Web Development

"Omni": The next digital disrupter?

“Omni” – “all” in Latin – is one of those words that is boringly doing the tech rounds at the moment. I get pitched stories about it all the time. And recently attended an event where it was specifically called out as the next tech disrupter. But beyond the fluff and guff what does this mean now and what is it likely to mean in future?


Multi-channel vs. omni-channel

The concept of multi-channel has been at the heart of marketing and retail for several decades. It means to reach and interact with customers through multiple channels. So how does this differ to omni-channel? A widely accepted definition of omni-channel is that you have multiple channels which are all connected – whereas multi-channel is just multiple channels, but the content, timing and audiences may differ.

Juha Mattsson, Chief Marketing Officer from Walkbase


Too much chat about the channel

We should focus a little more on omni and forget about the channel. Our view has long been that it’s not about the channel; it’s about the conversation. Customers don’t care about the channel, they want a seamless interaction, personalised for them. They don’t want to start again every time that make contact; regardless of channel. 

Daren Ward, Partner at Glue Reply


It once received wariness now it gets cautious optimism

Omni in tech is just a statement about the variety that we are seeing develop. Initially companies and investors were wary of putting money into the next gadget or gizmo. Companies didn’t think that people would want the level of connectivity we now have, and thought that people would view it more as a hindrance to their lives than as a necessary part of them.

So when we think about omni in terms of an explosion of tech, we can think about this wariness being thrown away, and it being replaced with a cautious optimism that sees a lot of projects gaining funding to develop a massive variety of technologies. This extends far beyond retail into healthcare, business and many other sectors.

Paul Putman, CEO of Donky


This has become an expectation

The idea that customers will be served where and when they want is what retailers have been striving towards for an extensive period of time. In the past it could be done, despite difficulties integrating systems, but now, not only is the technology to enable this becoming readily available, it can be easily implemented by retailers. The imperative is that consumers are not just demanding it, they are expecting it as the norm. Digitally empowered consumers are now comfortable moving from device to device, from location to location – expecting retailers to follow their journey.

Iain Devine, Commercial Director at global commerce consultancy Salmon


A stupid number of channels in five years

[In five years] it will be natural for people to browse the web from the front door of their connected fridge, and to re-order groceries from their kitchen counter whilst browsing online shops on their smartphones/tablets. It is even possible that even more channels will open up, such as augmented reality devices, smart glasses, new types of wearable technology. In this marketplace it is hard to predict what consumers will embrace next, smartphones are here to stay, but who knows what the next popular channel will be?

George Skaff, CMO, TouchCommerce


An easy place to fail

The more channels you have for customers to do business with you – the more opportunity there is for everyone involved. But more channels also create the risk of not fully understanding your customers from every angle, or having plenty of customer data but no valuable decision-making knowledge.

Mike Blanchard, Head of Customer Intelligence Solutions, SAS UK & Ireland.


The key is stock visibility

The key facilitator is having one accurate view of stock. If a retailer is aware of exactly which stock is where, they can then target, personalise and promote messages to customers in any given location with a relevant offer. Window displays will focus on items in stock, digital displays in conjunction with iBeacons (or any other customer verification device) could promote items that match your purchase spend. We will see a continued acceleration of services and initiatives, and ultimately some consolidation as the winning retailers rise.

Eric Fergusson, Head of Retail Services, eCommera


This covers everything including communication

As businesses look to adopt an omni-channel communication strategy, they will ultimately be able to interact with customers more consistently, regardless of whether they choose to communicate via post, email, social media, or anything else in-between.

Phil Hutchison, Marketing Manager at mailing solution specialist Neopost


Finally, that much hyped day has arrived

People in the digital marketing industry have been calling every year ‘the year of mobile’ for quite some time, but I finally agree that it has arrived. With more than half of all web traffic now being on a mobile device, you cannot afford to ignore it as a web publisher. As a result, any marketing strategy must become an omni-channel strategy, capturing those people now using multiple devices to engage with brands.

Joe Friedlein, Managing Director and Founder of Browser Media


The real challenge will be delivery

In my experience the most challenging part of omni-channel is operational logistics and business processes that require significant realignment and coordination of lots of departments and team members. Often the whole organisation needs to be restructured to properly support omni-channel, which means that actually, not many organisations are really doing omni properly yet.

[People will be surprised] how difficult it is going to be to actually get the omni-channel experience right, because at the minute, what many will describe as being omni-channel is a long way from being the finished article. That said I think when retailers and brands do get it right, the experience for the customer will be so overwhelmingly positive, that the impact on the business will be greater than their best predictions.

Ilya Vinogradsky, CTO at Astound Commerce


And the next big disrupter for omi…

Social customer engagement. Businesses are already engaging with customers via their mobile sites or apps, and even SMS. But now many of them are reaching out to customers via social media. That's the upcoming venue where consumers go to research products or to find answers to issues; their first place to turn is not the brand anymore, but the opinions of others, so brands need to be there to offer help where it counts. Adding the social element to omni-channel engagement makes for a more complete picture of the customer journey, and businesses need to understand the value of that.

George Skaff, CMO, TouchCommerce


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