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Omnichannel News & Analysis

Where Multichannel and Omnichannel Selling Diverge

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Wikipedia's editors removed the omnichannel retailing entry and redirected it to multichannel retailing in early March. What prompted the move? The editors didn't see a clear difference between the two.

Retail isn't the focus of Wikipedia's editors day-to-day jobs, so a clearer definition is obviously in order. But if the folks at Wikipedia are unclear where the two diverge, there are probably people involved in B2B and B2C today who don't understand the difference as well.

The 3 C's of Personalized Customer Service

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Customer service is a key differentiator for many companies. But as the number of communication channels and devices increases, so do the challenges of delivering personalized service across those channels.

A unified view of the customer is needed for omnichannel customer service -- something that can't be achieved with siloed systems and disconnected information. Channels can't merely coexist, but must inform one another to provide the needed context that makes each customer experience better and more personal. To succeed at customer engagement you must meet three fundamental requirements: being consistent, complete and contextual.

Are You Ready to Compete on Customer Experience?

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Friends of mine were remodeling their master bath. After searching for a claw foot tub in stores and online, they found the perfect one that fit their space. It was only available for purchase on the retailer’s e-commerce site, they bought it online.

When it arrived, the tub was too big. The dimensions online were incorrect. They went to return it to the closest store, but were told they couldn't -- because it was purchased online, they had to ship it back.

The retailer didn’t have a total customer relationship view or a single view of product information or inventory across channels and touch points. This left the customer representative working with a system that was a silo of limited information. She didn’t have access to a rich customer profile. She didn't know that Joe and his wife spent almost $10,000 with the brand in the last year. She couldn't see the products they bought online and in stores. Without this information, she couldn't deliver a great customer experience.

Retail's Omnichannel, Data-Driven Revolution is Here

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The retail revolution is here. It’s always on, omnichannel, social, mobile and highly personalized. It’s informed by data — big data, small data, fast data, machine data.

The times, they are a changing. If you’re a retailer or a brand, the question is "Will you?"

You’d better. Because the consumer already has.

That was the general sentiment at the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) BIG Show in New York City this week, where we heard speaker after speaker talk about data being the critical ingredient in creating customer experiences the likes of which we’ve never seen before.

Retail's Mantra: Data, Cloud and Mobile #shoporg14

Think of one word to describe the 2014 Shop.org Summit in Seattle this week, a 2.5-day event specifically for digital and multichannel retailers.

If you thought of the word "transition," I'd say you were correct. Transition implies two things:

  • A passage from one state, stage, subject or place to another
  • A movement, development or evolution from one form, stage or style to another

Retail is clearly in a transitional state. It is undergoing even more fundamental changes than were driven by the emergence of e-commerce in the mid 1990s and, before that, by big box stores.  With the emergence of omnichannel retailing, technology is becoming a retail imperative, and this is bringing about transformative change. 

While omnichannel is a buzzword, people are looking to create new definitions for to reflect a more customer centric view of the changes, for better or worse its here to stay because it does encompass the structural changes retailers are attempting to make. 

3 Vendors That Help Deliver the Omnichannel Vision #shoporg14

2014-01-September-Endless-Aisle.jpgI found the omnichannel retailing pulse at the Shop.org Summit taking place in Seattle, but it's not as overwhelming as you might have thought given all the noise around this over the last year. Hopefully that's a sign that more retailers are taking the message to heart, but not every vendor would agree. Retailers are being selective about their priorities and the companies they choose to work with to bring their capabilities to market.

Here’s a quick look at three companies at the Summit that are well positioned to really help retailers achieve their omnichannel vision.

Find the Opportunity in Showrooming

2014-14-July-Shopping-Mall.jpgHave you ever gone into a store, found a product you wanted to buy and then pulled out your smartphone to check reviews or search for a better price online? It might feel like you’re cheating the system, but you’re not alone. This is the way people shop today -- and it’s called showrooming. 

Google published research in May 2013 on how mobile is transforming the shopping experience in stores. It found that “84 percent of shoppers use their phones while in a physical store.”

Omnichannel Experience is a Matter of Perspective

2014-08-July-Eye-Exam.jpgOmnichannel is rapidly taking over the customer engagement conversation, but it's more than just a new label. Omnichannel, according to the Winterberry Group, is defined as “seeking to promote a long term, channel agnostic approach to managing and optimizing (customer) relationships.” Customer engagement (or experience if you prefer) is defined by New Business Strategies as “a buyer’s satisfaction and perceived benefit with or about a brand’s messages, people, processes, products or services, through any interaction across all touch points over a relationship’s lifetime.”

Both focus on understanding how to engage with customers across the entire lifecycle of the relationship. They differ in their perspective. Customer engagement centers on the customer’s behavior as a result of her emotions, opinions and reactions to brand encounters. Omnichannel focuses on how brands can and should engage with customers.

Do Omnichannel Principles Work for B2B?

2014-07-July-Magic-8-Ball.jpgYou may be familiar with the poster children for omnichannel B2C marketing -- Tesco, Macy’s and Nordstrom’s. The companies gained significant admiration for their ability to gain insights from shopping patterns and then offer that same user the perfect pair of shoes, or coupon, whenever they are ready to purchase -- be it in store, in-app or online.  

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?

Meet the New 'Multimodal' Customer Service

2014-02-July-Fortune.jpgOrganizations have been gearing up over the past few years to support the needs of today’s omnichannel customer service enterprise, with the goal of offering a seamless consumer experience through available shopping channels.

Excellent work.

Now it’s time to change. Again.

The Art and Science of Omnichannel Marketing - and a Dash of Peter Max

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Robert D'Loren is the CEO of Xcel Brands, a company that owns the Isaac Mizrahi name and has an interest in Liz Claiborne New York. Yesterday, we told you how the company is championing an omnichannel marketing strategy. Today, we'll continue the conversation — and explore how the company stays in tune with consumer demand.

One thing of paramount importance is color forecasting. For a holding company for two top clothing lines, as well as a jewelry line, forecasting what demand will be in terms of color and style is critically important.

No one would be crazy enough to make big investments in a thought or whim about what might be popular in two years, D'Loren said. Rather, companies have to keep their fingers on the pulse of future trends and monitor places from which they evolve.

How Isaac Mizrahi and Liz Claiborne Use Omnichannel Marketing

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You may not recognize the name Robert D'Loren — or even his company, Xcel Brands. But odds are you're familiar with the company's fashion apparel: It owns the Isaac Mizrahi brand and has an interest in Liz Claiborne New York.

Xcel is a champion of the omnichannel strategy and is helping to take fashion brands to more than 150 consumer products categories. The company engages in the acquisition, design, licensing and marketing of consumer brands by incorporating a sales strategy that includes interactive and social media, digital and brick-and-mortar retail. 

D'Loren successfully led the restructure and recapitalization of some of the world's most widely recognized fashion, retail, consumer brands and entertainment companies including: Bill Blass, The Athlete's Foot, Maggie Moo's, Pretzelmaker/Pretzel Time, Waverly Home and The Great American Cookie Company.

His expertise earned him a spot as the keynote speaker at the recent IRCE Focus Conference in New York City, where he shared his ideas on the convergence of the customer experience through brands, stores, web, mobile and TV.

As he stressed at the three-day conference, customers are everywhere — and brands, retailers and all modern businesses need to be everywhere, too. Today, in the first of a two-part series, we'll hear what he had to say.

Turn Off the Phones and Leave the Customers Alone

Turn Off the Phones and Leave the Customers AloneThere are some real advantages to having children. An excuse to see movies you would otherwise be too embarrassed to watch. Classic holiday photos, especially if you add a dog to the mix. An ongoing, intimate connection to pop culture that makes you seem (sorta) cool, long after your own coolness has been swept away by those hot winds of time. 

In fairness, I'm jaded. My own kids are grown — long past that puppy stage when everything inappropriate was not only acceptable but cute. A puppy drinking from the kitchen sink may seem adorable. But it's not quite as endearing when it’s a full-grown Rottweiler.

As the parent of borderline adult children, you have to look harder and longer to find things to make you smile, or at least make you feel like there's a real payback for putting a metaphorical monkey on your back for years and years.   

So it was with absolute delight, after my 23-year-old put her two-month old iPhone 5 in the washing machine that I discovered something of likely professional value. And anyone with a connection to marketing or technology may likely think that's true, too.

The fact is, the whole thing about the  "always on, always connected customer" may be a myth … or at least less inevitable than we seem to think.

A Look Back: 5 Customer Experience Trends from 2013

A Look Back: 5 Customer Experience Trends from 2013Customer experience management has never been more comprehensive or sophisticated. And that's a good thing because customers have never been more demanding, connected or empowered — realities that became exceptionally clear this year.

Nobody puts consumers in the corner anymore — or anywhere else, for that matter — at least if they have long-term plans to stay in business. 2013 was the year customer experience management (CXM) matured and expanded, exploding from websites to mobile devices, brick-and-mortar stores, customer contact centers and more.

In retrospect, 2013 may go down as the year marketers shifted their focus from broad, amorphous groups of customers to targeted, personalized, omnichannel, shared experiences for each one. It was, in many ways, a seismic shift in attitude, powered by five key customer experience trends.

Notes from Gilbane: Business Model First, Customer Experience Second

BOSTON -- As I close out on my first Gilbane Conference, the overall impression I am left with is that many business managers are approaching a level of near-panic about speed and complexity at which new digital tools are surfacing to change the market.

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