Redefining the Buzzword “Omnichannel”

Sep 02, 2013 11:09 AM  By

The term omnichannel has been used and abused more than the only chew toy at the local animal shelter. Along with her sister term big data, omnichannel has recently been positioned by countless analysts, retailers and vendors to mean, well, almost anything.

As I’ve spoken with various industry brethren on this topic for several years, I’ve broken down omnichannel into the three most common sub-definitions.

Omnichannel Commerce
Omnichannel commerce refers to the way people shop. The core concept is that the channel in which the customer shops is synergistic with other sales channels.

For example, a customer has the ability to purchase online and pick-up from a store or distribution center, or the ability to be in the store and shop digitally for items not in physical inventory.

Omnichannel CRM
Omnichannel CRM’s function is to gain a depiction of who a customer is, both within discrete sales channels, as well as at a corporate level. It’s being able to understand that I was highly engaged in a physical retail store, but have shifted to being an exclusively online shopper. It’s a view that allows a retailer to know that I often browse product on my mobile device before purchasing via another channel. It’s the understanding that while I purchased nine items in the last 12 months, I returned all but two of them. It’s understanding the role of each of your channels in the sales process.

Consider a major question retailers face: Is this visitor about to abandon the relationship with our brand at large? To truly answer that question requires looking beyond transaction data. You are blending behavioral data from the website, mobile site, and mobile app to model engagement scores. You are pulling order management data to understand product keep rates. You are introducing demographic data into the process to help identify similar visitors/customers, as well as common deviations in behavior. Ideally, you even have marketing engagement data folded in as well.

Omnichannel CRM is simply painful. It’s tearing down and through silos to unite data in a way that is not just creating a massive datastore, but operationalizing the insight to make that data actionable – driving more dollars, from more relationships, more frequently while respecting the customer and visitor.

Omnichannel Marketing
For most retailers today, their display ad targeting, on-site messaging, search retargeting, email marketing, and social efforts are communicating different messages to the same visitor.

Omnichannel marketing allows your vendors to work in conjunction with one another, delivering consistent messages and offers to your customer regardless of the marketing channel they are interacting with. This level of targeted communication allows for more precise messaging and promotions optimization – it even helps reduce brand confusion…it’s a good thing.

Omnichannel Marketing+CRM
While omnichannel marketing is painfully compelling, it gets even more so when you close the loop with omnichannel CRM. Suddenly, we aren’t dealing with simply a visitor, but Darby from Oxnard. The email Darby receives after interacting with a targeted display ad won’t just re-enforce the message she’s just seen, but will progress the messaging. It means being able to walk a customer through the consideration set for a product we know they are interested in, and do it through website messaging, email, display, targeted outbound social, and even print.

The value of the unified solution continues, allowing us to know Darby’s value to our brand. While Darby is looking at the newest, coolest running shoe, Darby is also a disengaging customer who has a high predicted customer lifetime value. With the full picture, you are suddenly providing strategic messaging and promotions to Darby to maximize lifetime value, while tactically including the product she was most engaged with.

What used to be a dream will very soon be a reality for retailers. While omnichannel commerce is being developed by e-commerce vendors as we speak, there are also vendors that are developing omnichannel CRM and marketing, some even blending the two together. They are beginning to solve the most pervasive challenges facing retail — understanding and monetizing your customers in a manner that respects them as individuals and their value to your brand.

While some of these vendors are ESPs and web analytics vendors, there are other platforms that are true hub technologies, allowing you to move seamlessly from one vendor to another, without your marketing and data collection efforts being compromised.

Omnichannel is here, your job is to choose the definition(s) that matters most and monetize the masses.

Angel Morales is the co-founder and chief innovation officer for Smarter Remarketer.