Customers, Channels and Horseless Carriages
For those who don’t know, the very first cars weren’t called cars. People called them horseless carriages because that was their point of reference. The same happened with the invention of the “iron horse” (train) and more recently “snurfing” (snowboarding). All are examples of how legacy language attempts to describe entirely new paradigms.
The same thing is happening today as digital transforms the marketplace, brand positioning and traditional channel approaches. Some contend that digital is a channel unto itself. Others talk about cross-channel, and more recently omni-channel, in attempts to reshape traditional channel models to fit increasingly empowered, immediate and personal customer needs and behaviors.
Since digital is so pervasive and disruptive, it's far more than just another channel. The growth of digital is turning the whole notion of channel or even cross-channel into a horseless-carriage conversation. Legacy language is being used to describe entirely new paradigms:
- Digital is pervasive — channels are intentionally discrete.
- Digital is people-centric — channels are traditionally product and internally focused, driven by company objectives, structures and processes.
- Digital is dynamic, contextual and personal — channels seek to focus, organize and standardize.
- Digital enables community — channels optimize distribution.
From Channel Centric to Customer Focused
It’s perhaps easy to dismiss the discussion as simply a matter of semantics or buzzwords. Besides, marketers and agencies have been talking about being "customer centric" for decades, right? So how is this any different?
The issue isn’t just about labels; it’s about a fundamental change in the marketplace in which channel-focused companies are unable to respond efficiently and effectively to changing customer expectations and behaviors. Today’s customer-centric marketplace is driven by the right engagement at the right time and place, as well as critical “moments of truth.” In other words, there are often fleeting opportunities that can no longer be defined and controlled by marketing calendars, media plans, in-store programs or channels.