Omni-channel Strategy – What is it and why do you need it?

by Shweta Sinha

Omni-channel Strategy – What is it and why do you need it?

by Shweta Sinha

by Shweta Sinha

Don’t want an Omni-Channel strategy for your Brand Orchestration?

Sure, keep throwing good money after bad!

You cannot ignore omni-channel strategy

For the longest time, marketing and advertising were completely compatible bedfellows with the former guiding the latter, and the latter (format – Print, TVC) then instructing the selection of media. However, two concomitant events brought about a shift in this tried and tested trope; the digital eagle landed and changed the game, and brands started to give complete focus to customer-centricity.

Digital completely changed the way marketers looked at advertising. Now specific audience segments could be micro-targeted and impressions, exposure, reach, the frequency could tangibly be measured. Naturally, this brought about a complete revision in the metrics of performance measurement. What it also unfortunately did was that it made Digital seem like a separate strategic initiative rather than yet another platform to be integrated and married into the overarching business objectives for the brand.
Several marketers and brand custodians started viewing Digital as the marketing silver bullet. Slowly, due to the speed, agility, and perceived ‘cost-efficiency’ of the medium, brands started hyper-focusing on digital and experimenting with content that they thought worked best for the medium – irrespective of whether it fits with the larger brand narrative. Unlike earlier (where the same TVC got adapted to print, outdoor and sometimes even radio), now brand tonality and narratives started getting inconsistent across platforms and the personality of a lot of brands started to seem schizophrenic.

In response to this, traditional agencies tried to push back by pushing for more TVCs and traditional content, while simultaneously scrambling to speedily develop in-house digital capabilities as well. This was that dangerous tipping point when the entire focus now had started shifting towards media/platform-led strategy rather than brand/business/consumer-led approach. This began to get described as multi-channel marketing strategy, where multiple platforms and channels were deployed simultaneously as touch-points for the brand, but it was ultimately left to the consumer to decide how they’d prefer to engage with one or more of these channels.

It was only a matter of time when marketers realized that while this strategy was impactful at the moment, it wasn’t effective in the long run – it helped grab eyeballs but rarely managed to take a share of mind or wallet. It was then the customer was once again brought back into the equation and placed the square in the middle, and the brand’s overall strategy once again led the way for optimum selection of media mix and cohesive orchestration of the brand across channels! This was the birth of the Omni-channel approach!

In today’s world where the rapid rate of change in consumer behaviour and technology makes it extremely challenging to keep up, the omni-channel approach is amongst the most effective and future-forward approached to planning a brand’s orchestration. It has consumer-centricity and behaviour change at its core and doesn’t put the channel or medium before the consumer or brand. Therefore, not only does it aim for impact but also effectiveness, measured through the change of heart (behaviour change) as well as a share of the wallet!

The omni-channel approach focusses on creating a seamless ecosystem for the consumer to experience the brand, instead of allowing the consumer to randomly pick and choose the channel through which he/she could engage with the brand. It therefore not only takes into consideration advertising and communication but also last-mile conversion, ergo – all touch-points of actual brand-consumer engagement. In that, the omnichannel orchestration of a brand not only ensures consistency in tonality, personality, messaging and narrative across platforms, but ensures that the consumer’s engagement and purchase experience across channels also remains consistent and cohesive – be it online (mobile or laptop, website or app, Facebook or Instagram), or offline (at the flagship store, or an event, or at a franchisee).

The Omni-channel approach accurately takes into consideration the non-linear path-to-purchase of today’s consumer. It foresees that a customer could move from the actual store to the online store on his/her laptop, to an aggregator app on his mobile device for the same product, and thus the messaging and brand experience that he/she is exposed to across channels and media needs to be consistent and cohesive – allowing for his/her seamless transition across this ecosystem.
While this makes the Omni-channel approach seems like the new and upgraded silver bullet, it’s not exactly a walk in the park to adopt. Shifting to an omnichannel approach and effectively deploying it requires a complete shift in mindset and approach across all levels of the organization and also mandates a collaborative buy-in and cross-functional alignment across all the functional silos. It now has people chasing the same common objective and outcome rather than independent, inward-looking goals. This challenging of status quo requires time, effort, conviction, and vision from the senior management and department heads, who more often than not, are the most resistant to changing old ways of working.

Additionally, the organization must have the means to mine data across channels and then have a strong analytical team that knows how to make sense of the data and how to integrate it. Adopting and integrating a technology-led platform (often expensive) is usually a good start point. It will also require marketing teams and creative agencies to learn to start laying as much emphasis on context as it does on content. Else, the results will be far from optimal. Since the strategy places the consumer at its center, it also requires the brand to know its consumer, his mind-set, his behaviour, his ticks, far deeper and better than ever before, and integrate a robust CRM tool to ensure maximum effectiveness.
All of this often makes a marketer ask, “Is it even worth the hassle?” The simple reply to that is, “If you have the intent, the means, and the follow-through, the answer is an obvious resounding yes!

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