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  • Athina Mallis

What is the meaning of 'omnichannel' and why is it important in marketing?

The term 'omnichannel' might be seen as a 'buzzword' within marketing and retail, but according to Robert Kinkade, CEO and co-founder of CX360, it's imperative brands implement an omnichannel experience as it's one of the most fundamental things they need to focus on during these uncertain times.

What does 'omnichannel' mean?

'Omnichannel' essentially means all your 'channels' revolve around your customer, which creates a single customer experience across your brand. It does this by unifying sales and marketing between these channels. Often applied to retail environments, true omnichannel shopping goes beyond brick-and-mortar locations to channels like mobile-browsing, online marketplaces, social media - wherever your users browse online through retargeting ads.

What is the difference between 'omnichannel' and 'multichannel'?

Unlike 'omnichannel' which relates to all channels, 'multichannel' relates to the concept of 'many channels.' Applied in the retail environment, this evolves around your product and lets customers engage and purchase natively wherever they shop - but often treats channels as 'silos' independent from one another. Each channel in a multichannel strategy exists as a separate purchase opportunity.

Robert Kinkade, CEO and co-founder of CX360, an organisation focused on customer experience transformation, highlights the importance of omnichannel - and how it's not about these 'multiple channels', but one.

Roberts says omnichannel should focus on one brand that interacts very seamlessly with consumers across all multiple touchpoints.

"It could be going into a store, it could be going online, it could be a call centre, it could be a chat on a mobile app," he explains. "That's really how consumers want to shop and engage. They want to shop and engage on their terms, when it's convenient for them, they really expect brands to get it right behind the scenes."

"That involves a ton of coordination, a lot of collaboration, and frankly, a lot of technology to really make sure all that data and process is stitched together so that these customer journeys are delivered seamlessly."

"That's what customers expect, they don't understand when brands can't get it right, it's incredibly infuriating for them and they're all wired up on social media so when consumers are upset these days they can really amplify their perspectives quite effectively."

An opportunity to listen to your customers

According to Robert, retailers need to be listening to their customers now more than ever. He says great retailers have always done that, they've always been incredibly customer-centric and really taking customer feedback seriously.

"Now, it's amplified so if you don't get on the front foot and really take feedback seriously and adapt to the way you operate, you're really exposed. But on the flip side, the ability to harness customer insights is more powerful than ever before, through measurement tools, and through social media. Those that really want to take customer centricity seriously have plenty of 'weapons' at their disposal now which is really exciting," he explains.

To be an "omnichannel" brand, Robert highlights you have to be on 24/7 because the retail world is no longer 9 to 5.

"In the sense of a customer, they could be shopping at midnight, they could be shopping at 6am," Robert explains. "They're going to need servicing, they're going to need advice and engagement. How you do that through a combination of people and technology is really important.

A misnomer in the omnichannel discussion: what happens instore?

For Robert, one of the biggest misnomers in the omnichannel discussion he sees is around the question of 'what happens to the store?'.

"Does the store just go away? My view is: absolutely not. The role of the store is not going away, it's just changing. In fact, there is a whole new set of possibilities for the physical store in an omnichannel world where you don't have to have all the inventory shoved into the box," he says.

"You can free that up, you can have space where people can talk to people, use technology to show people new things, demonstrate solutions to their needs and through modern technology and fulfillment methods the product can just arrive when and where the product wants it to do. There is a real decoupling opportunity."

Robert uses the example of North American department store giant Nordstrom that launched 'Nordstrom Local', focusing on services and experience like returns and item pick ups.

"They can put those boxes into places like they couldn't put a big box into. Right here in Manly, for example, you could have the full power of the department store on The Corso," he adds.

Future of e-commerce, marketing and the digital transformation of retail

For Robert, 2020 in particular, has been really frustrating, seeing all of the challenges a lot of retail brands have had - and the fact they cannot open their stores and trade.

He says a pattern he's noticed throughout his career working in the United States and Australia is the underinvestments in e-commerce and digital transformation generally in the A/NZ region.

"This year it's really all become quite exposed, those who have been able to get ahead of the curve have been able to adapt and trade and not have the year they would have planned. They're in a reasonable state but there are a lot of retailers that have lost their revenue lifeline because they weren't prepared to deal with e-commerce," he says.

"The pandemic is going to subside at some stage, but consumer behaviour around shopping online was a real thing before the pandemic and it's just been accelerated. It'll be more and more entrenched because of what we've experienced this year," he adds.

Robert doesn't blame the lack of digital transformation on why a number of retailers have collapsed - but says it is a large contributing factor.

"I've seen a couple of retailers that I know quite well that have been quite progressive, still have a challenging year, and in some cases, close to going under. At the end of the day, the ones that are doing the best in this environment are the ones that could quickly adapt and shift more of their revenue online through e-commerce.

"They had great mobile, digital touchpoints to stay in touch with their consumers. Managing things like contactless deliveries very quickly, obviously dial-up click and collect, it's a huge correlation in my view."

Athina Mallis is a Content and Communications Specialist at AZK Media

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