What Is 'Omnichannel'? And Is It Different From 'Multichannel'?
This is the year of "omnichannel" based on the amount of occurrences that I've heard this term.
I've never been a fan of jargon—but I sure use it enough in some of my clients' communications, often at their request. When I comply, I usually advise that a short explanation may be in order upon first reference to help define whatever the term is and to set a marketplace expectation.
Often enough, analyst firms rush to fill the void too, explaining such terms as "big data," "customer experience," "customer engagement" and the like.
The good thing about being marketers and communicators is that we are all also consumers and business people and are able to put our own perspectives on the customer side of the equation. We all recognize we have more power now as consumers (though we've always had ultimate power in the wallet), and that what was once pure hit-or-miss with advertising (the consumer side of spray-and-pray) is more often, today, data-driven dialogue with the many brands we use.
So what does "omnichannel" mean to me, as a consumer?
- That a brand that I choose to use—and possibly have a data-based relationship with—will recognize me uniquely as a customer, no matter what the channel.
- That the data such brands may have about me is shared throughout the organization, so that all parts of the organization—sales, marketing, customer service, finance, in-store, Web, mobile, social, partners, service providers—can act in coordination.
- That I am respected as a customer and treated royally. Of course, this is about the products and services I buy and use. It is also about extending to me notice and choice about channel preferences, and possibly subject preferences, and that all data about me is secured.
- That I actually expect (and in some cases, demand) that brands actually use data about me to make brand messaging and content more relevant to me. If you collect or track information, please use it—wisely!
- That if I'm not yet a customer—that is, if I'm still a prospect—that points 3 and 4 still apply from a prospect's perspective. I understand points 1 and 2 are about customers, but even here, some elements of prospecting require careful coordination to respect my time.
On a practical level, this "omnichannel" expectation requires brands to remove channel and function silos on the brand-side and walk the talk on customer relationship management, customer-centric marketing, customer experience, lead nurturing and other advertising and marketing processes that reflect today's brand-customer dialogue.
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Chet Dalzell has 25 years of public relations management and expertise in service to leading brands in consumer, donor, patient and business-to-business markets, and in the field of integrated direct marketing. He serves on the Direct Marketing Association International ECHO Awards Board of Governors, as an adviser to the Direct Marketing Club of New York and Marketing Idea eXchange, and is senior director, communications and industry relations, with the Digital Advertising Alliance. Chet loves UConn Basketball (men's and women's) and Nebraska Football (that's just men, at this point), too!