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The Omnichannel Opportunity: A Path to Seamless Experiences

The word ‘omnichannel’ always bothered me. For years I thought it was nothing more than a trendy made-up word created by Gen Z to sell software and consulting hours.

It is also a blatant hijacking of established linguistic terms: ‘omni’ is Latin for ‘any’ or ‘all’ and is used as a prefix for common words like omnidirectional (all directions), and omnivorous (consumption of both plants and animals). and heavier terms such as omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient.

To me, the “O” word represented something akin to a buzzword gone wrong.

I thought it was ridiculous that we would characterize a marketing strategy or technology product this way. I thought it was a downright dirty word. But recently I changed my mind.

Can “omnichannel” really be more than a corporate hokum designed to win business cases and close software deals? Let’s find out.

What is omnichannel about?

Most companies use various communication systems to talk to customers. Salesforce may be your B2B prospecting tool for sales agents.

Yet all email marketing goes through Marketo, or your e-commerce or operational ERP may not align well with what’s being sent to customers. Each martech tool has its unique methodology and identifiers.

That’s why CDPs love to sing the praises of omnichannel – it’s one concept that sums up the problem perfectly: to unify experiences, you need to unify data. Boring. We heard that. Next one.

In reality, omnichannel embodies the desire of marketers at major brands to make the customer experience seamless, frictionless, and highly personalized. But here’s what’s intriguing: marketers are used to a very linear concept of business growth.

As illustrated by the classic paradigm funnel, each channel plays a distinct role: increasing awareness, converting customers, providing post-purchase care, and increasing their loyalty and retention.

But omnichannel puts a different spin on that concept: the realization that the customer experience does not move in a single, sequential direction, but is essentially omnidirectional.

The funnel is just part of the journey, and between the channels, interactions, and online and in-person experiences lies a wide range of touchpoints.

A better way to understand how the flow of customers moves in and around a brand is through what I have referred to as the “minicircles”:

The activities in both circles can sometimes look the same. However, effective acquisition tactics will always require more loyalty-oriented strategies, such as winning back customers, keeping them satisfied, and maintaining engagement.

It’s a balancing act. Over-indexed in one circle, the other suffers. But the middle offers a ripe opportunity to create exponential growth.

Fundamentally, omnichannel is about harmonizing both business strategies. Loyal customers are the basis for who we should target with paid media campaigns.

The purchasing and online behavior of valuable customers not only drives the design of our storefronts, apps, and online stores but also directly influences the focus of our content.

A loyal, happy, and active consumer base is the compass of a growing brand. On the other hand, there is no loyalty without strong acquisition; finding the right customers and consistently growing the size of the brand’s pie strengthens customer retention.

It’s clear that omnichannel goes beyond just doing things through different media: it’s about all channels contributing to business and customer goals. But the question we should ask ourselves about our omnichannel strategies is whether they are really good for business.

Dig deeper: Marketing in the age of the ubiquitous consumer

Omnichannel as a benefit maximizer

To do omnichannel well, there needs to be a tremendous amount of strategic, political, and technical commitment, and even then you need to ask the management team to sign millions of dollars to get it off the ground. Where’s the payoff here?

To answer that question, we need to look at the companies that are actively investing in omnichannel strategies. Since the focus of omnichannel is reserved for companies with a lot of stuff or people on the go, we’re putting (you guessed it) retail in the spotlight.

The retail sector is particularly sensitive because there is always so much in motion:

  • Customers who move via websites.
  • Emails and messages bounce back and forth.
  • Packages in various stages of delivery and return transactions.

It’s hardly controlled chaos. And because there are so many states a customer can be in at any given time, retail ultimately suffers the most from experiencing discombobulation. At least, that’s the theory. What are the actual results when retail does omnichannel?

Personalizing the customer experience in retail can increase overall grocery sales by as much as 2%, and even more in fashion and other retail categories. McKinsey.

But when you ask customers if they want to get personalized omnichannel experiences, the… Research into trends in supermarket technology 2023 from RIS News says they don’t. But they do love a cheeky discount code.

It’s a mixed bag. Here’s my opinion:

If you don’t do omnichannel, you can’t compete with the players who certainly do, while providing world-class experiences.

The higher costs of not improving the customer experience at a time when platform giants like Amazon, Uber, and Instacart continue to cannibalize retail means that traditional retailers will have to play catch-up. You simply cannot ignore this.

Tim Masons and Sarah Jarvis’ second edition book, “Omnichannel Retail – How to Build Winning Stores in a Digital World,” sees this era as a unique opportunity for retailers:

“The Internet is undeniably the biggest and most relevant recent change in retail because of its impact on the way businesses interact with and serve customers. While the average business traditionally operated a single physical sales channel – the store – many companies now support multiple digital and physical sales and marketing channels, through the store and e-commerce websites and marketplaces, to social media networks and traditional advertising media, including print, television and radio.”

Retail companies are in an exceptionally unique period in history, and it is their time to take it and run or roll over and die as a new generation of merchants rush in to grab the spoils of a new world.

Omnichannel needs strong March leadership

In the white space of words scrawled in this article, it all seems very simple. Omnichannel is harmony; it is a united force in a company to serve a customer – end of story.

But for most brands, within these “minicircles” lies a complex maze of political struggles, incentives, hierarchies, KPIs, OKRs, responsibilities, and pet projects that make any form of truly collaborative unity incredibly challenging.

People leading omnichannel programs have a deep awareness and empathy for the customer. Trying to contact an airline if your flight has been canceled or the bank if your account has been hacked is a make-or-break moment for a brand.

Martech people want to differentiate their brand through experience, and that is something to be celebrated.

But beyond that, omnichannel should be about truly omniscient business, a company that sees everything that happens to its customers and takes holistic, proactive action around that flow of information.

Customer journeys fail because they reflect the dysfunction, asymmetry, and lack of alignment in teams. If the mobile team has no idea what the CRM team is doing or what campaigns the paid media team is running, then it will reflect poorly on the customer experience.

True leaders in martech look at the opportunities of omnichannel and the pitfalls of not pursuing it. They create a vision to execute, a path to explore, and a banner under which people can unite.

The task of uniting people for a common purpose rests squarely on the shoulders of business leaders. Omnichannel is simply a reflection of that unity.

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