Commentary

Debunking The Great Omni-Channel Myth

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, October 1, 2015
We’re hearing a lot these days about ready access to consumer data from digital channels and from Internet of Things devices.

We’re also hearing about inroads made by data science, the so-called new age consumer empowered by social media, and the ease with which “customer journeys” can be delivered across all channels.

All of these are compelling trends but in my conversations with marketers, I haven’t met many who are actively pursuing any of them.

So what’s really happening in our industry?

Big data is being collected and analyzed to the hilt. The analytics are there to make compelling decisions. Why so few are engaging in these practices brings one to question the myth of “omni-channel” marketing. On paper, omni-channel marketing makes sense and nobody is questioning its value. It’s just that so many brands are missing the boat in delivering the right experience to the consumer.

There is a challenge for brand marketers and their agency partners to know what to do when engaging consumers in real-time across channels. This is new ground for everyone. How should we get it right? A mistake in real-time can’t be recovered or undone, so nervousness abounds and brands want to tread cautiously, they want to test a few things out and build experiences towards the ideal omni-channel solution.  

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Making a transition to using a complete marketing cloud can take a great deal of time to set up and get this kind of agile learning underway. Inevitably, brands are hit with a big IT project with cost overruns they didn’t expect to face. They just want to do marketing.

After 20 years the arms race of marketing buzzwords hasn’t abated. The latest of these is “Customer Journey.” This used to mean something, and still does to practitioners in marketing agencies, but for many of the technology providers it can all too often be a new name for the same old campaign management approach of pushing content and offers at customer segments.  

Any brand wanting to go real-time, or be data-driven, or actually connect across channels or discover new channels, finds out that they need something new:  a new master database; a large IT project to code up connections that the marketing materials say already exist; a replacement for email, Web and social with an aggregated suite where this integration is supposed to work flawlessly.

All these projects can run in the millions of dollars and waste precious marketing resources as the brand waits 6-to-18 months for the project to go live. It’s tough to buy into an IT project with unprovable delivery promises. Brands want to follow a “fail fast, succeed often” work ethic and many automated systems aren’t equipped for this.

Marketers need a way to get started quickly without complex systems to realize that elusive omni-channel promise. They need to use their existing channels that already deliver good content to consumers, but in a connected and intelligent way that allows the omni-channel to transcend myth into reality.
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