Omni-channel – buzzword or panacea? Looking at conferences and the internet it has a high traction at the moment. Interestingly applications and solutions are still difficult to find. No wonder, it implies a way forward into new strategies for retailers. It is up to you to get it right yet! This article help to understand omni-channel pitfalls and find the right strategies.
Independent from location and time
Following trends, marketing strategy has to be omni-channel. Almost every marketeer claims omni-channel to be the next big step into digitalization. But what is it exactly that makes them believe this? It is necessary to dive into the reasoning and the implication to find the right access to strategies.
Communication requires channels – transmission media to convey information. Marketing – with its purpose of promoting or selling to consumers – requires channels to reach out for customers and prospects. The channel strategy is an essential part of the marketing strategy and also gains importance for sales strategies.
What does this mean for omni-channel? Omni is derived from Latin language and means “all” or “every”. A tempting reflex would be to translate it into “all channels” thereby. But this is not the correct interpretation – definitely. Even when searching the internet many definitions can be found, whereas only few address the real purpose.
Omni – in this context – refers to the availability of channels. Channels, which become gradually independent from location and time. The step into digitalization brings with it, that information is expected to be available everywhere and all the time. Marketing has to meet customer.
Omni-channel pays tribute to decisions of customers, when and where to consume marketing messages. Omni-channel strategies have to adapt to independent consumers.
Multi-channel is about diversity, omni-channel requires focus
The number of vendors and channels has increased step by step over time. Especially in the last years we have seen an exponential growth. In the meantime it has become almost impossible for marketeer to follow up on all trends. Discussions about the right channel have moved into the right combination of multiple channels. Now we are talking about omni-channel. This brings a new quality if discussions with it.
Omni-channel cannot simply be translated into “all channels” or “every channel”. Taking the conclusion, that it is a further acceleration of multi-channel, will have to prove wrong. It would imply that we have to try harder to be present in all channels. Following the exponential trend, this will have to fail.
Omni-channel will require focus to come around with the diversity of channels. Consumers will want to know where to look. Omni-channel has to be expected to be the “real game” to win consumers.
In this context multi-channel – the reputed successor of omni-channel – has to be seen as test bed. Marketeer use these approaches to find out more about the effects and impact of various channels on their audience, while the risk stays small. A mix with well known mechanics and approaches always provided a backup. It is a kind of “training” mode.
The choice of the channel is with the customers now
Digital devices make communication independent from time and place. It is the consumer, that decides on the channel today. Mobile phones and tablets provide an escape from current surroundings. They create instant portals into arbitrary communication stream. Now they get omnipresent. But wait! When communication has to be omnipresent, omni-channel is an acronym for the omnipresent channel. And here we go!
Omni-channel marketing requires a new way of communication. We can say for sure, that digital is a driver. Mobile devices empower customers to make use of services irrespective of place and time. Digital is a must to participate.
The consumers start to make use of a new power. They have access to various channels now – not only digital, but also the “old-school” physical. This brings a new motivation with it: finding appropriate services which sacrifice needs. Customers are on a quest.
Understanding the opportunities from omni-channel
Understanding the missions of shoppers will become even more important. Customer want channels to be relevant, the offers need to be relevant. The classical 4P of retail – product, price, placement, and promotion – are degraded as the need for relevance has to involve more aspects.
Information and inspiration have to come along with the retail offering. Expertise is becoming much more important again, as internet is not a source of information only. It is a sales pipeline as well.
The ways to achieve a good omni-channel approach can be manifold. It will not be necessary to address all channels. It even will not be affordable or possible to create relevance across all channels. Clever approaches will foster the channels instead of implementing them.
Retailers will have to give more power to the consumers. They must be able to contribute to content. Retailers even should think about giving shoppers a chance to decide on the 4Ps. Gamification seems to be an interesting approach in this context.
But the important thing is to listen and observe. Only by listening, retailers will get to know the shoppers missions. Only by observation, retailers will know about relevance. Listen, test, observe, and learn.
Relevance is the joker, which allows retailers to address new target groups and advertise services, which become more and more significant. It is the way into new, winning business concepts for retailers.