Laurel Simon | @mslaurelsimon
The definition of retailing has changed so drastically over the last 25 years or so, that we probably need a new word to define it. Gone are the days when a retailer satisfied their customer’s shopping needs by having a well-stocked store in a good location.
These days retailers must be adept in multiple marketing channels including a company website, email marketing, direct sales, and social media.
“Advancements in digital technology are causing a seismic shift in consumer purchase behavior. Customers today access multiple channels to execute a purchase, leading to the requirement that all channels work seamlessly to support the brand and the experience.”
Consumers now armed and empowered with a dizzying array of devices and apps demand a seamless experience. For a retailer to be successful he must operate in a 24/7 tiered, multi-channel environment and be able to interact and transact any way and time a customer desires; including web, mobile, or social media channel. To fully capitalize on all this data and give the customers what they demand, he must also ensure that all channels “talk” to each other for a holistic view of the customer. Enter Omni-channel marketing.
Omni-channel marketing is a new concept introduced in the last year to enable the total customer experience. Omni-channel seeks to ensure that regardless of how or when you interact with a company, all platforms work in harmony and are integrated. Don’t be confused between Multi-channel and Omni-channel. Multi-channel means you have a presence in many different channels. Omni-channel means they all work in tandem, with the customer at the center of it all.
Likely, you’ve experienced the incredibly frustrating situation of having a problem with a retailer and then have to describe and repeat the issue over and over to different people from the same company, right? Maddening at best! Integration through omni-channel marketing ensures that doesn’t happen and that you have a seamless customer interaction, one that will build loyalty and trust.
Admittedly, achieving the holy-grail of omni-channel marketing isn’t simple. It means connecting all operations including IT, logistics, supply chain, advertising and social media while tracking all interactions, stock levels, pricing and do it all transparently. It can be a real paradigm shift for companies who have operated in silo mode and now need to break down those walls. Building this is daunting, and as evidence, not many companies have achieved success yet. However, those that get it right have the chance to make a real impact. Superstars of omni-channel include Starbucks, Macy’s and Apple; whose Apple ID transaction transformed the customer experience by successfully tying together in-store sales and digital sales.
Great challenges lay ahead for retailers. In this Darwinian marketing environment moving from multi-channel to omni-channel marketing will likely cause some to re-evaluate at best and others to go out of business. However, for those who put forth the effort and get it right, great rewards await.