I often hear a lot about the “technology revolution” that is going to need to take place for omnichannel to work. The very people who bring this point up are talking about how digital is going to play a dominate role in everything and how we need to invest a lot of money in the back end technologies to run all these systems and into mobile and tablet experiences. While I do agree this is going to play a big role in omnichannel, I also believe that omnichannel starts and is won somewhere else. Omnichannel is not primarily a technology revolution but rather a cultural shift that depends on consumers becoming participants in a socially dynamic relationship.
Let me start backwards with what I just said. Socially dynamic relationships doesn’t mean social media. Yes it will play a role but what I mean by that is; the days when you entertained or educated consumers is over. You need to interact with customers because they are no longer consumers but participants in the experience of the sale. In other words, sales has become a socially dynamic relationship where you sell and build relationships with customers to help them solve their problems.
Customers at not going to be consumers as they have traditionally been. Doc Searls had a great presentation last summer where he had a cow and calf. The cow is the company and the calf is the consumer. That was a great analogy about the relationship between consumers and businesses. Today, consumers are not the calf but more like the farmer, wondering if that cow can still produce or should he just take it to the slaughter house. If companies want to change this and make it more about two human beings talking to one another and finding a win-win, then they need to use omnichannel in a way to build relationships. You can have all the personalized ads you want but if you don’t actually build a relationship, you just wasted your time. If you are serious, this requires a cultural shift.
Most retailers are still far too silo to make omnichannel work. To change this, a cultural shift needs to take place. A lot of executives talk about team, transparency, customer centric, etc… Omnichannel means, you better have a plan to make this all happen because if you don’t, you are going to have a bad time. A cultural and operational shift needs to take place and those who cannot adapt may need to find something else to do. There are a lot people in retail who don’t understand the massive chance a real omnichannel experience will create. This is not going to be easy!
However, the organizations that learn to make the changes needed, are the ones that everyone is going to be trying to catch. After all, if omnichannel was easy, everyone would be doing it and nobody would really be talking about it as the next great thing. That’s why the prize is great.