Last week, Gartner announced its' "Top Industry Predicts 2012: Industries Face intensified Consumerization and Technology Disruption" report.
One of the industries Gartner looks at in the report is retail. In a press release, the company predicts that "through 2015, 80 percent of multichannel implementations will fail because retailers will retain channel- and product-centric strategies."
Multichannel ranks high on the agenda of many retailers, just as multichannel and cross-channel commerce, marketing, sales and support are clear priorities for several businesses and managers.
The reason is obvious: consumers use multiple channels to buy, communicate and inform themselves. In order to be customer-centric and engage consumers the way they want, multiple channels are necessary.
Whether multichannel will fail in retail is perhaps not the main challenge. It's true that businesses continue to have predominantly channel-, product-, campaign-, division- or message-centric strategies, contrary to customer-centric ones.
Optimizing across the touch points
However, what matters most are not the channels but the touch points. Last year, Forrester's Brian Walker wrote an article on Forbes, stating that "the traditional multichannel commerce experience is becoming obsolete."
"Customers no longer interact with companies from a channel perspective; instead, they interact through touch points," he added.
Forrester talks about agile commerce instead of multichannel commerce. It's all about putting the customer in the centre and "about the customer life cycle across everywhere we touch them."
Terminology is important but, no matter how you look at it; channels enable touch points. From a marketing viewpoint, I tend to agree with Dave Chaffey where he wrote in his "12 digital marketing fundamentals to get right in 2012" post that "creating a cross-channel engagement strategy will be key".
Consumers don't think in terms of channels. Businesses should do it less when looking at the customer from a holistic perspective and indeed focus on touch points.
However, channels do exist and using them in a smart and integrated way is a necessity to optimize the above mentioned "across everywhere we touch them" approach.
Today's customer is cross-channel and he/she is at the centre of sales and marketing.
Communication channels depend on the consumer and marketing is about engaging the cross-channel customer and prospect throughout integrated dialogs that are driven by his/her buying journey, preferences, triggers, signals and behavior.
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