What “Omnichannel” Marketing Really Means

I mentioned “omnichannel” marketing in a recent post, so I wanted to take a deeper dive into what it really means because, let’s face it, it’s here to stay.

First, what the heck is a channel in marketing?

As defined by Wikipedia: “A marketing channel is the people, organizations, and activities necessary to transfer the ownership of goods from the point of production to the point of consumption. It is the way products and services get to the end-user, the consumer; and is also known as a distribution channel.”

Second, a common challenge found is that many confuse “omnichannel” with “multichannel” marketing. Multichannel marketing refers to the operational viewpoint, meaning how you allow customers to complete a transaction in any given channel. Omnichannel marketing refers to messaging strategies and processes that cross business lines. This can be a tough challenge depending on how the business is structured.

A good multichannel approach happens when a company focuses on the performance in each physical channel, i.e. phone, web, mobile, but it often results in friction and misaligned incentives. Instead of creating swim lanes – or silos – where each unit might have its own reporting structure and revenue goals, why not think of it in terms of a spider web or matrix, where everything is interconnected.

The best definition of omnichannel that I have stumbled upon comes from John Bowden, Senior VP of Customer Care at Time Warner Cable:

Omnichannel is viewing the experience through the eyes of your customer, orchestrating the customer experience across all channels so that it is seamless, integrated, and consistent. Omnichannel anticipates that customers may start in one channel and move to another as they progress to a resolution. Making these complex ‘hand-offs’ between channels must be fluid for the customer. Simply put, omnichannel is multichannel done right!”

Omnichannel puts the customer at the center of your strategy and not at the center of the “silos.” Truly focused on the customer. It recognizes that mobile and social both let customers quickly change between channels and even use them at the same time! I mean how many times do you pull out your phone to check out a product online while browsing the retail shelf. Marketers recognize that customers engage with brands in many different ways, across multiple platforms. Ensuring a consistent experience can be tough and it should be the priority.

To achieve omnichannel marketing, the most successful companies are making massive changes. They are moving away from “push” based marketing to one that is more personalized, with 1:1 communications with their customers through many channels and the many devices they may use. In order to do that, they must have good data. Don’t you love when it all ties back to data?

When that data is utilized correctly, it can provide a roadmap to launch targeted and effective campaigns, taking away much of the guesswork that took place in the past.

I’d be remiss if I failed to mention that at AGS, we specialize in using our customer’s data and the latest technology to put them at the forefront of personalized communications. Our secure, data-driven workflow processes can transform any data into marketing material that produces attention-getting results – adding to omnichannel success!

Let’s face it, it doesn’t really matter which term you use, as long as your efforts serve to create a great customer experience across all channels and remove as many barriers as possible for your loyal customers, and new ones alike.

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