Hold on a second… Didn’t we resolve this whole “omnichannel” thing seven or eight years ago? Well, yes and no. Though a decade has passed since omnichannel first entered the marketing lexicon, the industry is still getting to grips with its exact definition (yes, really) and how it’s best brought to life.
With her unparalleled experience, Jenna, our VP of Digital Media, took the wheel for this episode as our intrepid trio shared their journeys in omnichannel and explained exactly how omnichannel strategies should work in 2021 and beyond. So, let’s get to it: these are the top four takeaways from Inside the Funnel episode four.
Omnichannel is not multichannel
Omnichannel has a certain sci-fi quality about it, but it’s not a TV villain from the 1980s. Neither is it an aged concept—though it does feel that way at times.
Instead, omnichannel is a strategy that recognizes the need for brands to satisfy user intent across multiple points of contact, online or offline, to improve relationships with their customers and target customers. It comprises channels, content, tactics, and experiences that are designed and orchestrated to cooperate across the entire customer journey, centered in audience intent, and optimized using all relevant data.
The main point here is that omnichannel is centered around people, whereas multichannel is centered on product. Forbes found extraordinary retention rates among brands that at least attempted to execute omnichannel strategies. When you get it right, in other words, omnichannel is a multiplier in terms of business impact.
And it isn’t attribution analysis, either
Attribution is primarily a business asking itself, “How did I do? How did these decisions benefit me?” Contrast that with omnichannel experiences (going beyond marketing alone), where there main question is, “How do we make this awesome for our customers?” Attribution for different media tactics is just one facet of an overarching omnichannel approach, helping reveal how to better connect different channels to work in sync.
Are we really saying that omnichannel is about putting other people’s needs first? Are marketers really that altruistic? Just think about the last time you had to engage with a brand to resolve an issue. If that resolution took place over multiple channels, chances are you had to repeat yourself multiple times. If you didn’t have to repeat yourself, that particular brand is getting omnichannel right—or the fundamentals, at least—and the positive impression you take away with you cannot be captured by a simple data signal about attribution.
To that end, omnichannel is about shielding customers from the internal politics of your organizational chart and business structure, and instead letting them engage with your brand in a natural and seamless way. Easy, right?
Organizational change is a prerequisite
When CMO job titles are replaced or augmented by Chief Customer Officers (CCO) or Chief Experience Officers (CXO), there’s a good chance that the organizations in question are geared to succeed in omnichannel—and not only in the marketing and advertising sense. But realigning an entire operation around the customer experience can be a fiendishly difficult thing to do, especially if it includes overcoming organizational momentum (or inertia) and deeply rooted mentalities and conventions.
In retail, for example, it’s possible to identify organizational structures just by looking at a website’s navigation, which is often determined by merchandising more than any other department. If one business unit lacks the resources to make an impact while another has more media dollars than it can possibly spend, then a brand is simply competing with itself for the customer’s attention rather than coordinating its internal teams to elevate the customer experience. In such situations, omnichannel remains only a pipe dream.
Infrastructure is only half the battle
In the back end, omnichannel demands a suite of platforms that work well together—and app developers are starting to notice. Shopify, with its “omnichannel by default” slogan, is super easy to deploy for a new venture building from the ground up. Of course, things are a little more complicated for established businesses dealing with multiple iterative technologies and a host of different platforms.
Yet in the age of DMPs, CDPs, and integrated first-party data, even the most complex tools are simply enablers. The necessary training, messaging, unification of procedures, and buy-in from leadership is often a more complicated task than the supporting technology. That’s why we’ve invested so much into our Enterprise-to-Local framework, which informs omnichannel deployments specifically for brands with distributed local footprints.
So… Why won’t this conversation go away?
Omnichannel is an intimidating topic to broach, and its barriers to entry can appear to be all but impossible to overcome. For a start, the entire company from the top down needs to buy into the vision. That’s a big ask in these uncertain times; many leadership teams would rather stick to tried-and-tested, risk-averse tactics instead taking the road less traveled.
But even though the “omni” part of the word has an intimidating ring to it, it is possible to deploy workarounds and make iterative progress towards omnichannel sales and marketing.
- Crawl: The starting point is as simple as offering your customers multiple buying options. Online, in-store, mail order—it all counts.
- Walk: If your different channels work in harmony, you’re on your way. You may even take solace from the fact that some of the best-known retailers still struggle with the simplest cross-channel experiences (e.g. buying online, picking up in-store).
- Run: Okay, things are getting serious at this stage. You’re only “running” in omnichannel if you can effectively and consistently combine store and ecommerce data for a single customer view. As we have established, this is much easier said than done.
- Race: If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea. In other words, you’ve mastered omnichannel when your every action is focused on just one thing: a completely personalized customer experience each and every time.
Fortunately, Dan makes it simple for everyone: “Just pick two things that don’t talk to each other and wire them up. Done. Now let’s take that new thing, which is two things, and wire it up to another thing. Let’s iteratively chip away at this disconnected ecosystem.”
Piqued your interest? Listen to the full episode now, or delve into our podcast archive for previous adventures from Inside the Funnel.