Omnichannel marketing has gained currency as a marketing trend, but it remains widely misunderstood. For example, omnichannel is not the same as multichannel marketing. Companies that merely add mobile and social media elements to an existing marketing initiative aren't creating a true omnichannel strategy.

At its core, omnichannel marketing is about consumer immersion into the brand across all channels. It requires delivery of a seamless experience. When done correctly, omnichannel marketing brings brands to life and drives significant sales increases.

Examples of successful omnichannel marketing

Denny's and Taco Bell are two companies that have recently achieved omnichannel marketing success. The campaigns each company rolled out had distinct and different objectives, but both brands successfully launched an omnichannel approach that creates an immersive experience for customers.

The Denny's campaign was designed to appeal to customers across all age demographics and included a mobile element to drive in-store visits.

Counting on the fact that about 50% of mobile activity takes place away from home, the Denny's campaign featured proximity marketing promotions designed to reach consumers while they were on the go. Denny's supported these appeals with omnichannel messaging that effectively conveyed the company's "America's Diner" brand promise.

The combination of proximity marketing that used mobile messaging and additional omnichannel outreach drove major revenue increases for Denny's. At least one store reported a customer traffic increase of more than 40%.

Taco Bell designed an omnichannel strategy around the "Live Más!" concept, appealing to tech-savvy millennial customers by including a mobile ordering and payment app to speed dining room pickup and drive-thru window transactions. The campaign featured commercials that conveyed a young, fun-focused personality along with a seamless social media campaign aimed squarely at the millennial demographic. By creating an immersive experience, the Live Más! campaign also achieved omnichannel success.

Other well-known brands, such as Starbucks, have also conducted highly successful omnichannel campaigns. Like Denny's and Taco Bell, Starbucks succeeded in the omnichannel space by fully understanding and responding to customer needs.

The campaign techniques those three companies used differed, but they all kept the following principles in mind.

1. Create a brand experience instead of just delivering a sales pitch

Although driving sales is a core goal, omnichannel success depends on creating a holistic experience that transcends any single customer transaction. Putting this type of campaign together requires marketers to consider how customers interact with the brand and a deep understanding of how customers make choices about buying. Taco Bell's omnichannel campaign is a great example of this since the company successfully delivered a holistic experience based on appeals to millennials by integrating technology and projecting a fun image.

2. Reach out to customers at the right time on the devices they use

Omnichannel success also requires analytics and qualitative research to accurately identify which devices customers use and when they are most receptive to marketing messages. The proximity elements in Denny's campaign demonstrate how this can work; the company identified when and how customers use mobile devices and used that knowledge to drive major increases in in-store traffic with tailored promotions delivered to smartphones and tablets.

3. Give customers what they want

Meeting demand is Sales 101, but it's not just a matter of offering the right products. Companies that have successfully created omnichannel strategies used qualitative research and analytics to find out how customers feel about the brand. They use this information to build personas that customers identify with and to offer promotions that drive brand affinity.

Both Taco Bell and Denny's gave customers what they were looking for, but in different ways: Taco Bell created a persona that reflected the millennial personality, and Denny's crafted offers to reach customers where they live.

One of the hallmarks of any successful omnichannel marketing campaign is that each element flows seamlessly to create a greater whole. Omnichannel campaigns can (and typically do) include elements such as television spots, social media outreach, email offers, print promotions, and much more. Those campaigns have many moving parts, so successfully pulling off an omnichannel campaign takes considerable skill and insight.

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Knowing what customers want and how they interact with the brand is a key to omnichannel success, which is why qualitative research and rigorous analytics are a must in putting a successful campaign together. The brands that have rolled out omnichannel campaigns that resonate with their target customer created each element on a foundation of this knowledge.

But once the marketing team understands who customers are, what they value in the brand, and what they need from the company, keep in mind is that the experience must be seamless and organic. Messages must be consistent across all channels, received on the devices customers prefer to use, and arrive at the exact time the customer is most receptive to hearing it. That's how to achieve omnichannel marketing success.

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image of Collin Sebastian

Collin Sebastian is chief product officer at YouEye, a company specializing in market research and qualitative analytics technology.

LinkedIn: Collin Sebastian