Omnichannel – A Marketing imperative for all companies!

With technology bringing disruption at faster pace than ever before, people are changing their behaviors and marketers will need to react. Instead of thinking of a desktop experience, a mobile experience, a tablet experience, and physical store experience, etc., marketers will need to pursue one, holistic approach — an “omnichannel” experience.

Omnichannel not equal to Multichannel

Multichannel is more a transactional or operational view, basically defines how you allow customers to complete transactions in each channel. Whereas Omnichannel is seeing though eyes of customer and orchestrating customer experiences to be “seamless, integrated and consistent” everywhere. Omnichannel is about true continuity of customers experience.

Although Omnichannel is most often associated with retail shopping experience, the concept of how/when/where to reach customers is equally applicable across other industries.

With Omnichannel marketing, the consumer may start in one channel and finish off in another – essentially, customer uses two or more of these channels to enjoy a seamless shopping experience. E.g. Let’s say you want to buy lawnmower. You go to physical store first, then while in the store you are online to do price comparison from your phone. Then, when you are on Facebook, a lawnmower ad is targeted (Facebook Re-targeting).  Then eventually, you order lawnmower from physical store using PC. The key point here is, Omnichannel marketing should provide seamless experience to customer. In the above scenario, when I go to store after placing order, physical store should know that I have already made a payment, and my order should be is ready for pickup. This is seamless.

omnichannel customer
Omnichannel customer ecosystem: How consumers connect with company’s product or brand?

Why does this matter?

Customer’s shopping experience and expectations of brand has changed over past few years.

43% of shoppers that can’t find information in-store leave frustrated (Google).

Shoppers who buy from a business both in-store and online have a 30% higher lifetime value than those who shop using only one channel (Google).

………… in turn, influencing how companies are investing.

85% of retailers say their mobile investment will grow more than 20% in 2015 (Forrester).

Only 45% of retailers cite omnichannel efforts as a top priority for their business in 2015 (Forrester).

Retailers reported that sales via smartphones grew an average of 87% in 2014 (Forrester).

So, what should companies be doing to solve this problem

  1. Understand Customer’s Journey (User Journey): Companies should be aware of all the paths that customers can take across channels to purchase a product. Each customer touch point, or each stage of customer journey, should provide relevant content and great user experience.
  2. Implement Analytics: Companies should be constantly measuring the analytics data gathered across channels (online, offline). Understand, optimize and make investments in channels that provides most value for customers. Personalize messages across channels, run better campaigns.
  3. Integrate across  channels: It’s not good enough if you just have great website, great mobile experience, great Facebook page, etc., they all have to work well together in an integrated way. Leverage Marketing Automation tools.
    • Improve data quality collection at source
    • In order to get 360 degree view of customer, consider integrating data across CRM, website, mobile app, social media, email marketing, customer service, etc., all in one place.
  4. Focus of top 3-5 customer touch points considered most critical. For most retailers, these include-
    • Social Media
    • Email
    • Website
    • Mobile
    • Search Engines

A few companies really do it well –

Starbucks Rewards App

The Starbucks rewards app is one of the best omnichannel experience out there.  They provide free rewards card that one can use to make purchase. They can confirm and reload their Starbucks card balances on their smartphones, while they’re at the café or from the Starbucks website at home. Any transactions or changes in profile are made in real time and reflected across all their devices. They can pay using the physical Starbucks card or using the app on their phones (mobile pay), and the balance is automatically adjusted and reflected in the app and online account. You can place an order and pay ahead as well.

starbucks mobile app

UK Fashion Retailer Oasis

The best in women’s shopping experience in UK. Every associate has ipad to service customers – either product lookup, product availability, or if it’s out of stock, order and ship it to their home address (something they call “seek-and-send”). They even take payment.

Also, if customer wants to return, they don’t necessarily have to come back to Oasis store, but can use one of store 500 participating networks like grocery stores to return (something they call “collect +”). Just “wow”.

Customer service redefined, don’t you think?

NatWest Banking

Although banking still lags retailers when it comes to omnichannel experience, they are catching up. NatWest website “branch locator” feature provides best transition to branch. With NatWest Banking app in UK, you can check your balance, get cash, make a payment, check nearby locations, deposit checks. However, still many features are missing like applying for loans,  reporting lost or stolen cards, rewards for using cards, etc.

natwest branch locatornatwest


Although the business case for implementing omnichannel practices is becoming more and more apparent, many companies have not executed on this strategy because of technology issues. Retailers are leading in omnichannel experiences by miles, few other industries like Financial Services, Healthcare, etc., are lagging way behind. But Iam sure, that in next couple of years, all companies will strive to provide omnichannel experiences to customers. Matter of fact, it will become an imperative for businesses, large or small.

What do you think? What else can companies do to enhance omnichannel experience with customers? Pls let me know with your comments.