Omnichannel is the new buzzword for retail. Everyone is into omnichannel today, everyone I know in retail is talking about their omnichannel strategy. But few can really define it let along point out the difference between multichannel and omnichannel. The problem for omnichannel as most describe it is, it isn’t solving the old problem that multichannel said it would but didn’t.
Multichannel was the big promise 10 years ago that if we have all these channels both online and offline, we would see sales grow, we didn’t really. It also distracted businesses from the future and forced old school methods of marketing to last longer than they really should have. I mean seriously, banner ads? Who even pays attention to those anymore. As a consumer, I don’t notice them. Yet I hear strategies around having the same banner ads shown on tablet and laptops and that’s omnichannel. If that’s what you call omnichannel, you are really selling your company short.
Some are now talking omnichannel, break down the silos and make multichannel seamless. Great, but the problem is, nobody is talking about the future or how this is any better than multichannel! If you want an omnichannel experience that really works, you have to start to take down the systems that are in place already.
Most organizations are still full of silos. I enjoy talking to other retailers and you see what the PR department says and then what the people on the front line say. Two different stories. Front line people will tell you, the silos are alive and well. That’s because most of the reward systems and reporting structures are still designed to reward people for just what they are focused on. The ripple effect of their actions is not measured or rewarded. A true omnichannel strategy will recognize that seamless means, a sales experience may start in one channel and end in another and the original and intermediate channels deserve credit for the sale, not just the final POS. If you want omnichannel, you will have to solve this. This was the big issue when the internet came up as a channel and the store managers felt it was taking sales away from them. Fix this and you can get closer to omnichannel.
Omnichannel requires rewriting a lot of methods and systems. Analytics will need to be improved and this is where big data, data science and omnichannel all converge. The three new disciplines entering the retail world, are the pieces that will reshape the landscape. A really good omnichannel experience requires a lot of data. Once you have that data, you need people who can analyze it and make some sense of it. Finally, omnichannel needs to drop the old and allow in new ways of doing business. At work I always say, omnichannel is about creating new customer experiences. It is not about showing people the same banner ad across platforms. It is about creating a totally new engagement that can be channel agnostic.
Omnichannel is new, still full of promise and hope. At the heart, it is still claiming the same benefits of multichannel. But if all companies do is make multichannel seamless, they will never achieve the kind of results they hope to gain from omnichannel.