Defining omnichannel and the value of the omniscient customer experience.
In marketing and technology you often know that something is still new when you can’t find one unanimous way to spell it. Ecommerce, eCommerce, e-commerce – remember those days? We now find Omni-channel, omnichannel and omni channel across the web, each attached to prestigious brand and pundit thinking. Instead of arguing about the correct spelling, we just see it as an indicator of something new and yet to be decided by the masses. By no means is the concept under-noted or fledgling. And, as with most things that are new, there are still developing ideas.
Omni comes from the word Omnis which can mean all or universal. This is in comparison to other categories out there, like “multichannel”, from the Latin word Multus, meaning multiple or many and from crosschannel, derived from the Latin word Crux, meaning to go across. The way that many are explaining omnichannel today is: ‘cross channel being done well’. Examples are often that the mobile app should match the responsive design of the website which should thematically reflect the look and feel inside the store. We’d argue that doing cross channel well with the user in mind, is not worthy (nor useful) enough to deserve a new category. Instead, we hold the belief that Omnichannel is something new and notable, even revolutionary, not just a marginal evolution of existing thinking.
Great, so now that we’ve stated that omnichannel is being used merely as a buzzword for crosschannel with finesse – what is omnichannel? Omnichannel is about true continuity of your experience. But what’s key is that it extends beyond a single brand’s universe. Being omniscient is perceiving and understanding all things. Omni is perceiving all things. And the best way for a customer to perceive everything is to allow them to own their data and experience, then give them the ability to use it to guide creation and context of every future experience. Think about it. Today our life is continuous, but our customer experience is anything but that. We learn and have memory of all the good and bad things in life. We strive to limit or eliminate the negative ones and increase the good. These patterns that we strive to replicate are our preferences. The ability to have a continuous experience across brands, across format and across devices that is completely bespoke – that is the promise of a new way of thinking and marketing that has been long unnoticed.
As much as the social media revolution has meant the two-way exchange in dialogue and interaction, omnichannel is the realization of social business. If the first phase in the evolution of the customer relationship was messaging and media, the future is product research, selection and payment. With personal preference data that can be used universally on devices, brand can either jump at the opportunities made real by omnichannel or wait until their brand is the only one not integrated and playing nicely to allow consumers to be continuous.