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Automotive Omni-Channel Marketing. What is it, and how is it different from Multi-Channel Marketing?

By Earl Brown, President Drive Promotions

Many marketing companies have found that the use of the term "Omni-Channel" sounds new and exciting to their prospective clients. Unfortunately, many of the companies who constantly use the term 'Omni-Channel' are really describing services that are "multi-channel". The two terms are being used interchangeably throughout the industry, which has led to a lot of confusion among dealers like yourself.

So what is the difference between an Omni-Channel marketing solution and a Multi-Channel marketing solution? Well, the biggest factor is the audience itself and the different ways your marketing channels interact with those audiences. Multi-Channel means "Many" and Omni-Channel means "All".

In a traditional Multi-Channel Marketing campaign, the advertiser deploys an array of various ad strategies through direct, indirect, traditional, and non-traditional channels. Delivering a lot of different messages, through a lot of different channels, to a lot of different people and giving them the ability to choose how they interact.

Most dealers in the U.S. are already doing multi-channel campaigns on a monthly basis. For example, your dealerships different "Channels" this month could include: a database email with service specials, a direct mail campaign with a buy-back message, a big in-store promotion designed to get as many people as possible into your showroom, tv spots focusing on the upcoming holiday payment specials, SEM targeting people at a local festival with a coupon etc. When you deploy all of those different channels, all going out to very different audiences with varied messages, that is an example of a Multi-Channel campaign. Multi-Channel = Multiple audiences, multiple messages through multiple channels with multiple goals.

A true Omni-Channel camapign is a little bit different in theory and practice than your standard-issue multi-channel campaign. A key difference between Multi-Channel and Omni-Channel is in the customers experience, how their experience blends together through the various channels of your campaign. A primary goal of a true omni-channel campaign is to make the customers experience seamless. The way to make their individual 'start to finish' experience seamless, is to deliver a unique core message through multiple channels to them. In an omni-channel campaign, your dealerships primary mission would be to identify one core group of prospects, and then to design recognizable and memorable ads and messages to be delivered to them through the various available channels. There are lots of ways to accomplish this goal but one of the most common ways is campaign theming.

For example: your dealership decides that it wants to have a big September, so you have your agency put together a big Labor Day themed sales promotion to kick the month off. Maybe there is an additional OEM conquest incentive, so you decide that you'd like to target only people who own competitive make vehicles. An example of a true omni-channel ad strategy would be to deliver all of your theme matched messages to that audience. That way, when you launch the campaign - your target customers receive an email with your big Labor Day low payment specials, then they see your Labor Day themed "find out how much your trade is worth" banner on Facebook, a couple days later they get a personalized direct mail piece with a similar themed message. As you can see, it's a great way to drive your point home to the people you are most interested in selling to. By the end of your campaign, your audience is going to understand that you've got something big happening for Labor Day. You message was clear, and concise, yet muilti=faceted. Easy to understand and easy to remember.

It's not confusing, or convoluted. Your company, brand, and marketing message come across crystal clear and coherent because all of the different channels match. It lends credence to the idea that something big really is going on. Omni-Channel is more effective at developing the passive viewers of your ads into active viewers for that reason. Repetition helps to drive the success of the campaign. Earl Nightingale said: "Whatever we plant in our subconscious mind and nourish with repetition and emotion, will one day become a reality", The same is true of Omni-Channel marketing, whatever message you plant and repeat with emotion, is extremely likely to eventually become a reality in the minds of your audience. Consistency in messaging is the most underrated asset in the average dealers marketing strategy

So, now that you understand the basic differences between Multi-Channel and Omni-Channel marketing campaigns, it must be said that your customers do not see your brand as being of different partitions. As far as your customer is concerned, your showroom should be no different than your website, which should be no different than your facebook page, which should be no different than your T.V. ad, and so on. They don't distinguish the differences between your various channels like you do, Most dealers treat their different channels like seperate businesses altogether. This is where the big dealer groups and brands distinguish themselves best. The most successful dealers in America tend to employ comprehensive omni-channel strategies.
So if Omni-Channel is so much better than binary marketing and multi-channel marketing, why isn't everybody doing it? Simple answer? It's not easy. For one thing, many marketing companies do not have the ability to contact a core audience across multiple channels. It requires access to exceptionally good data. To be able to deliver an email, a text message, a facebook banner, and a direct mail message to the same prospect is not something that most marketing companies have the ability to do right now. That is quickly changing as the available data sets get better and better; but until dealers like yourself start demanding a more cohesive and consistent strategy, like your customers demand from other brands they interact with, ad agencies and marketing companies will continue down the easier spray-and-pray "Multi-Channel' and 'Single Channel' path. After all, it still objectively sell cars, so... "good enough" right?

Wrong, the future for retail automotive sales is not going to get any easier, your marketing is going to have to get better and your brand identity is going to have to become more clear. It's important that your dealership starts the process of moving towards an Omni-Channel paradigm. That's how to win in automotive marketing, now and into the future. Find your audience, and deliver them a coherent message through an array of effective channels. Simplify to sell more.


Bottom Line: Multi-Channel and Omni Channel are both unique marketing campaigns that can be deployed successfully to sell vehicles and drive more engagement with your dealership and brand, but your customers are demanding that your messages be more coherant and consolidated. Omni-channel is the future of retail marketing, and creates not only more engagement, but better retention, and in turn better sales and revenue results. Take a look at an Omni-Channel campaign that we offer called: Auto-Drive today!
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