What is Omnichannel Anyway?

Time to Reflect

At first glance, Omnichannel appears to require a lot of costly, labor-intensive infrastructure work spanning your payment systems, retail network, loyalty program, etc. However, the hardest part is building something that customers will use and be attracted to. In order to make omnichannel less ominous, let’s take some time to walk through what it is and how to get the most out of it.
The “Field of Dreams” concept of “build it and they will come”, can get you in a lot of trouble in the Omnichannel space.  If you go online and do a quick look-up of “Omnichannel”, you may see this definition: “Denoting or relating to a type of retail that integrates the different methods of shopping available to consumers (e.g., online, in a physical store, or by phone).”1 In short, the term “Omnichannel” is like so many other broad terms in that it could encompass just about anything you or your company feels qualifies as “Omnichannel”.  This definition does not even mention the most important part, the consumer!

Consumer Engagement

For those in charge of delivering strategies or projects that implement Omnichannel capabilities, you need to ensure:

  • Your company is aligned on a clear idea of what your omnichannel experience is meant to address – consumer engagement, ease of use, consumer loyalty, or all the above. Without addressing these areas, your definition and approach may be imbalanced!
  • Most importantly, what’s in it for the customer? T strategy drives their definition of Omnichannel, and which part of the equation above did they leverage the most? Consumer engagement!

Revelations

Challenges or barriers to entry exist in any business model, regardless of your vertical. Sometimes companies start Omnichannel initiatives in the wrong place; if they start with efforts that benefit them and not the consumer, they may have doomed themselves to an investment with little return.  Omnichannel is a growth strategy that strives to create a bond with customers that you can grow. 
Efficiencies from streamlined payments infrastructure and processes are often transparent to the consumer and may not excite them as much as it excites you. Although vendors are emerging that one day can make your journey to Omnichannel nirvana a quicker reality, there are still many obstacles to payment systems integration (Point of Sale, Mobile, etc.). These obstacles can really sideline companies who chose to tackle infrastructure first, instead of consumer engagement.  Omnichannel infrastructure will evolve almost yearly and most certainly require that you make significant changes to your environment. If you at least put your consumer engagement strategy first, you at least have started the most important part of the Omnichannel approach:  your growth strategy. 

Get Going!

OK, now it’s time to stop meditating and get started! The important thing is to start, as many of your competitors will be moving in this direction to create the best relationship they can with your customer. As you work through the successes and challenges, while keeping your consumer engagement strategy at the forefront, you can put yourself on a path to developing that one to one relationship with your customer.  It’s time to get ready for the new Omnichannel reality.

For more on Omnichannel, contact Loren at lallston@wcapra.com.

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