Do Omnichannel Principles Work for B2B

In the B2B world text messages, in-store shopping and coupons are close to irrelevant. Impulse buys never happen, acquiring a new customer unsolicited is unlikely, and while e-commerce does exist, its intent is entirely different. It’s not surprising that omnichannel is not a hot buzzword in this space.

The question remains “why?” Is it because it’s not relevant or because it’s relevant, but still too complex to generalize? Will omnichannel as a trend carry a significant shift in how we operate in the entire business world in the next few years?

Buzzwords are very similar to genetics as there is a type of natural selection, which actually makes them valuable. Different concepts mutate and they use a poster-term like “omnichannel” to describe the more complex process behind it. But their survival depends on their ability to replicate. They stick around in practice only if they actually work and replicate across customers and professionals -- if solutions are provided, people implement them, see results and talk about them.

So in order to even try and foresee which trends will translate the short-term buzz into long term impact, it’s valuable to look at the underlying principles in practice and see if what they bring to the table is something that CMOs would go ahead and re-implement in new companies.

Universal Omnichannel Principles and How They Apply to B2B

On a high level the impact of omnichannel principles can be divided into two groups:

  1. You aim to centrally manage execution across all channels consistently, reducing cost and time to market.
  2. Simultaneously, you try to measure and consolidate data across all channels to determine which combinations of channels and interactions have the biggest attribution to the bottom-line (increasing conversion rates and revenue).

Omnichannel as a trend is very much about a universally relatable concept: less cost, more revenue. Marketing needed a shift from a black box concept into measurable attribution. Multichannel didn’t solve this problem because of redundancy, and cross-channel didn’t solve it because of incompleteness. The omnichannel trend is the evolved response to both. It’s not a once size fits all solution to all CMO problems, but as a process it’s a significant step in the right direction.

Omnichannel forces you to consolidate all data, platforms and process and remove any redundancies, but this is only the first step through a true, real time experience. Tailoring real time relevancy across channels is impossible without a 360 degree view.

So in an alternative non-shoe related example, how would a B2B organization have to adjust in order to get this view? It’s simple -- by removing all inefficiencies in process, data and technology.

1. Remove inefficiencies in your process:

Map what “omni” or “all” means in your case -- what channels are relevant? I like to use “POEMSS,” an acronym for Partner, Online, Email, Mobile, Sales and Social. In true omni-fashion you could add a lot of things there as well, including e-Commerce, SEO, SEM (e-POEMSSSS?) and, of course, there might be more channels relevant to your business. The point is to look at the different pairings side by side and try to question and remove every redundancy in process:

  • Are your social campaigns leading to a different experience than your email campaigns? Are they using inconsistent design? Repetitive creative work?
  • Are you duplicating effort by enabling your salesforce and partner network to sell?
  • Are you creating specifically tailored slide decks for your sales team in order to win deals? This collateral should be available online to everyone and distributed across other channels.

2. Remove inefficiencies in data:

Inefficiencies in data are potentially an even larger problem, which may result in decisions made with incomplete or flawed data, without solid predictability or sense of ROI. You need to look for ways to consolidate data for the entire customer journey. Real time personalization is part of the endgame, but the start of the process is collecting the data and learning how to search for insights, learning what exactly to personalize and for who. This also happens to be a main technological challenge, calling for heavy integration of customer data that is difficult enough across domains of different sites you own -- not to mention inclusion of mobile apps, CRM, ERP and proprietary data.

3. Integrate all systems:

Dispersed systems create inefficiencies both in process and data. In fact, Gleanster reports top-performers are more than twice as likely to integrate all technologies than companies with lower performance benchmarks. In simple terms, we will ultimately be forced to integrate, because we wouldn’t be able to serve our customers without knowing them.

This is also a great similarity for the success stories around shoes, the success stories around banking and your future success story. By integrating all back-end process and data, then implementing a layer of sophisticated cross-channel delivery methods with real time learning and personalization based on this newly unified data, you get into the “Age of the Customer” with a big bang.

What's the Endgame?

Every CMO or marketing professional is under pressure to tie efforts and budgets to revenue. Omnichannel delivery in these terms is a massive step in this direction as it provides a better framework around the moving pieces -- both in process and in metrics. It mandates a centrally managed execution with unified platforms and reduced cost. Collecting the full customer journey data across channels to enhance conversion optimization, that’s the second part. But that's when things become interesting.

By removing redundancies and consolidating data you have enough power to calculate the journey and create attribution models which allow you to know exactly which efforts will lead to a certain outcome. Which leads to a very important thing -- a Marketing Nirvana if you will. A unified view gives you the power to calculate a true ROI with predictive analytics that accurately describes cause and effect, and prescriptive analytics and personalization that helps you influence the effect in your favor.

That’s the beauty of data-driven marketing. The omnichannel principles are the leanest way to integrate your entire process for an efficient and profitable machine.

Title image by txkimmers (Flickr) via a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license