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Insight: Omni-channel experience

by Randall Craig on June 28, 2013

Filed in: Blog, CRM, Make It Happen Tipsheet, Strategy

Tagged as: , , , ,

How often do you research a product online, and then purchase it at the store?  Or, check out the product at the store, and then use the internet to make the purchase?  If so, you’re not alone.

These newer consumer behaviors are both the new reality for retailers – and a special challenge.  It even has a name – Omni-channel.

Omni-Channel recognizes that it is the consumer who is in the driver’s seat, and if the organization is going to engage with its prospects, clients, and other stakeholders, that is where it must start – mapping the journey.

Every organization has multiple channels; these can include email, the web, mobile apps, the telephone, kiosks, events, and physical locations.  Omni-channel traces out the multiple journeys that each stakeholder may take to the point of transaction, and then applies marketing (and process, and technology) to encourage a seamless experience.  An example journey of a person making a purchase:

“I was looking for a new computer, so I did some research using Google.  I found a web site that had all of the information, so started comparing models.  A WebChat window opened, and the rep asked a few questions, which I answered.  She also sent me some information through email.  Later that day, I went to the store, because I wanted to try the keyboard for myself.  The rep asked a few questions, and described some of the benefits of some accessories.  At lunch, I used my mobile to do a double-check on prices, and decided to make the entire purchase through the app.  I then was able to pick up the computer at a store closer to my house later that week.”

Consider all of the channels in this example: web, chat, email, retail, mobile, and then retail.  From the consumer’s perspective, it is a continuous process – but what is the company doing behind-the-scenes?  And what marketing is the retailer doing throughout the journey, recognizing that the journey itself is completely in the hands of the consumer? Simple, channel-based marketing misses the mark completely.  While this example is for a retailer, the same concept applies to every organization – from law firms, to banks, to professional associations and not-for-profits.

Beyond strategy, underlying a successful Omni-channel experience requires data: no matter what the entry point or channel, the service representatives (or their automated brother, the website) must provide a seamless – but not creepy – experience. To do this successfully requires sophisticated data collection and analytics, married to a CRM system, and usually, married to a sophisticated supply chain system.  The data also provides insight into – and measures – the effectiveness of any marketing investment in the area.

Connection to Social Media:  For many, social media is both a source of information discovery, as well as a channel for engagement.  Organizations will “logically” develop their LinkedIn strategy, Facebook strategy, and Twitter strategy as individual silos.  More advanced organizations may connect these together into an overall Social Media strategy.  All of this, however, is yesterday thinking:  To harness the real power of social media, it has to be properly mapped into the journey:  only then will Social Media be able to earn its keep.

This week’s action plan: Map one cross-channel journey, and then evaluate the role of your current Social Media efforts along the path.  If there is too much noise, then make a change.  Like in life, it’s the journey, not just the destination that matters.

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Randall Craig

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Randall has been advising on Digital Strategy since 1994 when he put the Toronto Star online, the Globe and Mail's GlobeInvestor/Globefund, several financial institutions, and about 100+ other major organizations. He is the author of eight books, including Digital Transformation for Associations, the Everything Guide to Starting an Online Business, and Social Media for Business. He speaks and advises on Digital Transformation, Digital Trust, and Social Media. More at

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