What is omnichannel?

Optimising within individual communication channels, or even for multiple channels running in parallel, is like all the members of an orchestra practising to be excellent musicians, but never practising together. Each individual may be great, but the collection of parts makes something that is greater than simply putting the players together.

An orchestra* is coordinated, connected, unified by a common purpose, and works within a shared set of principles: Things like the musical key, feel, and speed are set for the group, even though each artist is contributing their part in their unique way. Gaps left by some are filled by others to create something none of them could ever do alone.

Omnichannel is content and experience orchestration, where channels share with, complete, and enhance each other, creating a superior overall result.

Omnichannel is…

Omnichannel is an integrated way of thinking about people’s relationships with organisations. Rather than working in parallel, communication channels and their supporting resources are designed and orchestrated to cooperate, building a coherent, evolving, cross-channel experience.

Building better relationships

The term “omnichannel” has been around for several years, but it is often confused with “multichannel” and similar concepts. While “multichannel” means that a company or brand is represented across a wide array of touchpoints (websites, social media, advertising, product packaging, physical locations, etc.), messaging is rarely coordinated effectively to present consistent facts, design, or a uniform brand personality. “Omnichannel” is about coordinating activities across departmental silos to achieve a consistent message to customers wherever they meet you.

Omnichannel helps build a unique brand personality that distinguishes one company from another, reduces customer frustration when receiving conflicting information from different channels, and helps optimise company resources across the entire organisation.

In short, it’s about building effective, personal relationships with your customers using the best available channels and technologies.

An omnichannel strategy seeks to…

  • Contextualise and personalise across the entire user experience or customer journey, taking into account all channels, deliverables, and touchpoints
  • Speak with one voice so communications channels work in harmony to mutually reinforce each other
  • Align, unify, and integrate everything that supports individual experiences. Systems, knowledge, data, and content should tie back to a common base of standards, guidelines, and facts that keep the conversation going smoothly and consistently

Applicable to any industry or department

Although often associated with retail, shopping, or B2C (business-to-consumer) industries, aligning your organisation around the customer is something relevant to every modern business. Marketing and service departments have been leading the recent wave of interest, but designers, technical communicators, and even data professionals are often important players in an omnichannel initiative.

In our speakers’ words

Our definition of omnichannel is influenced by the brilliant minds we have in the OmnichannelX community. Here are some definitions straight from our 2019 speakers.

Omnichannel refers to experiences that correspond to the needs of the user, not the brand. That means flipping the script from what the brand wants to say or do in the channel where the brand planned it, to what the customer wants to see or do in the channel he or she wants to use.

Read or watch Ryan’s interview about Omnichannel

A seamless, data-driven, personalised experience that allows customers to engage with a brand how, when and where they want, regardless of channel (live experiences too!) and device.

Read 10 questions and answers on omnichannel success with Jennifer

Content that can be coordinated and delivered across not only multiple channels but across any number of channels simultaneously. Omnichannel is multichannel that scales.

Read a quick interview on omnichannel with Michael.

* Thanks to Governance Guru Lisa Welchman, our opening keynote speaker, for this wonderful metaphor.