What do omnichannel marketing and winning a Formula One race on flat tires have in common? Simple -- both are impossible.
Trying to compete at 300 mph on flat tires is not only impossible but dangerous. Trying to deliver omnichannel consumer experiences on top of a highly fragmented foundation is not just difficult, but impossible as well.
Despite a strong desire to drive seamless and frictionless omnichannel consumer experiences, most brands are multichannel at best, while consumers have become omnichannel in both behavior and expectations. Hence the disconnect.
What prevents brands from making their omnichannel goals a reality? Fragmentation.
Sources of Fragmentation
This fragmentation exists in five core areas:
1. Fragmentation in Marketing Technology Ecosystem
Companies acknowledge this foundational challenge yet it still goes unresolved, primarily because it requires a fundamental shift in the technology ecosystem. Gartners’s marketing technology transit map or Scott Brinker’s famous marketing technology landscape both illustrate the growing list of marketing technologies and vendors, a list that continues to expand every day if not every hour. While a sign of the speed of innovation and evolution, the real benefit comes when these capabilities -- that currently mostly run in isolation and break the consumer experience -- are connected and wired together.
2. Fragmentation in Data
As brands and agencies scramble to adopt multiple technology platforms to drive consumer engagement across channels, the natural outcome is a world of fragmented data sets. While technology innovation is leading to the capture, extraction and storage of big data, this data is highly isolated by channel or media type. Most brands still struggle to establish a unified or universal consumer profile to help them connect to a single consumer across channels and touch points, across paid, owned and earned media. Data remains the single most critical lynchpin to drive a connected and seamless experience. Fragmentation in this area becomes a root cause for broken consumer experiences.
3. Fragmentation in Marketing Skills
The new marketing combines both art and science and lies at the intersection of data, technology, creative and strategy. The modern marketer needs to expand his DNA to converge across these skills. For brands and marketers to engage at par with the omnipotent, omnipresent and omnichannel consumer, the marketer needs to become “omni-skilled” as well.
The conventional “T-Shaped” DNA of a marketer goes deep in one area of marketing needs. It will require a radical shift to become a “Multi-Pi Shaped” DNA, going deep in all aspects of consumer engagement that spans marketing, technology, data and analytics, and even sales and finance.
4. Fragmentation in Organizational Models
Organizations operate within isolated models across marketing, technology, sales, e-commerce, media and other areas. The inability for different units to collaborate and converge is the most foundational challenge in driving omnichannel experiences. It hinders seamless engagement with consumers across touch points, especially when you consider the pace at which they jump from one touch point and channel to the other.
5. Fragmentation in Agency Operating Model
Brands hire specialized agency partners to manage isolated experiences across media channels. A breakdown of this service offering results from a siloed approach to handling media and channels. Search management, for example, may be broken down across individual agencies, such as paid, organic and e-tailer. The media may be managed and optimized separately across paid, owned and earned. E-commerce is handled outside of the digital scope, while shopper marketing and sales are cut off from digital.
5 Key Steps Towards an Omnichannel Model
This topic demands its own space but let’s at least introduce the key areas of convergence -- putting the consumer at the center of everything we do:
Converge Organization Models with the Consumer at the Center
These circles can or should no longer live in isolation. This is true whether it is sales and marketing or marketing and technology or marketing and finance. Each of these organizational units needs to have the consumer at the center of whatever they do, enabling an immersive and compelling consumer experience (story, experience and value).
Connected Data and Technology Ecosystem
Think beyond the volume of data or the number of technology capabilities and tools in your ecosystem. The primary driver for both data and technology has to be enabling the most optimum, relevant and personalized experience that influences and inspires the desired consumer behavior. This is only possible with a connected ecosystem where technologies and data do not operate in silos.
From T-Shaped to Pi-Shaped Marketers
Drop the archetype of marketers who stand knee deep in an isolated vertical. Mentor and inspire your team to grow from being stuck in a T-shaped mindset to adopting a Pi-shaped approach. The modern consumer demands a modern marketer who goes across sales, marketing, finance, data and technology because it is at the intersection of these disciplines where the consumer engages with the brand.
Shift from Channel Obsession to Consumer Obsession
Stop obsessing about channels. For instance, stop thinking mobile first. It should always be consumer first. Work backwards from there to solve the most critical consumer problems, adding value and driving behaviors.
Start Thinking Individuals and “People,” Not Segments and Users
Consumers expect modern marketing to be precise, relevant, personalized and most importantly contextual. Shift from thinking target audiences and customer segments to individuals, driving personalized, contextual, and at times, predictive experiences.
While I am sure there may be fallacies to my hypothesis, I am also sure that for every single brand that is enabling an omnichannel seamless consumer experience, you'll find another 99 that are struggling because of the fragmented ecosystem -- either knowingly or unknowingly. There is no single solution. But shifting your mindset from thinking channels and org models to thinking consumers and consumer experiences at the center of every strategy and tactic may not be a bad start.