The Myth of Omnichannel Utopia

Posted by on Apr 27, 2016 in Omnichannel, Retail

Omnichannel isn’t just the future of retail; it’s happening right now. Your shoppers are already omnichannel shoppers and many retailers are beginning to stretch their limits to reach an ultimate omnichannel state. However, in a recent article on RIS News, Rob McGrorty of Webgility acknowledged what he called “the myth of omnichannel utopia,” and he posed the question:

“The constant contact of omnichannel may be what retailers want, but do consumers really want to be pushed to buy every second of every day?”

Omnichannel is necessary because it’s become the most effective way to succeed in the changing landscape, but it’s not a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It is critical for retailers to meet their shoppers in the digital space, but shoppers behaviors are changing, new channels open up, and new technologies become available every day, so omnichannel retail strategies must also change and evolve alongside those market changes.

Getting the fundamentals down will make it much easier for retailers to adapt to market conditions. What do the fundamentals consist of in omnichannel?

  • Seamless, open lines of communication across multiple channels (in-store, on the website, in customer service emails, on store associate calls, via tweets, etc).
  • Data is used intelligently to inform decisions on the when, where, how, with whom of those communications.
  • The customer sees a valuable return for their the collection of their data. Data gathering methods are transparent and always opt-in at the end.

More to McGrorty’s point, omnichannel communications can (and likely will) be abused by retailers, especially as more and more catch on; he reminds us of direct mail and the early days of internet advertising.

Instead of using omnichannel communications as a one-way street to reach audiences in more places, retailers must both engage appropriately and learn more about each customer to understand when, how, and where they prefer to receive communications. Retailers who abuse the vast and open lines of omnichannel communications will lose customers, and those who focus on using data to inform appropriate omnichannel communication, McGrorty points out, will be the next disruptors.

So, what will separate the disruptors from the pack of hounding omnichannel marketers? What does a great omnichannel retailer look like?

  • They operate with digital at their core; everything from inventory to the sales floor is digital because they know that’s the most seamless way to engage with customers.
  • They gather customer data transparently and use that data to inform how, when, where, with whom they communicate because they want to build and maintain trust.
  • They never bombard shoppers with communication. They have a holistic view of each customer and have mapped out journeys to know when communications are most appropriate and effective at each touchpoint.
  • They stay on top of shopper trends and are nimble enough to jump on them in a way that fits their brand because they want to stay in sync with their shoppers.

The fact is that if omnichannel communication is abused as an excuse to simply push marketing at shoppers anywhere, everywhere, at any time, shoppers, even loyal customers, will learn to ignore them. (Look at Groupon as an example.) They will, McGrorty says, “gravitate to companies that take into account what they really want, companies that see the humanity in the experience of shopping, and companies that put a sincere emphasis on valuable service.”