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 and connected so that it is unified to a common purpose and working within a shared set of principles. Things like key, feel, and speed are set for the group, even if each artist is contributing their part in their unique way. Gaps in range and capacity 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.

An omnichannel strategy seeks to:

  • Contextualise and personalise for value-added interactions. Going omnichannel means looking across the entire user experience or customer journey, taking into account all channels, deliverables, and touch-points
  • Help an organisation speak with one voice. Omnichannel assumes that one organisation should have one consistent identity – no matter how, when, or with whom the conversation is happening
  • Use channels in harmony to mutually reinforce each other. Making channels work together and transition smoothly are more powerful than channels working in parallel
  • Align, unify or integrate the systems, knowledge, data, and content. Everything that supports individual experiences should tie back to a common base of standards, guidelines, and facts that keep the conversation going smoothly and consistently
  • Omnichannel is an “über-trend” which looms behind many current buzzwords: digital transformation, content marketing, personalisation, adaptive content, multichannel, responsive web design, semantic content, structured content, “data lakes”, and more. As Jack Haber, VP of global advertising and digital for Colgate, said: “You have to have all these new channels play together, both on the planning side and the creative side.”

Omnichannel is not…

Omnichannel is not short on confusion and related industry jargon. It’s definitely not:

  • The same as multichannel or cross-channel. The multichannel vs omnichannel debate has raged since the terms gained popularity. Omnichannel supersedes both multi- and cross-channel, which refer simply to delivering content and considering experiences on more than one channel or format. Omnichannel doesn’t come from a brand-out, or “publishing” mentality, but rather a customer-centered, holistic perspective.
  • All about delivery or publishing. Omnichannel considers all the ways that interaction may happen – from the outside-in perspective of real human beings – and optimises for them. It’s as much about how we listen to our audience, and share what we know about them, as it is about what we push to them
  • All about retail or shopping. Although omnichannel retail has been an area of early adoption, there’s nothing about making your organisation’s content, communications, and data unified and integrated that is unique to the retail industry
  • Restricted to any particular industry. Omnichannel banking and omnichannel education are on the rise right behind retail, but what organisation doesn’t want to be consistent and unified? Omnichannel is for any organisation, of any size, that wants to have the interplay of channels add value to the organisation, their staff, and their audience
  • Restricted to any specific department. Omnichannel marketing, like omnichannel retail, is an area that’s seeing significant activity, but that’s just the beginning. What about when someone in your audience jumps on a chat, or has a post-sale question, or needs some training, or, or, or… All touch-points are fair game in omnichannel. Call centers, training, sales, chatbots, telephony, physical environments, social media, and yes, of course, the fundamental touch-points of marketing and sales
* Thanks to Governance Guru Lisa Welchman, our opening keynote speaker, for this wonderful metaphor.

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