No word falls more trippingly off the tongue in marketing circles than “omnichannel.” It’s the stated ambition of many a marketer, and taken as a given among the conferences and pundits beckoning to marketers. The need for brands to take an omnichannel approach is unquestioned, although there’s much to question about it.
That’s because an omnichannel strategy is overly ambitious and lazy at the same time.
It’s overly ambitious because it injects complexity and strain into marketing systems that already require far more layers of infrastructure and effort than they did 10 years ago.
On a purely practical basis, an omnichannel mindset is a game that can never be won. The new marketing ecosystem generates a constant introduction of new channels and subchannels. If marketers try to keep a hand in them all, resources will be stretched to the point of ineffectiveness.
It’s lazy because it neglects the strategic effort required to understand what combination of channels are most essential to the audience and objectives of the brand. It takes work to understand the ways people come to a brand, and to prioritize where to excel, where to participate, and where not to play at all.
So savvy marketers should think about their communications channels the same way they think about their new products. Nobody would seriously propose an “omniproduct” strategy.
In that light, it’s clear that omnichannel starts at the wrong end of a strategic marketing process. It’s like collecting as many tools as possible and then figuring out what to build from them.
Strategy is deciding what you want to build, and then assembling the tools most critical to its construction.
Several have tried coining the term “optichannel” to replace “omnichannel.” To the extent buzzwords are useful, optichannel at least implies the need for making strategic choices. It requires finding the balance between what a customer wants, what the brand delivers, and what your budget can afford.
Consider these useful questions to develop more strategic channel choices:
It’s reasonable to suspect that the fervor for the omnichannel gospel comes less from marketers and more from those striving for the marketer’s budget.
Omnichannel thinking drives a FOMO mentality that drives spending. More channels, after all, means more to buy: more media, more technology, and more services to execute across them all.
The omnichannel trap is rooted in the notion that doing more things does better. The optichannel approach posits that doing things better does more.