Can Facebook Democratize Omnichannel Retail?

Content and social media marketing isn’t just for e-merchants. You might be utilizing the likes of Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest to build awareness of your high street presence, and may very well be marketing your wares across these channels as well.

Furthermore, you’ll have also at some point made the wise decision to open up an e-store of some description to boost your sales. Not everyone can make it to your physical store, after all – but in the digital age that doesn’t and shouldn’t prevent someone 50, 100 or even 1,000 miles away enjoying your brand and your products.

So far, so good, right? But let’s put those distant customers aside for one moment (don’t worry, they’re safe – they’re not going anywhere), for today I want to focus on the omnichannel experience for your in-store customers.

What is omnichannel sales and marketing?

A good question. Before we answer it, however, I think it’s helpful to understand what omnichannel isn’t – and it isn’t multi-channel.

Multi-channel sales and marketing describes the scenario when you’ve got multiple channels through which you market and sell your wares. So, for instance, you have your high street store, your ecommerce site, and perhaps a few items on something like eBay. Your customers know that they can access your wares through any one of these channels – if you haven’t got what they want on eBay, they’ll try your website, and if it’s not on display there, then perhaps they’ll phone up your store and speak to a sales associate.

This is the multi-channel approach.

The fundamentals of omnichannel essentially amount to the same thing – but with a key difference. With omnichannel, your customers have access your exact same inventory, no matter which channel they go through to connect with your brand and your store.

Indeed, moving into omnichannel sales and marketing means that you’re giving your customers the exact same experience no matter if they’re in-store or on their mobile, tablet, laptop or desktop.

The omnichannel revolution

Omnichannel sales and marketing has come about in response to the evolution of the smartphone. High street retailers like yourself will of course have noticed the change over the past 5, 10 or 15 years.

As consumers, our smartphones have become the device of choice for all manner of digital activities – not least shopping. When considering a purchase, our smartphone is our research tool, perhaps first and foremost – whether we’re at home or actually in the store. Indeed, Think With Google reports that a whopping 71% of shoppers who use their mobiles to conduct product research and price comparisons whilst in-store say that these devices have become an integral part of the overall shopping experience.

However, our smartphone usage has gone far beyond research. These days, we’re increasingly expecting to be able to complete more and more phases of the shopping cycle using whichever device it is we happen to have to hand.

Indeed, the multi-channel marketer might announce an in-store promotion on Facebook, and invite customers to come down and have a browse through the shelves. But the omnichannel marketer knows that this isn’t good enough for many modern consumers. They want to be able to simply click through on their mobiles to access the promotion, buy the item immediately, and then have the option to either have it delivered or go down to the store at some point later and pick it up themselves (i.e. buy online pick-up in-store).

Now, I’m sure you’re thinking that this is a nice idea – but there’s no way that we could pull a stunt like this off.

Well, up until recently you’d have been right. Indeed, omnichannel sales and marketing, as you may suspect, has really been the reserve of the giant retail chains that have the money and resources to develop their own mobile applications for their customers, with online efforts underpinned by sophisticated digital infrastructures managing inventories in real-time.

But, back in September, Facebook has made what’s perhaps the first significant step towards the democratization of omnichannel marketing for all high street retailers with Facebook Dynamic Ads.


Facebook Dynamic Ads

Facebook Dynamic Ads are an exciting new innovation from everyone’s favorite social network. Rather than paraphrasing, I’m simply going to quote a couple of paragraphs from the announcement of the launch on the Facebook for Business blog so you know exactly what we’re talking about.

“Many retailers already use Facebook ads to promote their in-store products, but until now it hasn’t been feasible to customise creative for every shop location based on local product availability, pricing or promotions. Marketing out-of-stock products or inaccurate local prices can lead to a bad customer experience and wasted impressions. Now, with dynamic ads for retail, campaigns can dynamically showcase products available in the shop that’s closest to the person seeing the ad.

“For example, if a fashion retailer wishes to advertise a nationwide sales event happening at every shop, dynamic ads for retail will only showcase products that are in-stock at a nearby shop and display the price found at that location. As the ads are linked to the local product catalogue, if a product sells out in one shop the campaign automatically adjusts so that people in that region will no longer see it advertised. Product selection for each ad can be optimized based on people’s online and mobile shopping behaviour.”


This sort of capability – and indeed this level of service – has up until now only been available for retailers with the sorts of budgets that afford them to build branded and bespoke applications of this nature for themselves. But now Facebook is working hard to enable practically every retailer with a local bricks-and-mortar presence to enter the world of omnichannel sales and marketing. And this is one giant leap towards the democratization of the practice.

Add to this the recent introduction (June 2016) of Facebook’s Store Locator that enables retailers to create Local Awareness adverts to help bring people through the doors, and we can see that the future of social media marketing – or at least Facebook marketing – for high street retailers lies in omnichannel. And, for this blogger at least, that is one very exciting prospect indeed.

Over to you

Facebook Dynamic Ads are currently being tested by some of the larger retailers, including Argos, Macy’s and Target. Though we’re promised that the “objective will become more widely available to eligible clients in the coming weeks.”

Please let us know if you have managed to get started with Dynamic Ads yet, and of course please share your thoughts about the future of omnichannel democratization in the comments below.

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John WaldronJohn Waldron

Writer with markITwrite who regularly writes on lifestyle and technology. He is also a fiction writer who has penned a number of short stories, play scripts, and stories for children. He is the author of the foraging blog, First Time Foragers: Recipes and Stories for Beginners. He has a First-Class Honours Degree in English with Creative Writing and an MA in Professional Writing from University College Falmouth, Cornwall.

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