Michael Nutley
Michael Nutley 19 July 2021

Omnichannel Marketing Can Close the Gap Between Brands and their Customers

There are always gaps between where consumers spend their media time, and brands spend their advertising budgets. New research reveals where the biggest discrepancies are right now, and why. And it examines why omnichannel marketing is advertisers' best strategy to close these gaps, and the ones that will inevitably emerge in the future.

Consumers have always adopted new channels and moved seamlessly between them, challenging brands to be in the right place at the right moment. The sudden changes in behaviour sparked by the Covid-19 pandemic made this challenge even more formidable.

The result was a widening of existing gaps between where consumers were spending their media time and brands were spending their advertising dollars, and the creation of new ones.

A new report by London Research for Catalyst and Xaxis identifies where these discrepancies are most significant, and how brands should respond. The key conclusion of Closing the Gap: Adopting Omnichannel Strategies for Stronger Brand-Consumer Connections is that advertisers adopting an omnichannel approach will be best positioned to minimise current gaps, and to capitalise on those that will inevitably appear in the future.

The report also finds that:

  • The biggest gap between customer engagement and advertiser spend is in search. The pandemic saw people across all age groups increase their use of search, but fewer than half the marketers surveyed have increased spending in the channel.
  • Differences in media consumption and attitudes to online advertising are not as simple as old vs. young. There are subtle but significant differences between the first cohort to grow up with the internet and their younger counterparts.
  • Marketers are bullish about their progress towards an agile, integrated approach based on business-wide outcomes. They are embracing the benefits of programmatic as its capabilities expand across channels including audio, CTV and digital out-of-home (DOOH).
  • The major barriers to greater integration are siloed organisational structures, disconnected technologies, the difficulty of attributing results to activities, and the lack of data science skills.
  • On the journey to omnichannel marketing, most marketers see traditional TV as an outsider in an increasingly integrated world.
  • Only about a third of marketers see the effects of growing privacy concerns – including changes in consumer digital identifiers, consumer sentiment, and privacy regulations – as a major barrier to more integrated marketing.

 Emerging Opportunities

As well as looking at where the gaps are between consumers and advertisers, the research asked marketers where they think they’re over- or under-spending, to find out where opportunities are emerging as channels and their capabilities evolve. 

The majority of respondents are comfortable with their budgeting decisions, but the channels where marketers are more likely to think they’re spending too little rather than too much are ecommerce/retail media and audio/podcast advertising.

The research reinforces the suggestion that both these channels could be on the verge of significant growth, finding younger consumers in particular are receptive to advertising on ecommerce platforms. As new capabilities develop, and new platforms evolve their retail media offerings, brands will have more opportunities to reach new audiences and win a place in the ‘first basket’ on these platforms.

In the case of podcasting, the switch from host-read sponsorship advertising to programmatically traded pre-recorded commercials appears to be driving greater investment in the medium.

Omnichannel Finds its Moment

Closing the Gap defines omnichannel marketing as “empowering clients to reach and engage with their customers across multiple touch points, providing a way to create a seamless and integrated customer experience, tied directly to, and optimized towards, their true business outcomes”.

That means being data-driven, adopting outcome-based strategies, working with the appropriate partners and technologies, and constantly testing new channels and platforms.

The research also discusses how the shift to digital of established channels such as OOH and audio advertising means they are now at the tipping point of becoming part of an omnichannel strategy. Traditional advertising is evolving from mass awareness to targeted, dynamic, and personalised messages with measurable solutions to support the full funnel.

Programmatic buying, with its emphasis on leading and ending with data, is a powerful force for this integration, bringing together planning, activation, and optimisation across multiple channels and breaking down silos.

Closing the Gap is based on two surveys – of 200 business respondents and of 2,000 consumers – and on interviews with brands and agencies. The interviews include marketers sharing their perspectives on managing emerging and proven strategies through omnichannel to drive outcomes.

To read Closing the Gap: Adopting Omnichannel Strategies for Stronger Brand-Consumer Connections in full, please click here.

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