Omnichannel Trends & the Future of Referral Marketing

Not too long ago, many of us were excitedly talking about the multi-channel experience and its anticipated impact on referral marketing. Fast-forward a few years, it’s now omnichannel ruling many of our discussions, and it appears it will continue to do so for some time—which is why we’ve decided to look at omnichannel trends and specifically how they will shape the future of referral marketing.

So, What’s the Buzz About Omnichannel?

For the unacquainted, omnichannel is simply a multi-channel approach to sales that seeks to provide the customer with a seamless shopping experience between their online and in-store points-of-purchase—including those from a desktop, mobile device, and brick-and-mortar store.

Omnichannel customers, those shopping both digitally and in-store, now spend 93% more than online shoppers and 208% more than traditional in-store buyers. Along with their unique hybrid buying style, these shoppers expect highly personalized retail experiences that seamlessly span their virtual and physical shopping realms. For marketers and referral marketing, this shift towards a seamless experience is sprouting many exciting opportunities.

So just what can we expect for the future of omnichannel trends and how will they impact referral marketing? Here are our top picks:

1. Big Data & Improved Referral Targeting

Big Data is, of course, one of the most exciting and dramatic trends to ever hit marketing. Since its arrival, Big Data has become increasingly valuable to marketers by way of the insights it offers into customer targeting.

In the year ahead, we see Big Data similarly accelerating the accuracy with which marketers target their referrals. Backed by the presence of onsite retail tools, like beacons and e-tags (both discussed below), Big Data will help marketers better target consumers with promotions they’ll not only want to buy but also share with others.

Beacons use customer data to send personalized and motivating promotional messages.

2. Increased Use of Beacons

Beacons are another hot omnichannel trend that we see really ramping up—50% of the top 100 brands are already using them in their stores. Basically, beacons are inexpensive pieces of hardware that use Bluetooth connections to communicate with mobile devices. Small and light, they can easily be installed in a retail setting to send messages to an in-store customer’s phone.

And the really great thing about beacons? They’re intelligent. Beacons use a customer’s shopping data to build messages that will motivate that buyer towards a specific product or promotion. Of course, this trend will also mean great things for referral marketing—better customer targeting naturally leads to better referrals.

3. Increased Shift Towards Omnichannel Fulfillment

I also suspect we’ll see many more bricks-and-mortar retailers pushing for faster ways to get their products to their customers in the year ahead—favoring direct shipments from their stores instead of their warehouses. Coined “omnichannel fulfillment”, this trend will further close the loop on the seamless customer experience by speeding up the wait time between product purchase and receipt. On the referral side, this nudge towards seamlessness will also do wonders—the quicker a customer receives a product, the more likely they’ll be to rave about that product to others.

Omnichannel fulfillment will further close the loop on the seamless customer experience.

4. Rising Use of Electronic Price Tags & Personalized Promotions

Electronic price tags and personalized promotions will also largely impact referral marketing. For those unfamiliar with this omnichannel trend, “e-tags” basically work by communicating with a customer’s phone through a pre-loaded app. These apps, in turn, trigger the e-tags to flash personalized promotions at a customer while they shop based on that buyer’s shopping data.

For example, if a customer previously purchased a specific brand of clothing, the price tags will light up offering the buyer a personalized discount on that brand. Similar to beacons, I suspect retailers will increasingly use these tags to reach a customer’s friends and family with customized referral promotions.

5. Innovations in Retail Mobile Apps & Referral Insertion

Mobile apps are already a huge part of the referral marketing and omnichannel experience—today some 80% of mobile Wi-Fi customers use their mobile devices while shopping in-store. As these figures grow, we’ll see more and more customers demanding mobile to pull the entire omnichannel experience together.

For retailers, this trend is exciting and daunting. To gain traction, retailers will increasingly be pushed to advance innovations in their mobile app line-up—including finding ways to insert referral promotions into every aspect of their mobile offerings.

A few areas where we can expect to see referral offerings appear within mobile retail are:

  • Mobile ordering and in-store pick-up
  • Stock level checks on in-store supply
  • Mobile digital gift card
  • Omnichannel shopping cart with consistency between desktop, app, and in-store

80% of mobile Wi-Fi customers use their mobile devices while shopping in-store.

Key Takeaways for Omnichannel Trends

Omnichannel trends will play a huge part in how marketers reach both customers and referrals—with Big Data, beacons, omnichannel fulfillment, e-tags and mobile apps being just a few of the major tools in the referral marketing kit for the year ahead.

Increasingly, these tools will become more sophisticated at using real-time analytics to deliver deeper insights into customer behavior. As a result, retailers and marketers will better understand what their customers and referrals want and drive conversions accordingly. Sounds like a pretty great future ahead.

Do you want to share ideas on referral marketing and how it could work for your business? Contact us to get started.

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