It soon became clear that Wikipedia has no definition of Omni-Channel or Omni-Channel Marketing. If you search for Omni-Channel, you will be redirected to the definition of Omni-Channel Retailing. With a few adjustments, this produced the following definition:
"Omni-Channel Marketing is very similar to the evolution of, (Cross Channel Marketing), but is concentrated more on a seamless approach to the consumer experience through all available marketing channels, i.e. mobile internet devices, computers, bricks-and-mortar, television, radio, direct mail, catalog and so on. Marketers are meeting the new customer demands by deploying specialized marketing capabilities."
Single Channel environments
A long time ago the world was a relatively simple place. A product was a product, a customer was a customer and Direct Marketing was still Direct Marketing. Customers and potential customers had limited choices. They could be successfully reached in 1-to-1 communication via one single channel; often it was Direct Mail. There was no need for integration with other channels, simply because they hardly existed.
The capabilities with which campaigns (selections) were developed and implemented were relatively simple. It should also be said that at that time there was a lot of analysis, testing and optimization. Obviously, some serious challenges had to be faced, challenges that, thanks to technological progress, and are now much less of a challenge.
Somewhat more recently, organizations noticed that the use of multiple channels improves results. Some (potential) c customers were approached through one channel, others through a different channel and sometimes a series of different channels. For example, some high-value customers were contacted via an Outbound Call and low-value customers via Direct Mail.
One of the characteristics of a Multi-Channel environment is that the channels are used alongside each other; there is not yet any channel integration. In fact, this involves traditional 1-to-1 push marketing in which the transmitting party determines which channels are used for communication.
Unfortunately, there are still organizations that use this approach. Be honest, you know organizations like that. Here are some characteristics:
- Departments centered around a specific channel, often resulting in an unhealthy internal channel conflict (for example, "online" versus "offline") that in the long term isn't in the interest of the customer or of the company;
- No central contact history across all the channels;
- Marketers "fishing" in the same waters (all targeting the same customers and prospects);
- Overarching Business Rules that set priorities are lacking (the wheel that squeaks the loudest…);
- The Call Center doesn't know which offer a customer has received, can't find it and can't help the customer.
Time to make a change...
The reason that Multi Channel environments are still being used is that, in terms of setup and capabilities, they are still relatively straightforward and manageable. Actually, they involve several Single Channels alongside each other.
The main downside is that the customer doesn't come first.
Cross Channel environments
Although Multi Channel and Cross Channel environments are often treated as synonyms, the terms are definitely not interchangeable. And it couldn't be otherwise. As a result of societal and technological developments, a product is no longer just a product and a customer is no longer just a customer.
The very essence of a Cross Channel environment is that channels are coordinated and integrated. Not yet in real time by definition, but the case of the call center that isn't aware of an offer in one of the channels doesn't happen with a Cross Channel environment.
A number of striking differences with Multi Channel environments are:
- There is a widely accepted overall vision of Customer Contact, which is expressed in the Customer Contact Strategy;
- The customer comes first, and 1-to-1 communication takes place about and around the customer;
- The system offers comprehensive insight into the history of customer communications and offers;
- A Customer Lifecycle is defined (based on data) and Customer Journeys are mapped and described.
The necessary capabilities and the constraints imposed on marketers in a Cross Channel environment are considerably more demanding than in a Multi and Single Channel environment.