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.