There are some who say that all brands must become “omni-channel” as quickly as possible. They’re wrong.
There are those who say that this whole omni-channel frenzy is a bunch of hype perpetuated in the selfish interests of service providers peddling their own solutions. Well, there is definitely an element of truth contained within that view, but they’re mostly wrong too.
Still others suggest that becoming “omni-channel” merely adds a lot of cost and complexity while not demonstrably moving the dial on sales and profits. For them, when it comes to embracing all things omni-channel, the rent is just too damn high.
The stark reality, supported by reams of data, is that consumers are using more and more channels to go through their decision journey. But, importantly, this is not the same as all customers using every possible channel with equal importance and frequency.
Another powerful set of facts concerns the growing consumer expectations that brands offer a seamless experience across all channels. This doesn’t, however, mean that all integration efforts are equally weighted. Your mileage will vary.
Lastly, there is a constant, unrelenting deployment of new technology that lowers the cost of service, innovates some aspect of the customer experience or both. Much of this disruption comes from start-ups not burdened by legacy systems and the often paralyzing decision-making processes of industry incumbents. The pace of change, just in the areas of digital marketing and mobile applications, that allows for a more cohesive customer experience, is hard to ignore.
One obvious problem is that there is no universally accepted, actionable definition of omni-channel. And the vagueness of what we mean when we lift up the term, often mantra-like, tends to obfuscate more than it illuminates.
If we are to move beyond buzz-word bingo and terminology that merely sounds good in industry conferences and press releases, we are called to lay out a strategy and system of customer-centricity, which is, after all, the whole point of “becoming omni-channel” for most brands in the first place.
To do so, requires three key things:
- An actionable customer segmentation–who, exactly, are we doing this for, how will we treat different customers differently and what do get when we win?
- A frictionless commerce plan–prioritized against our most important customers and designed to eliminate the most clear and impactful points of pain or to create opportunities for competitive advantage.
- An amplification strategy. What are we doing to be truly remarkable and to give our best brand advocates a customer megaphone?
If we think about our omni-channel strategy more precisely, along the lines I’ve suggested, then it’s not a silver bullet, it’s not merely hype, nor is it too expensive.
In fact, not embracing it may be the most expensive choice of all.