

Now that’s an effective omnichannel strategy. If you want to delight customers with a journey like this, read on. The following explains how to create an equally seamless consumer experience to grow customer retention, outpace your competitors, and boost your bottom line. It includes the ins and outs of an omnichannel strategy, why it’s a strategy worth pursuing, the best technology and tips for implementing it effectively, and more.

What is Omnichannel, and How Is it Different from Multichannel?

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In short, a multichannel approach means that your consumer engagement uses more than one channel. This can be as simple as having a brick-and-mortar store as well as an online presence or having a website and a mobile app.

Omnichannel, on the other hand, is about ensuring that your customers’ experience of your brand is consistent across all of your channels and that they can move seamlessly between different channels. An omnichannel approach attempts to meet customers wherever they are, adapting the engagement strategy to suit the brand’s customer profiles.

Why is an Omnichannel Strategy a Good Investment?

Omnichannel engagement is about exceeding the expectations of your customers throughout the purchase cycle to deliver a brand experience that fosters customer loyalty. Brands with an omnichannel engagement strategy enjoy an average customer retention rate of 89%. Compare that to the 33% retention rate for organizations that lack an omnichannel strategy.

As a result, companies with robust omnichannel engagement see an average of 9.5% year-on-year (YoY) revenue growth. This approach dramatically exceeds the 3.5% YoY growth for companies without omnichannel engagement.

Omnichannel customers reportedly spend 208% more on holiday shopping than consumers who shop in-store only. So, it’s not surprising that implementing an omnichannel engagement strategy is a top priority for 85% of retailers.

Omnichannel engagement is not just seamlessly switching between websites, tablets, and mobile channels anymore. It increasingly encompasses wearables, chatbots, voice assistants (like Siri, Google Assistant, and Alexa), augmented reality, and a growing list of IoT devices as well. These technologies, once at the cutting edge of innovation, are becoming increasingly mainstream.

It’s also important to remember that we’re likely to continue seeing advances in communications technologies and devices. Businesses need a futureproof omnichannel strategy to address whatever channels and devices come next.

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Brands should ensure that they deliver a consistent and seamless brand experience throughout the customer’s entire purchase journey. Brands also need to make sure that they’re available on every channel where their customers expect to find them and that, as much as possible, they’re able to pick up conversations where they left off in previous channels.

Another core aspect of a successful omnichannel strategy is delivering quality, relevant, and engaging content experiences as your customers move through the purchase cycle. These content experiences need to be dynamic and meaningful, as customers don’t want to see the same thing over and over and will get bored and leave.

Omnichannel engagement is about more than merely being present on multiple channels – it’s about creating a seamless and consistent customer experience that spans multiple channels. But more than that, it’s about delivering a productive and enjoyable customer experience through content that truly speaks to your customers.

Content Management and Your Omnichannel Customer Experience

Content management is not just about creating and storing content assets and publishing to your website anymore, as it was in the past. These days, your content management system (CMS) needs to be able to drive an omnichannel engagement strategy. You need an omnichannel CMS.

An omnichannel CMS allows you to deliver the same content to multiple different channels simultaneously, rather than requiring additional resources to create unique content for each channel and device. With an omnichannel CMS, you can create your content assets once in a central location and optimize the presentation for each channel.

Using integrated tools and APIs, an omnichannel CMS can automate many of the manual processes involved in content management, track customers’ engagement with your content, and allow you to learn from past campaigns to keep improving the experiences you offer your customers. With the right integrations, you can deliver highly personalized customer experiences, make recommendations, and provide tailored promotions based on their past behavior.

Omnichannel Requires a New Kind of CMS

The current CMS model is rapidly becoming outdated. When CMSs came about, they were revolutionary because they allowed content creators to easily create and manage multimedia content without needing to worry about coding. These CMSs were “what-you-see-is-what-you-get” (WYSIWYG), so content creators could simply input their content and configure it to suit their needs, and it would present as they arranged it.

However, the same thing that made these CMSs so easy to use severely limited their usefulness, as the content was only for one channel of presentation, the web. When mobile browsing started to blow up, CMS companies had to scramble to overhaul their products to allow them to facilitate mobile responsiveness.

These days, most decent CMSs automatically cater to mobile devices, although this is still typically limited to smartphones and tablets, and most of them are not yet as smart and dynamic as one would wish. For instance, it’s still necessary to make any number of manual adjustments to display settings such as padding (the space between items) to ensure that a website displays as attractively on mobile and tablet as it does on a desktop browser.

The major drawback of traditional CMSs is that they are limited in the number of channels they can serve. A WYSIWYG CMS doesn’t cater to the massive variety of digital devices and communication channels now available. In most cases, this means that for each new channel you add to your engagement strategy, you need to add another CMS into the mix, resulting in another server and database. With this cobbled-together approach, you’re likely to experience information silos, with data being difficult to access or at least very difficult to consolidate.

For ecommerce businesses, each channel they use should be able to sync with their product information (and availability) database and customer account information. However, with a cobbled-together approach, you end up doubling those integrations for each channel – in addition to duplicating all the content creation and management tasks by having to manage each channel separately, which is extremely inefficient!

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You end up with a different user interface, database, and schema for each channel when you could easily manage them all from a single location with a headless CMS. If all your business needs is a website that also displays well on mobile devices, an old school WYSIWYG CMS may serve your purposes.

However, as we saw in the first section of this post, the way customers shop and engage with brands is changing. The average North American now uses 4.3 devices, with some 70% using smartphones. Fifteen years ago, consumers used an average of two touchpoints when making a purchase, and a mere 7% regularly used more than four. Today’s shoppers use almost six touchpoints on average, with about 50% regularly using more than four.

This multi-touchpoint world is the new normal, and businesses that fail to cater to consumer expectations in this new purchase ecosystem will suffer losses.

How Do I Choose the Right CMS?

The most important consideration is choosing a headless CMS that allows you to separate the backend (content, databases, and servers) from the frontend (the presentation layer). This enables you to create and store your content in the modular way required for a seamless omnichannel strategy.

A headless CMS delivers content to various channels using APIs. This delivery method means you can pull content to any channel and present it according to the rules of that individual channel. Your content exists in a unified hub (the headless CMS), and APIs control how your content appears in each context according to the rules created by your front-end developers.

A good headless CMS allows you to manage all of your content channels from a single location, as well as track and measure customer engagement across your various channels. For this, you need an omnichannel CMS that offers outstanding integrations capabilities, so that you can unite all of your business tools in a single suite.

You’ll also want to make sure you select a CMS that allows you to run updates and adapt campaigns in real-time without downtime. This feature is one of the advantages of a headless CMS. Because the content is separate from the code dictating its presentation, you don’t need to recode the content every time you want to make a change – you simply change the content and deploy it using your pre-existing API.

Another essential factor to consider when choosing your CMS is selecting one that allows you to preview and test content in a staging environment. One of the main disadvantages of some headless CMSs is that they don’t allow content editors and managers to preview how the content is going to appear within the various contexts they’re intended to be displayed. However, a system like Contentstack’s headless CMS allows you to test and preview your content with ease.

Six Tips for a Highly Effective Content Strategy

Building an omnichannel strategy is a challenge for any organization, but with the right technology partner, it’s considerably more manageable.

Here are a few tips to help you build an effective omnichannel content strategy:

  1. Take the time to identify your business goals and priorities, as these will directly influence the kind of content on which you should focus.
  2. Develop a comprehensive content model that aligns your business goals with what your omnichannel strategy can do. Outline what kinds of content you’ll use for which platforms, and how they’ll relate to one another.
  3. Plan your content in terms of overarching campaigns and interactive experiences that span multiple channels and encourage consumers to engage with your brand across platforms.
  4. Pick an API-first, headless CMS for a truly omnichannel CMS that can do the heavy lifting when it comes to execution.
  5. Create reusable content. The more modular your content is, the easier it will be to mix and match with other content fragments to create new content experiences. Reusable content has the added benefit of allowing you to ramp up personalization by displaying a different curated layout for each different consumer profile.
  6. Continuously iterate and improve. Test different strategies and use tools like A/B testing and data analytics to understand which content your customers respond to the best and adapt your strategy accordingly.

Deploy an Effective Omnichannel Strategy with an Industry-Leading Headless CMS

Is your business ready for the omnichannel future in which consumers use devices we haven’t even imagined yet to engage with and purchase your product or service? Does your current omnichannel strategy consist of a ramshackle collection of loosely connected different CMSs and interfaces? Are you wasting time and money creating separate content for each channel? Sign up for a free trial of Contentstack headless CMS and see how painless rolling out an omnichannel strategy can be. Or, read our Ultimate Guide to Headless CMS to discover real headless CMS use cases.

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Digital content management is in a state of perpetual evolution. Consumers have come to expect robust, seamless digital experiences when interacting with brands, and organizations that fail to meet those expectations can quickly find themselves left behind.It’s tempting to think the solution is to build a digital experience that satisfies the expectations of today’s consumer; unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Every day brings new channels and new competitors, and the digital experiences consumers want today might not look anything like the one they want tomorrow.A composable architecture gives businesses the speed, flexibility and scalability they need to deliver digital experiences that meet the expectations of current and future customers. 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Oct 19, 2022

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Oct 18, 2022

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This article will explore what marketing professionals should look for when considering an omnichannel marketing platform.What is an omnichannel marketing platform and why do you need one?An omnichannel marketing platform allows you to connect with customers across all channels, including online, offline, and mobile. Using this customer-centric marketing approach, companies can provide a consistent customer experience no matter how the customer interacts with them. An omnichannel platform can also help businesses to better understand customer behavior and preferences, which can help to improve marketing strategies and ultimately increase sales.Omnichannel marketing is similar to multichannel marketing. Both of these strategies involve engaging customers across different channels. However, there are some critical differences between these two approaches. Multichannel marketing promotes a unified message using various channels. In contrast, omnichannel marketing takes a customer-focused approach. It adapts to the customer's cross-channel preferences, allowing them to move between channels seamlessly. This capability means omnichannel marketing is better equipped to provide a personalized experience. Benefits of using an omnichannel marketing platformAn omnichannel marketing platform can provide many benefits for your business. The products and services you offer, the customers you serve and other characteristics unique to your situation will determine the advantages that benefit you most. Here are the most common omnichannel use cases.Add virtual inventory to your store: Omnichannel marketing allows you to promote the idea of an endless aisle. You can use this virtual merchandise presentation to complement your real-world store's physical inventory. This type of shopping experience is nearly impossible to achieve without an omnichannel marketing platform.Recurring payment model: Recurring payments are becoming an increasingly popular way for consumers to pay for goods and services. This payment model allows customers to regularly authorize a merchant to charge a designated amount to their credit card or bank account. This can be a convenient way for customers to pay for monthly subscriptions, such as Netflix or Spotify, or for larger purchases spread over time, such as a new mattress.Recurring payments help your business build stronger relationships with your customers by making it easy for them to continue doing business with your company over time. Omnichannel marketing helps your customers move seamlessly between making an in-store or online purchase and establishing continuing services.Buy online for in-store pickup: This omnichannel feature has quickly become a staple of e-commerce. For many types of goods, if customers can't shop for items from the comfort of their homes, they will shop elsewhere.Increasing customer loyalty: A well-designed omnichannel strategy can help your business better understand customer behavior and preferences. You can use this information to improve relationships, fortify customer loyalty, and ultimately increase sales.Improving customer experience: By using an omnichannel platform, businesses can ensure that they are providing a consistent customer experience across all channels. This consistent experience can improve customer satisfaction.How to choose the best omnichannel marketing platform for your businessWhen choosing an omnichannel marketing platform for your business, the most critical consideration is finding one that is truly focused on the customer, not just brand-centric, using multiple channels. Brand centricity is all about promoting a unified message across various channels. At the same time, customer-centricity considers the customer's preferences and needs. Adopting this paradigm can be challenging for some marketing solution providers that cut their teeth on multichannel marketing. It's not enough to provide the same branding message across your customers' channels. A customer-centric solution helps you tap into your customers' historical behavior to understand their needs better. To provide your customers with the best possible experience, you will also want to consider how user-friendly and easy to navigate a potential solution is. The platform's ability to integrate with other software applications used by your company is also an important consideration. Once you have considered these factors, you can compare the different omnichannel features that are available. Reading reviews and comparing attributes is essential to ensure you choose the best platform for your business.Features of the best omnichannel platformsHere are some of the top features to consider when choosing an omnichannel marketing platform:The ability to provide a personalized customer journey across all channels: An omnichannel marketing platform should allow you to manage your marketing activities efficiently and effectively across all channels. This approach can save time and money.The ability to connect with customers across all channels: An omnichannel marketing platform should allow you to connect with customers across all channels, including online, offline, and mobile. This can help to improve customer loyalty and increase sales.The ability to understand customer behavior and preferences: An omnichannel marketing platform can help businesses better understand customer behavior and preferences. You can use this information to improve marketing and ultimately increase sales.What to avoid in omnichannel marketing platformsWhen considering an omnichannel marketing platform, it is essential to know the available features and choose the platform best suited to your business. However, there are also some things to avoid when choosing a platform.Be sure not to choose a platform that is too complex or difficult to use. The platform should be easy to navigate and use so that you can manage your marketing activities effectively.Also, avoid platforms that are too costly for your budget. It is crucial to find a platform that offers good value for your money.Finally, avoid platforms that do not offer good customer support. The platform should be easy to use, but if you encounter any problems, you should be able to get help quickly.Learn moreLearn more about omnichannel content management in this informative guide.Is your CMS holding you back from creating the omnichannel experiences your customers expect? Schedule a free demo to see how Contentstack’s headless, composable content experience platform can transform your digital marketing strategy.

Sep 22, 2022

How to launch an online store in under 90 days

There are two absolutes in a digital economy: impatient, demanding customers and the need for an e-commerce presence. If you don’t have an e-commerce presence or the one you do have fails to meet customer expectations, you’re likely considering how to solve your problem.What’s been your experience with a software development effort? If you’re like many, it conjures images of:Rounding up the best qualified (and already overworked) team membersSlogging through endless team meetings on top of your other job dutiesWorking through months of coding, testing, refining and debugging to field a minimum viable product (MVP) e-commerce siteWe’ve all been there and have the T-shirts to prove it. But how would you react if we said it is possible to launch an e-commerce venture in under 90 days? Not a work-in-progress, bare-bones MVP placeholder, but a fully functional, customer-centric, remarkably agile e-commerce site built by a team of six people using four independent technologies in less than three months.Why build a working example?How do you address the incredulous responses to the “up and running in under 90 days” claim? As professional baseball player Dizzy Dean said, “It ain’t bragging if you can do it.” So, we decided to prove the power and ease of using composable commerce tools by building and demonstrating a working e-commerce site at ContentCon 2022, our annual conference.Why tie the project to the conference? A swag store was the natural choice to launch at a conference as attendees could access the store, select their items, create digital receipts and collect their items at the vendor’s booth.“We wanted to use this as an example to give you guys an application that you can actually interact with that we’ve built with our four technologies to show it’s really not that difficult,” said Piyush Patel, chief ecosystem officer at Algolia.The team planned the project as more than just a conference presentation, however.“This is just the starting point,” said Gary Ballabio, VP of technology partnerships at Cloudinary. While every business will have its own requirements, the team used their four technologies to create a proof of concept “but also [to create a reusable platform] for anybody to use afterward, for everybody to branch off and use really for a starting point themselves.”How do you launch an e-commerce store in under 90 days?How did we pull this off in less than 90 days? By partnering with three other industry leaders, BigCommerce, Cloudinary and Algolia. We each contributed part-time team members and our software to the project. Here’s a rundown of the platform software each company contributed:E-commerce enablement by BigCommerceImage and video management by CloudinaryHeadless CMS by ContentstackInstant searchability by AlgoliaThe next step was setting up our goals and success measures with the technologies chosen. The resulting project parameters were simple and to the point:Our working premise was that the four technologies working together would meet all project requirements.The site would include four pillars: content, search, commerce and media.Each technology partner would provide part-time technologists, not full-time developers.In a nod to the reality people face developing and deploying software today, all team members were remote, spanning time zones from India to California.Assess the ability of each technology’s integration framework to facilitate information flow seamlessly between platforms.Deliver a solution other e-commerce ventures could use as a starting point.We wanted the development effort to reflect the real world, not be an academic exercise. “This really mimicked what many of your organizations have to deal with on a day-to-day basis,” said Nick Barron, senior director of partner enablement at Contentstack. “We’ve got a lot of remote employees; we’ve got a lot of dispersed teams that live in little siloes, specialties and little centers.” So, a 100% remote team was an ideal test environment.The results? We met all our goals and delivered the e-commerce site in well under 90 days. The team became so enthused and productive that we finally called a hard stop as we had more than enough to prove our concept.Here are the project’s summary stats:How it worksHow do you bridge the integration gap between different technologies to deliver functional e-commerce sites and other applications quickly and easily? The short answer lies in using application protocol interfaces (APIs) to manage communication between technologies. Configuration settings replace software customization, allowing users to compose the processes and actions needed to make the application meaningful to customers and the business.Here's a high-level look at how the ABC Swag e-commerce site brings a new product to life.The product manager creates the product in BigCommerce, entering the required information like SKU, product name, product specifications and more.BigCommerce automatically creates the product detail page (PDP) in Contentstack, notifying the product marketer that it’s available for enrichment.The product marketer adds enriched content, including images, videos, 3D models and more, to the PDP from Cloudinary.Contentstack updates Cloudinary assets with metadata describing the location of each asset used in the PDP.When Contentstack publishes the product, it sends all the details to Algolia to index and prepare for searching.As the product manager or marketer makes changes based on analytics like sales, clicks and customer questions, the system automatically manages them, eliminating human error and increasing system responsiveness.Why it worksOf course, technology underpins everything, but people and a cooperative spirit are the two things that make technology valuable and usable. At Contentstack, we call this “Care Without Compromise™.”Here are some observations from the other team members about why the project worked:“The ability to reach out to the other vendors with questions made everyone’s job easier,” Patel said. “I think that’s the lesson we learned is, have help.”Ballabio said the team members were technologists, not full-time developers, working part-time with new tools and working full-time with the tools they were familiar with.“It is a testament to how well documented and how well set up those other tools are for them to pick it up and to create this proof of concept together,” he said.The project also illustrates the dedication of the companies leading the Microservices-based, API-first, Cloud-native, and Headless (MACH) evolution to solve their customers’ problems. This dedication extends to getting help from other technology partners when necessary.Powered by composable architectureWhat made it possible for our part-time team, working remotely in their area of expertise, to build this e-commerce venture in record time? Composable architecture. Composable architecture takes advantage of APIs and scalable web services to create a digital-first enterprise.A simplified definition, to be sure, but it’s more important how composable architecture helps enterprises than how you define it. According to Architecture & Governance, Gartner says, “supporting composable architecture means architecting your business for real-time adaptability and resilience in the face of uncertainty.” What business cannot benefit from adaptability and resilience?Acceptance of the MACH/composable architecture approach to e-commerce continues to grow. More organizations are finding they can no longer meet the demands of today’s consumers with traditional monolithic systems and dated development methodologies. To survive and thrive, they are making the move to composable systems. According to a recent Salesforce State of Commerce report, 80% of businesses that don’t currently have headless e-commerce technology up and running plan to implement it in the next two years.Composable architecture using MACH components enables teams in any size company to develop, deploy and maintain responsive e-commerce ventures in record time. We demonstrated that combining headless CMS, media enrichment, e-commerce enablement and instant search replaces monoliths with superior solutions.Connect Without CompromiseContentstack and our partners are taking Care Without Compromise™ to another level with Connect Without Compromise™. We want to assure our mutual customers that our tools will work as described. Should any customer experience issues, we'll work with our partners to find a solutionHow does this differ from our Care Without Compromise? Think of it as a combination of technology and best practices.Marketplace: An extensive ecosystem of features, services, apps, integrations and accelerators.Automation Hub: Simple, no-code, cross-stack business logic you can implement immediately.Blueprints: Extremely detailed best practices and implementation guides to get you from zero to operational in the shortest time possible.For example, if you want to set up a store using the same technologies we used to build our ABC Swag Store demo, we have a blueprint that will give you a jump start on creating a similar application for your business.The passing of the age of the monolithsIt’s fair to say that the age of the monoliths has passed, replaced by the age of composable architecture. Rather than waiting weeks for developers to create a simple integration in a monolithic system, businesses can model, evaluate and deploy them in minutes. We think that’s worth celebrating. If you agree and want to learn more to move your business forward, we offer these options:See the ABC Swag Store in action.  For a deeper dive into the building of the ABC Swag Store site, watch our webinar series, “The ABCs of Composable Commerce.”Want to build your e-commerce venture or headless CMS? Learn more and schedule a free demo.