In 30 years, marketing has evolved from a single-channel  to an omni-channel approach, going through a series of more or less successful variants. Let’s have a closer look at  a phenomenon that influences all sectors and tries to respond to the changing expectations of ever more connected consumers.

Are you mono, multi, cross or omni-channel?

In marketing, a channel is the interface (physical or virtual) by which a customer takes action and decides to purchase. We speak of distribution channel but also of points of contact between brands and customers.

Before the Internet, things were simpler for companies: they used 3 channels of communication: telephone, mail and store. But since then things have evolved …

Single Channel:
Not so long ago, companies were active via a single channel. A physical channel most often, but sometimes online as in the case of the first e-commerce pure players. However, even in these cases, the marketing departments already used several communication channels.
Amazon was, until recently, a typical example of a single-channel enterprise using a large number of communication channels, from the web & mobile to e-mail and social media.

  • Multi channel:
    With the multiplication of smartphones and tablets, the number of communication channels to reach customers have exploded. Hence, marketing was almost forced to become multi-channel. To attract the connected customers, companies had to invest in multiple channels and choose the most appropriate ones according to their customer base: store, website, mail or email, social media, mobile. At that stage, however, each channel was handled independently, with specific budgets, objectives and tools. The result is a compartmentalization that does not always allow for a consistent brand image nor an effective brand management.
  • Cross-channel:
    This is the logical sequel to multi-channel marketing. Indeed, companies quickly realized that it was necessary to link the different channels, to switch from online to offline and vice versa. In short,  they feel the need to create bridges to optimize the impact of their communications and promote cross-interactions. A cross channel customer navigates through various channels to complete the same purchase. A typical example of this is the “click and collect” approach, which allows you to buy a product online and get it delivered in the nearest store.
  • Omni-channel:
    Omni-channel marketing is obviously the best strategy! This is indeed the best  response to consumer behavior change. For, beyond the harmonization of messages and the connection of channels, omni-channel leads to the creation a unique experience where each channel supports and reinforces the other, where barriers fade while customers and brands interact from one medium to another.

In an equally essential way, omni-channel marketing makes it possible to collect, centralize and process customer information in real time. Now the channel does not really matter anymore, what is more important is that the customer finds what he wants wherever and whenever he wishes. To achieve this, the different channels must work in total synergy.

Omni-channel Marketing to enhance customer experience

The real challenge of omni-channel marketing is to fully understand the customer’s journey and to be present all along the micro-moments leading to purchase.

This jourvey has long been represented as a linear process. However, we now know that the shopper journey is varied and changing. It consists of a series of round trips between different points of contact, online or offline.

Luxury brands are often at the forefront and they have clearly understood this. As of 2011, Burberry adopted an immersive omni-channel approach in its London store. It created a truly innovative experience:

  • A giant screen broadcasting fashion shows and news over the brand
  • Interactive screens / mirrors for publishing selfies on social media
  • Salesmen équipped with tablets to check customer’s purchasing history and preferences
  • 500 loudspeakers and 100 screens reacting differently depending on customers’ behaviour and strengthening the connection between physical and digital world.

Since then, most major brands have tested various omni-channel approaches. Amazon has also evolved : it is now opening a first physical store “of the future” where virtual and real world are intimately linked. Prices are not displayed in store (the customer has to check them on its smartphone) or the selection of books presented in store is based on online readers’ reviews.

To conclude

There are as many jouneys as there are customers. Difficult to foresee where the first contact will be made or what its privileged channels will be. Your main objective is therefore to go and meet your customers on a maximum number of channels and above all to earn their attention by a really fluid and meaningful communication.

The good news is that such an approach is excellent for your growth!

Do you have an omni-channel project ? Let's talk about it!

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