What is Omni-Channel retailing? Is it the same as Omni-Channel marketing, but specific to the retail market? Is Omni-Channel marketing any different from Multi-Channel marketing (which is abbreviated from Multiple Channel marketing). And is Multi-Channel marketing any different from integrated marketing? Last year I started seeing my colleagues Linked In profiles updating with “omni-channel specialist” and similar such buzz words and it makes me want to laugh sometimes. I know why its done, we digital marketers want to create a keyword-rich searchable environment where we can be found.
Integrated Marketing provides the user with a better experience
I am an absolute advocate of integrated marketing – which to me means a business or brand communicating its products, services and offers to the marketplace in a cohesive way. Integrated marketing means that regardless of the advertising channel or the creative execution, the message is consistent and the branding or look and feel are also in line. Integrated marketing provides the customer or end user with a consistent message and positive experience at every touch-point, whether that be a mobile search ad, a long-format direct mail letter, a television commercial, the point-of-sale pricing in store, a billboard or the company’s email newsletters.
Integrated marketing should also promote sequential messaging and take the user on a journey where they are provided with new pieces of information that add value and support the messages they have already engaged with. For instance, there is a greater opportunity to provide more detail on a website than there is in a 30 second commercial. Likewise there is more content provided in a direct mail letter than in an email newsletter. Brands should take care to sequence their marketing communications so that customers receive the messages in an order that builds the story and the relationship, but can also communicate value as a stand-alone message. As there is no guarantee that every consumer saw the intended previous message. Integrated marketing puts the customer first and ensures that they have a cohesive and positive user experience at every touch-point, online or offline. But I digress. I was ranting about the ever-changing digital buzz words and whether Omni-Channel marketing is indeed the same thing as Multi-Channel marketing and Integrated Marketing.
What does Omni-channel retailing really mean?
I think I’m starting to get it. Omni-Channel retailing is kind of like multi-media consumption, it’s where the consumer engages or buys products using ALL of the marketing channels, making purchases online, via their mobile phone as well as buying in store. But I’m still confused by the diagrams as to whether this is during the lifetime of a customer or in a single transaction or purchase decision. Obviously we know that human behaviour has changed and that terms like ROBO have become common place because of our natural behaviour to Research Online before Buying Offline. So is Omni-Channel retailing just about engaging in all mediums/ channels or transacting in all channels?
According to Wikipedia Multi-Channel marketing allows the retail merchant to reach its prospective or current customer in a channel of his/ her liking. While Omni-Channel retailing is concentrated more on a seamless approach to the consumer experience through all available shopping channels, i.e. mobile internet devices, computers, bricks-and-mortar, television, catalog, and so on. Can you see why I’m struggling to make a distinction between these two terms?
This elaboration on Omni-channel retailing gets a little closer to a distinction, but also sounds a little bit like digital wank “all shopping channels work from the same database of products, prices, promotions, etc. Instead of perceiving a variety of touch-points as part of the same brand, omni-channel retailers let consumers experience the brand, not a channel within a brand.”
It’s all semantics
So I think you get my point. There may be small distinctions that differentiate multi-channel marketing from omni-channel marketing and the retail industry obviously provides the point of difference to justify the term omni-channel retailing but it still seems amusing to me that we keep changing the terminology. Someone asked me yesterday if “digital marketing” was marketing on the internet? I responded Yes. So he said, why is it called “digital”? My answer, “it became digital when mobile marketing became more prevalent and an online marketers skill-set expanded to include smartphone and tablet marketing tactics”. But I’m not even sure if that’s right. I love digital, I love how fast it changes and that it is continually innovating and expanding. But I find some of the buzz words, jargon and digital wank absolutely hilarious.