I do not mind the occasional buzzword if it used as a shorthand for a bigger concept; that is just efficient. I am not a big fan however, when buzzwords make a simple concept sound hard and complicated so the writer or speaker can sell something, which is why I have struggled with the recent marketing ’trend‘ around multi/omnichannel.
First, let’s address omnichannel. Those who remember their Latin from school will know that ’omni‘ is a prefix meaning ’all‘ or ’every‘. It crops up in loads of English words like omniscient, meaning all-knowing or omnipotent, meaning all powerful. Omnichannel therefore means all channels and that is just not possible. No brand has the budget or resources to market across every channel. When was the last time you briefed your agency on your next sky writing campaign? Do not get me wrong, skywriting could be a very effective channel in certain situations but it is probably not the go-to channel for most brands.
Multichannel on the other hand is certainly more achievable as ’multi‘ is short for ’multiple‘. Everybody ought to be marketing across multiple channels. I am not sure however, that it is buzzword-worthy in the sense that multichannel is not anything new. Marketers have been using multichannel since the advent of the second channel.
You should be using whichever channels both connect you with your target audience AND meet your objectives. It is this second piece which marketers too often ignore. It is easy to chase after the shiny new channels supported by new technologies. You may even be able to make a legitimate argument that your consumers are there on that channel waiting to hear from you. This ignores whether that channel will help you meet your objectives and in order to do that, you need to take a step back and do a little analysis.
First, do you understand the channel? Before diving into a channel, get immersed in it yourself. See how consumers (i.e. you and your friends) interact with the channel and with each other on that channel. Can you seamlessly integrate marketing, or will it be too intrusive? Also, check out what the early adopting brands are doing on the channel. It is usually better to be a later adopter and learn from other’s mistakes than to become that epic fail case study trotted out at every conference.
Once you truly understand the channel, you can work out how you will support it. There are countless stories of brands who got into social media but because they did not have the mechanisms and resources to listen to those channels, which resulted in frustrating loyal customers.
Last but certainly not least, test the channel with a tightly defined pilot. Know exactly what you are testing as well as the measures of success and the measures of failure. If successful, by all means crack on and roll it out big time but if it is failing, test other approaches till it either works or you decide it is not the right channel for you. Even if you have decided to go with it, do not forget to go back and analyse its performance on a regular basis.
I was working with a client on the value of an email address and we discovered that while people who only received emails were worth about £1.80, people who both received email and liked the brand on Facebook were worth almost £2.70. That led us to look at the people who had only liked the Facebook page. They were worth 10p. What this clearly demonstrated is that no acquisition budget should be going towards Facebook but we should use it to extend the email with exclusive content and other offers.
Do not get hung up on the buzzwords. Remember that at the end of the day, you are a marketer and therefore the king of your own buzzwords (a blog for another time). In this case, omnichannel is both unachievable and not the most effective way to spend your marketing budget. Multichannel on the other hand is achievable but is not anything new. In fact, I am sure you have been a multichannel marketer since the day you started your marketing career. What is important is choosing the right channels – finding the balance between the channels where your customers are and the channels that are going to be the most effective for meeting your objectives.