Omni-Channel is a utopian idea.
Fundamentally, it’s a cross-channel, seamless experience for the end user. Organizations will go to where the customers are, brands will be able to deliver better service whether in a store, on the web or on the go, and businesses will be able to reach their customers on so many levels so easily that the company itself will be physically integrated into the person’s life.
It’s a completely personalized experience that puts the decision making power into the consumers’ hands and makes everyone happy.
It’s a theory because retail and retail banking are two industries already leading the way in thinking about Omni Channel initiatives. The former has done so to stave off the effects of digital disruption while the latter is doing so to rebuild some shaken trust in the public over the last few years.
Retailers have answered by instating policies designed to fix the “showrooming” problem, combining brick and mortar and e-commerce efforts and by rethinking processes within various value chain players, and many have already been quite successful. Banks are currently reacting by rolling out waves of new mobile technology designed to make the user experience easier while innovating banking and payment models for consumers.
Any CIO dealing with these challenges has been thinking about them for quite some time, and in some respects, this idea is really nothing new. It’s branding 101; get to know your customer and reach them where they are.
But if you’re wondering why digital disruption and trust problems haven’t gone away, it might have something to do with the mindset being in the wrong place.
As Forrester Analyst Adam Silverman pointed out on our show “Enabling Omni Channel Retail Innovation,” “Omni Channel” is a bad term because we’re talking about touch points, not channels.
“The customer doesn’t think about channels,” Silverman said. “The best retailers succeeding in Omni Channel have a dedicated innovation budget.” He adds that the traditional marks of success, specifically an ability to track a hard ROI through real-time analytics are not as relevant as trying to be customer-centric.
Silverman says that retail customers have shown a willingness to experiment with new technology in-store because it involves them and gets them closer to finding the products they already have in mind.
That’ll require a major transformation in the retail space, and Silverman says the jury is still out as to whether the C-suite will carve out such a hefty budget for new technologies, but an ability to construct a holistic, customer centric approach while keeping in mind concrete, traditional goals is a strategic imperative.
Banks on the other hand have things a little differently. Ron Balmer, a Principal with Greenwich Associates, said on our show “Innovating and Humanizing Retail Banks” that banks have never and likely will never look “cool,” no matter how many nifty mobile apps they put out. What they do have to be is trusting, and the number of new mobile technologies (NFC, Virtual Currencies, Social Banking, Mobile Wallets), aren’t necessarily helping that cause. The innovations not only require massive investment for slow consumer adoption, but also won’t stay innovations for long. The new normal, Balmer says, has become that mobile technologies are not going to differentiate banks positively but could be a huge detractor for those missing out.
Rather, the focus for both industries should be on making the personalized experience simple and easy for consumers adopt, which conveniently is a roundabout way of saying the fundamental truth of good business is that your products and services should serve as your differentiator.
“Patience is a part of the strategy for any CIO,” says Jacqueline Vose, also of Greenwich Associates. Institutions should slow down, pause, and aim to understand distinct consumer segmentation, be sure to reach the head and heart of your customers and create the relationships in addition to the best price.
Suddenly Omni Channel doesn’t seem like such a new idea.