I’m not crazy about using buzzwords, but I will make an exception for omni-channel since the concept is so important in today’s marketing environment. When you look at how consumers are receiving messages, you have to acknowledge that delivering a seamless experience is a must. When consumers find a glitch or inconsistency in their experience or along their journey, they drop out or, worse, they turn to your competition. At its core omni-channel is basically multichannel with an amped-up twist… the difference is the seamless integration for the customer.

The notion of omni-channel could be discounted as the latest flash, but it does represent a huge change in how we need to market today. The world of marketing is no longer in transition; we have left the land of push messaging behind. One-to-one consumer communication is now the rule. As marketers, we’ve typically focused on right message, right channel and right time, but today’s consumer is interacting with brands on an on-going basis via an ever-growing number of channels. Indeed, according to Google Research, 90 percent of multiple device owners switch between three devices per day to complete a task.

Unfortunately, according to Marketo’s Mike Stockton, “When it comes to omni-channel, multi-device marketing, consumers today are way ahead of most marketers.”

OMNI-CHANNEL NEED

Here’s a fun fact: Every time you properly shuffle a deck of cards, it is more than likely that the order of cards in this shuffled deck never existed before in the history of the world. Think about how many permutations are possible in a shuffled deck of 52 cards…Google “52 factorial” to see just how many unique outcomes there are.

Now think about how many customers you have and how many channels they utilize for information and then how many ways they are absorbing that message in that channel at that very point in time. It can easily be argued that one customer might interact with your brand 52 times... or even 100 times. A pre-planned message (once thought to be more powerful the more it is repeated) can quickly become stale. Worse than that, a resized adapted message may not even suit the channel or the customer’s current mindset.

It used to be that brands could produce two to four television ads a year. Now, we must think about creating a drastically higher number of ads for more and more channels. It is more important than ever to fit your message to the channel. It’s not just a matter of taking your commercial and posting it to Facebook and YouTube; you really must think about how to fit it to those channels.

TAKING ACTION

Time to do an audit. You probably have a handful of people developing your communications materials. In some cases, the advertising person is working with an agency, but the social media person is left to repurpose assets for posts. The direct mail people may be self-contained in developing the mail, and still another person may be developing e-mail marketing messages. Step one in the process is to understand who is doing what, identify the tools they are using and the processes that are in place.

Next, put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Use CX and customer journeys to bring teams working on messaging into a common and shared understanding of what is needed to communicate appropriately. Increasing the “stickiness” of your messages by guiding customers along their chosen journeys to your door, slot machine or event is a must if your intention is to retain and grow your market share. The ease of access to technology has empowered consumers to use multiple channels to interact with you at their pleasure in a manner of their choosing. When you add the current desire of many customers to experience personalized brand interactions, you realize the importance of understanding the various customer journeys and insights to deliver the right message.

Now, you have information that will allow you to build customer profiles and design experiences, templates. Develop a tagging methodology (to ease search and eliminate guesswork in identifying the appropriate assets to be used) and a workflow that depends on a common and agreed to logic. Build use cases to guide all individuals responsible for channels that touch the consumer. Don’t forget your call center.

Remember, this is a company effort, not just a department effort. You will need to work closely with several departments and vendors to develop a strategy and the tools to support it. Look to IT, operations, customer service and human resources as stakeholders in this effort. Agree to the goals and objectives of your omni-channel effort and start planning a transition that will be supported. Get the company excited!

Look to other companies for inspiration. Starbucks is considered by some to be a top omni-channel marketer. If you’re a member of their rewards program, you know how easy it is to be a customer via any channel you desire. Sitting in the drive thru for your morning latte and realize you don’t have enough on your card? Easy…reload it before you even get to the window. The cashier will never know because your card will be reloaded by the time your pay app is scanned.

Our industry has always looked to Disney as a prime example of delivering a magical guest experience, but if you dig into that experience with marketer’s view, you’ll see it’s really an omni-channel experience. Sure, their trip planning website is beautiful and works well on mobile. Today, all our websites have to do that. Those are the table stakes. Look a little deeper—once you’ve booked your trip, you can start using the My Disney Experience tool to plan your entire trip including securing those Fast Passes for the high-demand rides. Once you’re in the park, the mobile app helps you locate the attractions you want to see. Most visitors would be thrilled with just those channels, but Disney took it a step further with the release of their MagicBand. It’s your room key, but you can order food with it, store the pictures of you taken with characters on it, and much more. The MagicBand will even unlock “special surprises, personalized just for you.” Now that is a magical omni-channel experience.

Throughout this process, please keep in mind that the technology being used by both marketers and consumers is feeding us a ton of data. Measure your successes in terms of response. Look at the data and compare interactions across channels. Understand which data points are meaningful in achieving your goals.

THINGS TO CONSIDER…

Adjusting the context of your messages does not mean you adjust your brand. Managing the identity and perception of your brand is as important as understanding the customer journey touch points. A study by Booz Allen Hamilton and Wolff Olins found that companies guided by their brand outperformed their competitors.

Brand guidelines explain the importance of your brand and describe how to use the elements of your brand—name, logo, taglines, copy, etc. A properly built style guide will provide practical instructions for all. If you don’t have brand guidelines in place today, put this at the top of the list. Work with your agency and then share with vendors and employees, including those who are not formally developing messaging. Brand guidelines reflect the brand values and guide the organization in how to deal with customers, suppliers, investors, journalists and the community.

This is not a mobile issue. Google Vice President of Display Advertising Neil Mohan has said, “If you’re just focusing on mobile, you’re solving yesterday’s problems.” Consumers are moving back and forth between devices, sometimes using two or more at a time. Instead of thinking desktop or mobile, you must think of a holistic approach—desktop, mobile, Apple Watch, tablet, and the next product to come off the production line.

Technology becomes a bigger and bigger part of our daily living with each passing moment. Even as you read this, I would venture to guess you have a few devices close at hand. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have it all covered because you are using technology in a certain way. Omni-channel marketing requires a global view of today’s consumer…and tomorrow’s. Talk to strangers. The next time you see someone using a new channel, ask them about it. If they aren’t your customer today, they could be your customer tomorrow.

Making the pivot to omni-channel marketing means that rather than systemizing how creative gets developed across different mediums, you are rethinking how your message gets delivered and then assembling the creative in the proper way. It forces you to think about the customer and their journey to develop the appropriate messages.