Why Omnichannel Shouldn’t Mean Every Channel
The term "omnichannel" has been around for a few years, but as a successfully implemented reality, it still remains an aspiration for most. That said, 2014 will likely be a year when many B-to-C — and even a few B-to-B — companies will seriously benchmark their commitment to becoming omnichannel, either because of their competitors’ experiences or, ideally, for their own customers’ wants and expectations. One fundamental, often overlooked piece of the omnichannel journey is that successful omnichannel doesn't necessarily mean every channel. It's foremost predicated by being on the right and relevant channels.
Let's begin answering the underlying question — which channels are right and relevant — by defining omnichannel. Wikipedia defines omnichannel retailing as follows:
"Omni-Channel Retailing is the evolution of multi-channel, but is concentrated more on a seamless approach to the consumer experience through all available shopping channels, i.e. mobile internet devices, computers, brick-and-mortar, television, radio, direct mail, catalog and so on. Retailers are meeting the new customer demands by deploying specialized supply chain strategy software."
Further searches online yield a few variations, but the essence remains the same. The basis of the constant thread of omnichannel is the ability for a consumer to start an engagement (e.g., shopping, buying or servicing transactions) with a business in one channel, continue it in another, and finish it in yet another, with each channel not only aware of the stage of the transaction the consumer is in, but also of the consumer's activity in the other channels. Of course, the two fundamental predecessors to the omnichannel experience are multichannel (i.e., the ability to transact in each enabled channel) and cross-channel (i.e., the ability to transact across channels). Omnichannel builds on these by adding the behavioral awareness dimension.
Customer Engagement Across Channels Starts With Mobile
Along with every other business decision, defining the optimal channel engagement model starts with the customer. Every business can improve customer engagement, but it first needs to understand its fundamental value proposition as a company, and second how customers expect to engage with it and others in the industry. In most cases, the mobile experience is the single best place to start.