In our previous article, we discussed the upward trend of private traffic in China. In particular, we figured out two structural problems hindering brands' growth on marketplaces and emphasized that brands need to reach the ratio of 70-30 public-private traffic to secure the relationship with customers and achieve long-term growth.
To achieve the goal, brands need to build an ecosystem that initiates direct connections with customers and enhances their experience across all touchpoints. In this article, we will go deeper into how brands can create such a dynamic ecosystem with an omnichannel strategy.
First of all, let’s start with a definition: Omnichannel is an approach that interlinks all channels on which a brand is operating, such as social media, websites, physical stores, and more. This strategy has two main advantages:
It consolidates all customer data into one single (or a limited amount of) platform.
It provides customers with a seamless and consistent experience regardless of the platforms with which they are interacting.
The omnichannel approach places the customers at the center of the buying experience. It aims at providing customers with an effortless buying journey across all touchpoints, which leads to a higher conversion and retention rate among customers.
Most importantly, omnichannel can help you nurture your private traffic. To learn more about Private Traffic, read our previous article.
The omnichannel approach places the customer at the center of the buying experience
Now that we specified what an omnichannel approach means, let’s take an in-depth look at how to build an ecosystem for your brand and reach the 70-30 public-private ratio that many brands are after. While there is still a high chance that your brand will be discovered on one of the biggest marketplaces, such as T-Mall, Taobao, or JD.com, your brand will need to drive that traffic into a private ecosystem. We will show one potential journey in the next sections.
First of all, let’s have a look at the four main tools that enable your brand to build an omnichannel ecosystem in China:
1. WeChat & WeChat Work
WeChat is undoubtedly the king of social media and communication in China. WeChat can become a powerful sales and engagement channel for many brands, for both local and cross-border e-commerce. Mini Programs and Official Accounts need to be part of the equation, and so do private groups and WeChat Work. WeChat Work is a dynamic tool for retailers with a strong offline presence, or for those who can benefit from a strong relationship between customers and sales reps.
2. Social Customer Relationship Management (Social CRM) and Marketing Automation
Social CRM is the integration of social media channels into a centralized CRM platform. All customer data from social media channels, such as name, gender, location, most recent purchase, and so on, are pulled together and analyzed under the same platform. It provides insights for brands to personalize their future content and product offerings. Jing Social, for instance, is one of the leading social CRM platforms in China.
3. Content Management System (CMS)
CMS is a user-friendly platform for brands to manage the creation, modification, and publication of their digital content, such as blog articles, product listings, mini-games, online vouchers, etc. These contents can be pushed to several front-end interfaces such as WeChat Official Accounts, Mini Programs, mobile apps, websites, in-store experience, etc., providing a consistent experience to customers across all channels. Popular CMS platforms include Drupal, WordPress, Laravel (mostly, business logic or light CMS functionalities), etc.
4. Order Management System (OMS)
OMS is a solution for managing, selling, and fulfilling inventory, regardless of the channels on which the brands are operating. OMS provides brands with global visibility of inventory and creates a seamless, yet consistent experience from when the customer places an order, to when the package is delivered or picked up. OMS helps brands increase their sales while reducing costs and accelerating the time to market. Popular OMS platforms include Magento (ITC’s favorite OMS platform and our recommendation for international brands in China) ), Shopex, etc.
How do all these components work together?
To show how these four elements work together, we imagined a normal day in the life of Yiwen, a customer who recently purchased a pair of shoes on brand ABC’s Tmall store. After receiving her new pair of shoes, she decides to collect some points by scanning the enclosed WeChat QR code and to start following the brand’s WeChat Official Account.
This is the start of her private traffic journey.
Step 1 - Learning about Customers
As Yiwen scans the QR code, her customer profile is automatically created in the brand’s social CRM system. Also, more data will be added to Yiwen's profile over time as she continues to engage with the brand by browsing content on the WeChat Official Account. After a particular enticing sales promotion, finally she places an order on ABC’s WeChat Mini Program and continues sharing content and liking posts. In the future, this data will provide insights for the brand to provide more customizable content to Yiwen.
Another entry point can be WeChat Work, especially for offline retailers. WeChat Work provides brands the chance to proactively add customers into their private ecosystem by simply adding a sales associate of the brand, which is as easy as adding someone on WeChat. This way, customers are now connected to a sales associate, and therefore connected to the brand, without leaving the WeChat platform.
Step 2 - Personalized Content to Drive Sales
Once we have more information about Yiwen, social CRM will help brand ABC bring Yiwen to her desired content pulled from the CMS at the right time, on the right channels (Official Account, Mini Program, etc.), based on insights from her last activities. Being constantly exposed to content offers her a fully tailored customer experience. Yiwen is encouraged to make a new purchase on her preferred channels.
Step 3: Order Centralization via OMS
When Yiwen purchases a product from either an online or an offline store, her orders can be processed and fulfilled by a centralized OMS. When an order is placed, the OMS will check the stock management system for the number of pieces available in different inventories, then connect with the inventory and fulfillment center to prepare her desired products(the availability of stock can also be featured to give a sense of FOMO - more on this concept will be covered in an upcoming article). If no stock is available in the warehouse, the system will check the product availability in the physical stores, and request the order to be shipped from there. When Yiwen makes a repeated purchase, this consumer behavior will be attached to her profile which can be retrieved from the social CRM system and data. This will allow the online stores or the in-store shopping assistants to offer her personalized offerings based on her interests.
These components work together in harmony to provide your brand with in-depth customer insights and hands-on tools to deliver a brilliant customer experience. On top of that, the private traffic gained through your omnichannel ecosystem will be owned by your brand, giving you the full power to leverage it in the long run.
To effectively leverage private traffic with an omnichannel approach, brands won’t need to build a new ecosystem from scratch. It doesn’t matter which systems you are working with, the most important thing is to plug the new digital assets into your current ERP or third-party logistics system. You can already have an existing OMS managing all your Tmall and JD orders and build a full omnichannel private traffic structure on top of it via APIs. This will bring your customer relationships and possibly your revenue and profit to a new level. Besides, to maintain a consistent experience, the new system will allow all the data from customer interactions across channels to flow directly into your system and be consolidated under one platform. With an omnichannel infrastructure, your brand’s relationship with customers is back in your hands.
Building an omnichannel ecosystem is essential for brands in the new era of private traffic. Creating such an omnichannel experience necessitates a comprehensive and powerful solution, which is harmonized between WeChat, sCRM, CMS, OMS, loyalty program, and other elements. By having your own digital channels, brands can take control of the customer relationship, gain more useful insights and provide a seamless, consistent experience to customers across several channels, and achieve long-term growth in China.