First, companies wanted to be 'multi-channel' - and marketers dutifully provided consistent messaging to customers across all digital platforms.
Next came cross-channel marketing - and marketers worked tirelessly to stitch together customer interactions to provide a consistent experience across all touchpoints.
Now, brands want 'omni-channel engagement' - and many marketers are still trying to figure out what that even means.
So, what are marketers doing to satisfy the push for omni-channel? What are the principles behind it and how can marketers know whether they are doing the right thing?
To find out, ClickAcademy, in partnership with Amazon Web Services, recently held roundtable discussions on the topic with dozens of client-side marketers at its annual Digital Cream. At the Omni-Channel Engagement table, moderated by Agnisha Ghosh, Digital Commerce Lead - Transportation & Electronics Business Group, 3M Innovations, attendees discussed their omni-channel experience and their views on to what extent businesses are adopting it.
So, what does omni-channel engagement mean to marketers today?
1) Omni-channel must be channel agnostic
As customers are increasingly turning to mobile for their information and ecommerce needs, they are becoming less aware of the channel that they are using. They are becoming channel agnostic, and only think of what they want to achieve.
Because of this, when they engage with a brand online, they expect a full and seamless experience regardless of the device they are using.
Marketers, therefore, need to move away from thinking about what they offer as being desktop or mobile-specific and allow the customer to engage with the brand across all channels, i.e. deliver omni-channel engagement.
2) Marketers still need to think mobile first
While customers may be thinking less about the channel they are using, marketers must become increasingly aware of what their brand offers on all channels - and be ready to make improvements based on changing customer behaviours.
As it is difficult to provide a full range of services on mobile, marketers must now pay more attention to their brand's mobile experience. This means providing the access, convenience and instant response that customers expect on mobile. Anything less and brands risk falling behind the competition and losing customers.
3) Omni-channel requires channel optimisation
In the mobile-first era, customer journeys are no longer a straight line from awareness to purchase. Instead, customers move between various channels discovering new information and service availability along the way.
Hence, it is critical that marketers identify the touchpoints which their customers value the most and focus their efforts on improving them.
This means moving away from a 'tick box' approach to channel development. Instead, brands should spend more time on the platforms that their customers use and move away, or even abandon, those which they do not.
4) Organisations need shared goals and common KPIs
To deliver a superior omni-channel experience, companies need to move away from the traditional organisation structure and connect internal teams working on delivering value for the customer.
Having shared goals across the company can help but a more important change would be to set common KPIs for different teams. Doing so would ensure that everyone is moving in the same direction - delivering a seamless omni-channel experience to customers.
5) For omni-channel to work, data must be carefully managed
Companies are collecting a lot of customer data nowadays, but they are still not able to manage, filter and use the data effectively.
To overcome this difficulty, marketers must be selective about the data they use, or risk being overwhelmed by the deluge. They can start by focusing on data that is relevant to business objectives and disregarding the rest, at least temporarily. Should they be missing data which is key to achieving their objectives, marketers need to find the data sources and identify any data silos which need to be overcome to do so.
Once the most important data is available, then marketers will be ready to consolidate the data into a single customer view, which is essential to providing the omni-channel engagement which customers expect.
A word of thanks
ClickAcademy would like to thank our Omni-Channel Engagement table moderator, Agnisha Ghosh, Digital Commerce Lead - Transportation & Electronics Business Group, 3M Innovations and our subject matter expert Malcolm Koh, Customer Experience Strategist, Zendesk.
We'd also like to thank all the marketers who took time out of their busy schedule to share their thoughts, experiences and insights into how brands can improve omni-channel engagement. We hope to see you all at future ClickAcademy events!