The term “omnichannel” may be the newest marketing buzzword, but really it represents a significant shift in the way we need to look at customer experiences. After all, customers have more access to information than ever before. From face-to-face interactions in-store, to an online website, or through social media, every touchpoint along the path-to-purchase should provide a consistent and complementary experience.

In this new omnichannel world, it’s our job to create seamless experiences, regardless of marketing channel or device. That’s easier said than done when customers want to shop from their phones, their laptops, their Amazon Echo’s and their Google Home’s. They want to chat with someone online and chat with someone face-to-face. They want choices and options to fit their individual needs. Customers are becoming more complicated and we basically need ESP to anticipate their next move.

Sounds a bit daunting. But it doesn’t have to be. Here are four simple ways you can begin building your omnichannel approach to marketing.

Take a Customer-First Approach

The very first thing you should do is walk in your customers shoes. The absolute most fundamental aspect of omnichannel marketing is taking a customer-first approach. It’s about understanding what the customer is doing and experiencing when they interact with your brand.

What do your customers experience at each touchpoint? What do they come in contact with when they interact with your business – online, face-to-face, on the phone, on social media, etc? Create a customer journey map that outlines all the interactions a customer would have if they were shopping with you today. Test all potential experiences and actions. Submit a contact form, reserve or rent a storage unit, call the store directly, even conduct an in-person secret shop. The number one thing you can do in developing your omnichannel marketing efforts is understanding where you are now.

Take a look at your mapped interactions and ask yourself these two questions. Are your current marketing channels working together to create a seamless experience? Are you present everywhere your potential customers and current customers are shopping? I’m going to guess that in both instances your customer experience could use a little work. That’s ok because now you have a benchmark: a place to start for tracking and analyzing changes you implement.

Consistency is Key

According to Harvard Business Review, 73% of consumers shop on more than one channel.

In this new customer-first landscape, it’s not enough to just engage with potential customers, you must present a consistent, professional brand image everywhere they are and on whatever device they’re shopping. Keeping in mind they are using multiple channels to make a single buying decision.

Imagine a customer finds you online. They land on your website, experience your professional branding and see your updated facility photos. After they finish their research they take to Google Maps to get directions only to find that a Google street view of an old building with gravel driveways, no gate, and branding that doesn’t match. At best, they might be slightly confused by the discrepancy and still decide to give you a try. At worst, they doubt whether your website is in fact legitimate and decide to rent from your competition. This is simply one example of how inconsistency can breed skepticism.

Familiarity breeds trust, so providing a singular experience is essential. If customers can’t count on you to provide consistent guidance through the path-to-purchase journey, they certainly won’t trust your product to meet their needs.

Consider Content

Not only should visual consistency be a priority, but you also need to align your messaging across channels.

Content is the lifeblood of your omnichannel marketing efforts. Your content should promote your business, but more importantly it needs to attract, inform and engage your audience.

Start by reviewing the current content on your website, social media posts, local listings, in-store signage and brochures. Always think about your customer first. What message are the communicating? Are you answering your customers questions? Are you guiding them through the rental process?

When you’re communicating the same messaging between all channels, it smooths the customer experience. It prevents your communications from sending conflicting messages. Remember, almost three-quarters of customers shop across multiple channels. So the most important question you need to answer is, am I communicating a consistent message across all marketing channels?

If you answer is no, then you know where to start.

It’s About More Than Digital

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, and according to [24], 47% of customers would switch to a competitor within a day of a poor customer experience. For an industry where the majority of customers make their buying decisions in less than 3 days, a bad in-store experience could cost you a rental.

The face-to-face piece of an omnichannel marketing strategy is often where the experience is lost in translation. When a customer comes to your store after doing online research, making phone calls and possibly reserving a space, the close of the sale is now left up to your manager. You need to make sure you have their buy-in to provide the same level of experience your online channels promised. What are they doing to ensure a positive, personalized customer experience? Have past conversations been documents in your software? Is the manager using this information instead of asking the customer the same questions over again?

For a self storage operator, the final step often happens in-store. Make sure you’re putting your best foot forward. By bringing the brand story you started online into your office, you can help create the seamless experiences customers have come to expect.

While we aren’t going to get into the nitty gritty of tracking data, this is the last piece of the puzzle. On a high-level, you’ve now analyzed the customer path-to-purchase, learned why visual and messaging consistency is so important, and finally discovered how online and offline channels affect your overall omnichannel marketing efforts. Let’s go make some changes! Make sure you keep that benchmarking data from your initial research. You can use this along with tools like Google Analytics to see how your new marketing strategies impact customer engagement, improve conversion rate and hopefully increase your monthly revenue.

Above all else, remember that in this omnichannel landscape, focusing on the customer first will lead you down the right path. It’s less important for a customer to be present in-store then for your business to be consistently present in the way and at the time the customer prefers.

Christina Alvino

Christina is the Founder and CEO of FineView Marketing, a boutique marketing agency dedicated to helping independently owned self storage operators bring their marketing strategies to life. Using a B2B2C marketing model, she combines marketing strategy with design theory to build custom tailored services that assist clients in managing all parts of their marketing plan. Christina has served as an executive level leader in the storage industry since 2011, with a background in both marketing and operations. Her experience with self storage and other multi-property brands provided her with the foundation to quickly assess needs, generate options and implement solutions. Christina has presented at both the national and local levels on topics including, content marketing and buyer personas, how marketing and operations need to work together, local community level branding, and how consumer buying behaviors affect self storage.