With the rapid growth of digital consumption and what seems like daily proliferation of social media channels, marketers are faced with more choices than ever when considering how they want to reach the consumer.
With each choice comes a certain amount of risk as marketers choosing to put a heavy investment in one channel may miss the untapped potential of another. This leaves a smaller margin for error as highly informed consumers have become acutely aware of how to seek out information, poll their networks and complete transactions across a plethora of interactive channels.
With this transformation has come a new set of rules, breeding marketers with a hybrid capability to not be just focused on one type of marketing whether it be direct, digital or retail, but rather a marketer that understands experience, and how consumers are seeking ubiquity. From their cell phone to the desktop to an in store visit; we are entering an omni-channel world, where consumers seek an omni-channel experience.
What Is Omni-Channel
Besides just being another marketing term or dare I say "Buzzword," omni-channel is a reflection of the choice that consumers have in how they engage a brand, and therefore is best represented as how brands enable their clients and consumers to use these channels to engage with them.
Whether the purchase experience starts online or via a catalogue, the customer has a plethora of options as to how they may want to move through the buyer's journey with the brand.
Marketo, one of the leading Marketing Automation providers gives a solid explanation of why marketers need to think Omni-Channel:
"Marketers now need to provide a seamless experience, regardless of channel or device. Consumers can now engage with a company in a physical store, on an online website or mobile app, through a catalog, or through social media. They can access products and services by calling a company on the phone, by using an app on their mobile smartphone, or with a tablet, a laptop, or a desktop computer. Each piece of the consumer's experience should be consistent and complementary."
Omni-Channel and The Multi-Path Purchase Experience
According to MIT's report, "Beyond the Checkout Cart," more than 80 percent of store shoppers check prices online.
If you think about the above data point, this shows the rapid evolution of omni-channel. Customers are going from screen to store and store to screen as they engage in buying behavior and for many consumers it doesn't start and stop there.
If you consider what a multi-path experience in an omni-channel environment really looks like, you may find yourself in an experience much like the one I had the other day.
In just a few weeks, my oldest daughter Hailey's club soccer season begins. As a 12 year old, she is growing so quickly that it is hard to keep up with her needs and we have just realized she needs another pair of soccer shoes.
Knowing we are about to go on vacation and as soon as we return we will be full swing into the season, I jump on my mobile device while we are wrapping up a dinner out, and I start scanning a popular online soccer site for shoes. I find a pair that I think she will like and I add them to my cart.
I get home and jump on our iMac to show Hailey the shoes and she doesn't like what I chose, so we pick out a different pair and put them into the cart, but I knew that my wife probably had some type of discount code so I told her we had to wait for her mom to get home so we didn't miss out on any discounts.
Life went on and we got distracted and somehow wound up completely forgetting about needing to order soccer shoes until about 24 hours later when I was tinkering around on my iPad and I received an inbound e-mail reminding me that I had items waiting in my cart. Oh, and in that email also came a discount code that gave me free shipping and a small discount on the purchase if I added certain items to go along with it.
From mobile, to desktop, to tablet, my experience was across many channels, which is more common than you may think, and it was personalized, which is the real differentiator of omni-channel marketing.
Thinking 1:1 by Thinking Omni-Channel
When you closely consider the experience I went through trying to buy a pair of soccer shoes for my daughter, you realize that in a world where there are so many channels and ways to get to the consumer that the omni-channel experience isn't about the mature one to many marketing methods that so many of us know. Television, newspaper and radio, if you were to advertise across all of them, that would be multi-channel; omni-channel however is about 1:1 experiences across the gamete of devices that consumers use.
Whether B2B or B2C, the 1:1 experience is what marketers need to think about when considering the deployment of omni-channel because what makes the method so irresistible is how it takes shape based on the consumers behavior and uses your clicks, interactions and data to mold a shopping experience that is personalized.
Omni-Channel, New KPI's and Moving Beyond Sales and Marketing
Perhaps one of the untapped potentials for omni-channel is moving it from a shopper's journey to a total customer experience.
When looking at the new KPI's for measuring marketing ROI, we brought items such as product development, customer satisfaction and employee engagement into the discussion.
While these items aren't directly attributable to revenue, they are highly correlated to a company's bottom line as for example, a satisfied customer tends to defect less and spend more.
So is it possible for omni-channel to address the total customer experience and drive customer satisfaction? If by engaging and determining how much an omni-channel experience improved a customers' journey, it is possible that the investment in the experience across a wider sample yielded improved customer sentiment. In a world full of big data, this can ultimately provide clarity in how brands can tweak and massage their omni-channel efforts to yield better business results.