The enormous proliferation of digital channels has led to a generation of marketers who are nearly as passionate about the technology they use as the messages they share with their customers.
To capitalize on that passion, for years many martech vendors have promised brands the benefits of “omni-channel relevance” but have offered little more than overhyped “multi-channel presence.”
This over-promising and under-delivering from vendors means that marketers are often using tools that force them into a hamster-wheel of channel-specific excellence, to the detriment of delivering a customer-centric experience.
This disconnect has sullied what it means to be truly omni-channel, and we’re here to help unpack all the baggage.
How Did We Get Here?
The term omni-channel appears to have been coined six years ago by Harvard Business Review. The article detailed a retail-focused approach to providing well-rounded customer experiences using any of the channels where a consumer might engage a brand — “websites, physical stores, kiosks, direct mail and catalogs, call centers, social media, mobile devices, gaming consoles, televisions, networked appliances, home services, and more.”
Back then, omni-channel marketing encompassed new ways to distribute messaging to consumers, giving them choice of how to receive brand communications. From the marketer’s point of view, sending coordinated information across multiple online and offline channels was a new approach to driving sales.
However, these early marketing efforts were designed as one-size-fits-most, so the majority of messages that consumers received didn’t resonate with them. While these messages were being deployed at a much larger scale, they still lacked the personalization that captivates and converts.
That Was Then—This Is Now
Forward-thinking marketers have recognized that understanding their customers is more valuable than simply informing them. Accessibility on multiple channels was an important step toward building awareness and engagement, but omni-channel marketing that creates relevance also requires personalization based on the customer’s individual behavior.
Let’s look below at how omni-channel marketing used to apply to the consumer experience and how it compares to now.
The Brand Experience
Then: Marketers focused on short-term metrics, organizing their teams around individual channels and prioritizing campaign-specific performance over a holistic brand experience. This created a false sense of alignment where businesses were multi-channel in their execution but single channel in their messaging effectiveness.
Now: Channel-specific metrics are certainly important, but a series of great email campaigns isn’t enough to build a memorable brand experience. Consumers ultimately “control their own destiny” when navigating their individual customer journeys. To drive long-term loyalty, marketers must deliver highly personalized messages across all channels.
The Role of Marketing Technology
Then: In an effort to transform art into a science, martech vendors provided marketers with solutions to make their work more automated and efficient. However, the over-engineering of the industry and explosion of martech platforms increased the need for significant technical resources and advanced skills to get the job done. With more time spent using tools, the less marketers spent on creativity and strategy.
Now: Marketers already have enough on their plates, and complicated tool management shouldn’t be one of them. Martech at its best applies engineering strength to marketing expertise, freeing up marketers’ time to focus on the nuance in messaging and magic in storytelling.
Where We Stand
Promising an omni-channel experience years ago wasn’t an attempt to mislead, but many brands have now realized that marketing isn’t just an engineering problem. Data-wrangling and solving technical issues are important, but let’s not downplay the passion and creativity it takes to truly understand the customer.
The future of marketing is responsive, and establishing a meaningful dialogue between your brand and your individual customers is key to achieving omni-channel relevance.
Want more best practices on captivating your customers across all channels?
Check out The Growth Marketer’s Playbook to maximize relevance across email, direct mail, mobile, web push and social media.