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If you’ve attended a digital marketing conference in the past six months you’ve no doubt heard at least one speaker make reference to omnichannel retailing.

And you probably weren’t alone in being confused as to how it differs from multichannel marketing.

To try and bring some clarity to the situation, I spoke to Adobe’s VP of enterprise marketing Kevin Cochrane to find out how his company is helping businesses define their omnichannel strategies, and how the in-store experience can be improved using digital technologies...

What is the difference between omnichannel, multichannel and cross-channel?

There are a lot of people with different theories on that, but multichannel historically has tended to just mean web and mobile.

And I’ve always felt that when people started saying cross-channel they were also taking into account extended social networks and started adding in things like email.

We think omnichannel extends past social networks, email, web and mobile, to include the entire customer experience, so it includes things like in-store displays, kiosks, interactive television and set-top boxes.

It’s essentially anywhere there’s a digital touch point, which is everywhere you look nowadays.

Is that why you’ve rebranded your software under the Marketing Cloud umbrella, to reflect the fact that all these channels are now merging?

Exactly. For example the web experience stuff has been rebranded as Experience Manager to take into account the increased importance of an omnichannel strategy.

It allows you to manage consistent personalised experiences that span numerous channels, which is everything from store displays, to digital signage, to your website and Facebook presence.

One of our most exciting customers is a casino chain in Las Vegas that is using one system to manage a digital loyalty scheme across its 19 properties.

It has outfitted its resorts with new Cisco Wi-Fi routers that can pinpoint a person’s location to within a foot.

And every billboard and menu has been replaced with digital signage powered by Mac Minis.

The loyalty card sits within an app on your smartphone, which allows the casinos to broadcast personalised offers and rewards based on the customer’s demographic profile. 

So for example, if Celine Dion’s concert didn’t sell out and there are five seats available, the casino will locate everyone who fits the target demographic profile and broadcast them a message on all the digital signs.

They even have displays in the slot machines, so they can target you right there while you’re gambling.

So that kind of tactical marketing, which is stunningly advanced, is the reason we’ve rebranded it as Experience Management.

In terms of measuring success, what metrics are your clients using to evaluate how effective their omnichannel approach is?

There are a number of soft metrics, such your brand perception and the overall growth in the number of people you would identify as a brand advocate, but then there’s a lot of hard metrics that come from that.

These are things like the overall dollar value that is influenced by your brand advocates. For example, in our particular case we know there’s an individual Photoshop user in Japan who influenced around $98,000 of sales for us.

We know that guy; because he tweets about us and writes things on his Facebook page that have a direct correlation to software purchased on Adobe.com.

So we use soft metrics, like the fact that we increased the number of brand advocates by 180% from 13,000 to roughly 42,000, and combine this with hard metrics, as we know that the top 100 each influenced over $50,000 of sales.

These are really relevant metrics, and those are some of the new business metrics that people are starting to look at as opposed to average order value and overall revenue increase.

You mentioned kiosks earlier. We’ve heard differing views from retailers as to whether or not they help sales. What’s your view on it?

I think they can be a useful sales driver for certain things, but they tend to be misused.

It’s not part of the generic buying experience, but it could work for things like your wedding registry or alternatively in the food and beverage world.

For example, if you want to let people custom design their own sandwich then there isn’t a better experience than allowing them to use a kiosk to experiment with different options.

The technology can really work anywhere where there’s a high degree of personalisation involved with the products, and it can help take some of the strain from your existing workforce.

We’ve seen brands beginning to make use of QR codes in-store and other elements of mobile technology. Do you think there are any specific mobile technologies that all retailers should be using?

The strategy will always differ, but I think there are a couple of truisms in all cases. Number one is to facilitate the customer buying experience by educating them.

The customer is going to find out what people are saying about your service regardless, so you might as well make it easy for them.

So if the customer is in your store you should let them access product reviews, because they’re going to do it anyway.

And if you don’t allow them to access that information, they might go home and do a little online research instead and then you’ve lost them.

Another important factor for retailers is ensuring they offer an enjoyable in-store experience, which means they’re not going to stuff their stores with every product from the warehouse.

Stores tend to merchandise certain product lines, like the latest collections, but they should then use mobile to let people search the entire catalogue and find things that aren’t on display.

It’s a great way of promoting old stock that you don’t necessarily want in-store but that is still attractive to certain customers.

But I think that is really the next phase, as at the moment people are really spending most of their time working out who their customers are.

Because once you know the kind of personas that are attracted to your brand, then you can really start to make the most of the interactions you have in-store.

We've seen research to suggest that customers are mainly driven by price, which is why Amazon does so well. To what extent do you think that customer experience can actually be a sales driver ahead of low prices?

It’s huge, that’s the whole reason brands are reinvesting in the commerce experience.

Businesses are spending a lot of money investing in their brand to improve the customer experience so they can then charge a premium.

Because ultimately you can buy the exact same product from any number of retailers, but often the one you choose is the one that gives you the best customer experience or that you feel an affinity to.

It won’t necessarily work for all brands or all products, but that is becoming a priority for most of the brands we are working with now.

Previously everyone wanted to be on Amazon as that is where the customers are, but the new fear is that you don’t want to just be another product in this massive catalogue on Amazon where the only differentiator is price.

David Moth

Published 21 November, 2012 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

1683 more posts from this author

Comments (5)

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Simon Tompsett

The definition in this interview is still only partial. For me, omni-channel includes B2B as well as B2C. While B2C is becoming ever more complex with social media, B2B has always been complex with customer-specific prices, ranges, ordering methods, fulfillment methods,minimum buy quantities, international shipping etc etc.

almost 4 years ago

Stewart Longhurst

Stewart Longhurst, Director at V1 Digital

To help myself understand the differences between omni and multi channel I thought about rugby and how I might use this analogy to explain it.

You don’t need to be a rugby fan to get this but hopefully you’ve at least seen some of the basics of the game.

So imagine the backs in a Rugby Union team (the ones typically lined up slightly diagonally across the field leading away from a scrum) and think of each as a different channel for your brand; social, online, mobile, tablet, in-store etc. Each has different capabilities and limitations and each plays a different role in the game.

When the scrum-half throws the ball out of the scrum into the back line, the first one catches it and they all begin to run forward. As the first player comes up against the opposing team’s defence he passes the ball to the next guy.

The move continues forward and the ball is passed down the line, handing over control of the ball to the next player until the winger has it and he dives for a try just inside the corner flag – five points scored!

This to me represents working in an omni-channel fashion – each channel serving the customer need as best they can before handing on control of the interaction to the next.

Like the customer, the ball can pass back and forth between channels but there is continuity, integration and a common purpose. Any channel could “score the try” by fulfilling the customer need; getting information, making a choice or completing the purchase.

Unlike the rugby ball, the customer gets to decide where they pass to next but with some deft handling the channels can gently influence the next step. The better the passing between players, the less likely the ball will be dropped letting the opposition steal possession.

So before I stretch the analogy too far – what about multi-channel, how would this look on a rugby field?

Well, we’d still have players covering all the channels but each might have their own strategy – attempting to score the try without passing.

When tackled, the ball is dropped and may be picked up by the opposition or by another player but they’ll have no memory of what has happened before, where they were heading or why – very much like the schoolboy rugby I remember!

almost 4 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Chris Wood

All interesting stuff but we spend more time and effort debating new terminology derived from the IT industry than what the customer actually wants.
Omni channel, multi channel, cross media, the term is irrelevant. What's important is that the customer can get the communication or transaction they want or need via the medium they want to use at any point in their buying process. So, if I'm taking out a new insurance policy for my car and need to provide proof of non claims discount, I can do it online, or by post.
If I'm in an electrical store and want more details on the latest flat screen TV, I can use my mobile and augmented reality or QR codes to get the information (always assuming I can get 3G reception in the store!).
Lets stop thinking about the terminology and more about what it all means in practice for customers.

almost 4 years ago

Ben Potter

Ben Potter, Director at Ben Potter - new business mentor

Great article.

I'd always considered the difference between multichannel and omnichannel to be as follows (which I am pretty sure is consistent with your analogy Stewart)...

A retailer might offer their products for sale via multiple channels - they are therefore deemed to be a multichannel retailer. However, this does not necessarily mean the experience is consistent and seamless as the customer moves between those channels.
Omnichannel is the utopia - it is where the experience is aligned, consistent and seamless as the customer moves between store, website, mobile, etc. In essence, it is the ability to offer any product, at anytime, anywhere, extending into areas such as delivery i.e. the ability to receive an delivered item on your terms.

Very few, if any retailers, have mastered this and in fact the reality is that true omnichannel retailing may never be achievable because technology (and therefore consumer behaviours and expectations) move faster than the vast retailers can keep up.

almost 4 years ago

Ben Potter

Ben Potter, Director at Ben Potter - new business mentor

Great article.

I'd always considered the difference between multichannel and omnichannel to be as follows (which I am pretty sure is consistent with your analogy Stewart)...

A retailer might offer their products for sale via multiple channels - they are therefore deemed to be a multichannel retailer. However, this does not necessarily mean the experience is consistent and seamless as the customer moves between those channels.
Omnichannel is the utopia - it is where the experience is aligned, consistent and seamless as the customer moves between store, website, mobile, etc. In essence, it is the ability to offer any product, at anytime, anywhere, extending into areas such as delivery i.e. the ability to receive an delivered item on your terms.

Very few, if any retailers, have mastered this and in fact the reality is that true omnichannel retailing may never be achievable because technology (and therefore consumer behaviours and expectations) move faster than the vast majority of retailers can keep up.

almost 4 years ago

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