By now, just about everyone in marketing has heard of the phrase omnichannel marketing. Some are using it as a interchangeable with multichannel marketing or cross-channel marketing, some are not yet sure what omnichannel means and why it is different and some seem to confuse it with marketing automation.
First off, omnichannel is really a marketing ideology, not a marketing discipline or even a strategy. Inspired by evolving consumer habits, digital data and developments in technology, omnichannel marketing is a consumer-centric approach to developing marketing strategy and practices, offering consumers a seamless experience via any of their preferred channels, media or devices. Of course, given the plethora of options available to consumers and ever accelerating growth of channels, media and devices, the campaign that truly uses all channels available may never happen. It’s omnichannel’s consumer-centric approach that’s important.
Multichannel vs. Omnichannel
Many brands have already invested in multichannel marketing programmes in an effort to target their audiences more comprehensively, offer customers different ways to communicate with them and to better integrate marketing communications, sales and customer service. As media and technology have continued to create new channels, such as social media, brands have added new channels to their mix. In fact, the drive to be everywhere has exposed plenty of weak spots, sometimes diluting effort in the process. What’s been missing, is the technology to make communications across these channels seamless and the corporate will to refocus on and invest in creating a unified customer experience.
The evolution of the digital consumer
Omnichannel marketing also comes in response to fast changing consumer habits. Twenty years ago, brands could expect to lead the customer through a sequence of steps using the brand’s preferred sales and marketing channels. The brand’s communications, pre-sales, sales, customer service and support resources could then all be introduced to the consumer at the appropriate time, each via the most cost-effective channel.
In recent years, the explosive growth of digital media, ecommerce and mobile services has broken traditional media and marketing models. Consumers are no longer limited by a few channels and brands no longer dictate how consumers communicate with them. Whilst the death of marketing segmentation has been somewhat overstated, it means less and less as consumers have an almost infinite number of choices available for where they get their news, discover brands, research products and services, seek customer reviews and engage with brands. ‘Typical customers’ are harder to define.
Relevance, differentiation and customer experience
In a world where digital preferences are atomised and consumers continually switch from media channel to media channel, and from device to device, consumer attention can be fleeting. All brands now have to work hard to remain relevant and are many struggling to differentiate themselves. So, part of the solution is certainly a multichannel approach where brands make themselves more accessible across different platforms. However, this is rapidly becoming insufficient.
Brands now need to win back some of that influence and attention that’s been eroded by new digital technologies, by developing a unified, seamless and deeply personlised customer experience, regardless of when the consumer is engaging via social media on a mobile phone, calling the contact centre or is standing in front of the store checkout.
No time to waste
Of course, a key reason that the phrase omnichannel marketing has found its way into the media, on to conference platforms and into the boardroom, is the marketing push by technology vendors eager to sell their solutions for our new omnichannel world.
As with all new technology, price points, availability and resource requirements put the latest technology out of reach for many brands, including much of the SME sector. Most of us must work with the technology that’s already been ‘democratised’. That said, development cycles move much faster these days, which means that the tools and technologies now being experimented with by the world’s biggest brands, will become available to the wider market sooner than anyone previously may have thought possible.
Big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) will all play a pivotal role in what’s to come next, which means more technology and more technology investment. However, as any CTO or CIO knows, most technology implementations fail due to human factors. Organisations that want to embrace omnichannel marketing will not only need to break down the barriers to information access, but they’ll also need to align their org chart, business processes, brand, company culture and even the products and services themselves. And all that requires planning and budgeting. So, there really is no time to waste.
This article was originally published at Spotonpr.com, by author Carrington Malin.