Use innovation and creativity

The way that any business communicates and connects with customers is as much an art as it is a science. The art is in thinking creatively about the messages you want to deliver, the personality of your brand and the character of your collection of products or services (e.g. retro, modern, functional etc.). The science is measuring the impact of the communications effort you invest in and evaluating the return you get from the different channels and methods of communication.

Innovation and creativity are characteristics that underpin both artistic and scientific endeavours. Advances in technology and systems provide entrepreneurs and innovators with new ways to communicate and exchange goods. The earliest writing (Sumerian cuneiform) emerged over 5,000 years ago motivated in part by the urge to record financial and trading transactions. Catalogues of products have been with us for over 500 years since the invention of the printing press. The introduction in the 19th century of the postal system in Britain and the coming of the railway spawned a new and unique way for Welsh entrepreneur Pryce Pryce-Jones to sell his wares by mail order.

Explore all the new channels

Fast forward to the 21st century and, whether you are selling products or services, the number of channels to communicate through and engage with people is ever-expanding – so-called β€˜omnichannel’. We still have writing – letters through the door. Catalogues are still being printed and mailed through the postal system. Trains have given way to roads as the best means of delivery for goods –  the ubiquitous white van driver providing the last leg of the fulfilment.

The impact of the internet combined with the rapid adoption of mobile smartphones is the communications and shopping reality we mostly inhabit now. But don’t forget the introduction of the first TV shopping channels in the UK in 1993 – they are still with us and selling many millions of products a year. We still have mailorder and off-the-page advertising of products in colour magazines. And the telephone is still a reliable instrument for delivering services (look at banking) and taking orders for products of all kinds.

The contemporary innovations for the 2020s can be seen in the internet and technology space. The giant marketplace websites Amazon and eBay have accustomed us to online eCommerce shopping. And in the past couple of years, the spread of mobile internet access has enabled social media channels like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and even Twitter to trial and launch shopping features in what is called Social commerce.

Have an integrated strategy

It’s now well established that, in response to the proliferation and diversity of communications channels and shopping/buying opportunities, every business needs to have a coherent multi-channel strategy. And to be successful in your multichannel strategy means ensuring your customers receive a consistent experience – whichever channel they use.

Take for example retailing where, in its simplest form, a shop owner converts to being a multichannel retailer by adding an eCommerce website. This works because it understands and meets the changing behaviours of customers where they will either source online and buy in-store or vice-versa. To deliver a consistent experience here requires some coordination of information on stock in particular, but also pricing, product descriptions and any special offers.

The ability to deliver a consistent experience becomes more difficult and complex as the number of channels increases to include marketplaces, price comparison sites, social media and apps. And this is the challenge for today’s multichannel business.

In many business sectors, there are pioneering new solutions. For shop owners, there’s an example like OMNIS Retail, which has been developed and driven by D2C brands & niche retailers looking to the future. Here a single database eliminates any data integration issues between outdated systems, instead providing a cloud-based multi-channel retail solution fit for the 21st century. So, whatever your approach to customer communications, be sure to think creatively and study the science.