Calling “omnichannel” a marketing buzzword might have been considered a hot take in 2014.
So what’s changed in six years? Well, for starters, marketers today have a much better understanding of what omnichannel actually means.
When omnichannel first entered the scene in the early 2010s, it was often confused with multichannel marketing. The two are similar in that both involve marketing to consumers across multiple channels, but the messaging and strategy in a multichannel campaign varies between platforms.
In omnichannel marketing, a consistent message is delivered across all platforms and mediums (think: search, social media and banner ads) and evolves as a customer makes their way through a company’s sales funnel.
Being able to clearly define omnichannel marketing is incredibly important to digital marketing companies — especially when their competitors sometimes play fast and loose with the term.
“We’ve seen people using the omnichannel terminology even though they aren’t necessarily using the methodology,” said Joel Sesco, national director of automotive at Adtaxi, a Denver-based digital marketing agency. “That has become the most important piece: defining what we mean. What does Adtaxi omnichannel do for clients and what’s the difference when we say ‘omnichannel’ versus someone else?”
Adtaxi began work on an omnichannel marketing solution for the automotive industry in early 2017. The company said it took its approach to omnichannel a step further, though, with the ability to shift budget dynamically between platforms in the pursuit of the lowest cost per conversion.
It sounds simple: Find the platform with the best ROI and put more money behind it. According to Sesco, this type of technology didn’t yet exist in the automotive marketing industry, so the Adtaxi team had to build everything from scratch.
Adtaxi is taking what it learned from the project and applying it to the development of a new omnichannel marketing solution, one that’s being built for a much more complex industry: e-commerce.
From side project to scalability
Adtaxi’s omnichannel marketing platform was born out of a talk given by Adtaxi’s Vice President of Strategic Accounts Brian Kroll, who focused on how minute budget shifts could impact the performance of a campaign. Kroll’s talk inspired Sesco and a colleague to investigate the potential of omnichannel further.
“No one told us to do this,” Sesco said. “We went to our leadership team and asked if we could spend some time working on this project. People have good ideas all the time, and Adtaxi is unique in that the company allows people to take their ideas and flesh them out.”
Sesco oversees the automotive category for Adtaxi, including the development and rollout of digital marketing products specific to the automotive industry. He also serves as a thought leader, speaking at conferences on the topic of digital marketing.
Sesco said the auto industry was chosen to pilot the new tech because dealerships often have shared digital marketing goals: to drive views to the individual information pages of cars (that is, vehicle display page views, or VDP views). Even though they knew their goal was to increase VDP views without increasing spend, the team still had to build the machine learning algorithms that determined where the budget should be shifted and why.
“Putting money where it’ll be spent wisest sounds like common sense, but actually doing that is so difficult,” Sesco said. “For example, every Google Ads conversion is based on somebody clicking the ad. We can’t track people who see the ad and don’t click, but we can with a banner ad. How do you weigh which one is worth more, and what’s the mechanism for deciding what shifts budget and why?”
While building the logic behind their omnichannel marketing technology presented a major challenge, testing it was much easier, Sesco said. If the tool worked, dealerships would see a consistent drop over time in the cost per VDP view, or more conversions for the same amount of spend. And, according to Sesco, that’s exactly what happened during testing with Adtaxi’s first major client.
It’s not just moving the budget, but understanding the ecosystem and how we should work within the platforms.”
Despite the success of its automotive omnichannel solution, the sheer variety of online retailers and the more sophisticated nature of digital marketers in the space means Adtaxi has to retool its technology for the e-commerce industry.
“These are two very different worlds,” said Yael Zlatin, head of e-commerce. “This omnichannel product was created around the automotive industry, and now we’re asking our product team to apply it to a different vertical.”
One solution, infinite use cases
The good news is that Adtaxi isn’t exactly starting from scratch: Zlatin said her team is leaning heavily on the company’s experience developing an omnichannel marketing solution for the automotive industry.
While the two solutions may look structurally similar, Zlatin said her team is building the algorithms powering Adtaxi’s e-commerce omnichannel marketing platform from the ground up. The company would have to adjust and rethink its algorithms due to the complexity of e-commerce industry.
Zlatin is part of a small, cross-functional team developing Adtaxi’s omnichannel e-commerce marketing platform. In addition to playing a key role in that project, she’s also responsible for researching, developing and executing strategies that help the company’s e-commerce customers increase their conversions and speaking at industry conferences about e-commerce solutions.
Zlatin said the basic way e-commerce marketers measure success is through return on ad spend, or ROAS. For some companies, generating $3 in revenue for every $1 spent on advertising is a success, while others look for a much greater return. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, even among e-commerce companies that sell the same product, and Adtaxi’s new platform needs to be able to account for that — while also tracking attribution across multiple platforms.
According to Zlatin, this is a challenge few in the industry are up for.
“People in e-commerce are having a hard time wrapping their heads around omnichannel,” Zlatin said. “I was recently part of a panel in Los Angeles, and some of my co-panelists who run seven, eight-figure brands were talking about going back to measuring success by clicks — not even ROAS, because they cannot understand what their ROI is.”
Additionally, Adtaxi also has to ensure that its tool enables marketers to maximize the content they’ve created for each stage in the customer journey, Zlatin said. Put another way, the goal is to both find the best cost per conversion and ensure that boosted budgets are used in the most effective way possible.
“Let’s say you shift spending from Google to Facebook or from Facebook to Programmatic,” Zlatin said. “Increasing your budget on a specific platform allows us to serve up more personalized and robust content. It’s not just moving the budget, but understanding the ecosystem and how we should work within the platforms.”
Similar to the developmental stages of omnichannel marketing solutions for the automotive industry, Adtaxi is once again in uncharted territory with e-commerce. Yet, she’s confident that the team will soon nail down the logic behind its algorithms and said her team has already identified target accounts for beta testing.
“Omnichannel journey, as well as attribution, are the next obstacles every business owner in the advertising community will have to overcome,” Zlatin said. “I really feel like Adtaxi has the ability to ask the right questions at the right time about the industry as well as our client’s needs — our most important priority.”