It’s Omni-Channel, Stupid! Don’t Adopt Mobile-Focused Marketing

omni channelSome of you may remember James Carville’s famous slogan, “It’s the economy, stupid,” coined during Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 Presidential campaign.

The purpose of the slogan was  to remind campaign workers to focus on the economy, given the fact that the country had slid into recession during then-President George Bush’s time in office.

Meant to be used as an internal phrase, the slogan took on a life of its own and was mimicked often.

In the world of mobile, it’s time for a similar cry. The plea is this: let’s stop focusing on “mobile” as a channel or marketing strategy and start looking at it as part of an omni-channel experience that customers — both B2C and B2B — are increasingly expecting from all businesses.

The reality is that customers are people, and people like to discover, research, discuss, buy and advocate for products and services when and where they like.

Trying to narrow them to any one particular channel or channels might be good for tracking or cost efficiencies, but it’s not a winning long-term strategy for any business. In fact, those that create the best omni-channel experiences for their clients will hold a significant advantage over the competition.

What Does It Meant To Be Omni-Channel & Why Is It Important?

According to Wikipedia, omni-channel (or, more specifically, omni-channel retailing) is defined as “the evolution of multi-channel retailing, but concentrated more on a seamless approach to the consumer experience through all available shopping channels.”

When most marketers refer to omni-channel, they are thinking specifically about channels like in-store (or brick-and-mortar), email, web, social networks like Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, smart phones and tablets.

Omni-channel could potentially involve things like television (especially via interactive tools that connect television to mobile like Shazam), outdoor advertising with QR codes (yes, I said QR Codes) and even “in-game” experiences through consoles like the Xbox.

While many companies have established presences and experiences across several channels, few have stitched together a holistic experience that allows consumers to pick up and leave off where they want.

Fewer still track customers across these multiple channels using CRM or social CRM. This last part will become increasingly important for all companies as customers expect that the businesses we interact with will leverage all the available data from all channels to provide us better recommendations and service.

In case there were any doubt about the importance of becoming omni-channel, consider a study done by Deloitte which states that “Omni-Channel customers spend 93% more than customers that shop direct/online,” and that “Omni-channel customers spend 208% more than customers that shop in store only.” Hard to argue with those statistics!

What Are the Essential Elements Of Omni-Channel?

Given that omni-channel retailing is a fast evolving space, best practices have yet to be mapped out. However, we know anecdotally that there are some critical elements that brands should be adopting over time.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but some building blocks that will help define a successful omni-channel experience:

  • Responsive Design. The creation of digital assets that change based on the device (laptop, tablet, phone) they are viewed on.
  • Connected Offline/Online Experience. An ability to connect an in-store experience to the digital/mobile one.
  • Consistent Branding. This doesn’t mean a “one size fits all” approach, but rather ensuring that color, logos, language and visual cues all match.
  • Great User Experience Starting With A Good User Interface (UI). Every brand should ask themselves, “Is this easy enough for a three-year-old to use? A 103-year-old?”
  • Intuitive CRM. Are you collecting the right data across the in-store, digital and social space to truly know your customer?
  • Well Mapped-Out Buyer Journeys. Understanding how your buyers discover, learn, compare, buy and interact post-purchase is critical. There will be different flavors of these but ideally, there are four or five primary personas.

Examples Of Companies Doing Omni-Channel Well

Because the concept of omni-channel is still somewhat new, there are not a ton of companies doing this well yet. This will, of course, change over time — but for now, there are a handful of companies that have at least started to chip away at creating the right experience.

After asking some smart friends for examples of companies doing well in this space, the responses I got (and tend to agree with) were StarbucksREIMoosejaw and Cabelas. There was universal agreement that nobody has nailed it, but the reason these stores score well is because they have all worked hard to create a great mobile experience (phone and tablet).

They have also invested heavily in what is known as the “endless aisle” — otherwise known as the ability for smaller footprint stores to provide order access to a greater amount of SKUs in store.

Last but not least, their ability to use CRM data to customize the experience and treat customers holistically is far advanced. This means understanding when to sell and when to nurture, just like any good sales person would intuitively do.

Do you have suggestions of companies big or small that are doing a good job creating an omni-channel experience?

Note: Thanks to friends Margot Bloomstein, Doug Meacham, Mike Langford, Evan Cover, Michael Pace, Erik McMillan, Donna Pahel and Kelby Johnson for helping out with this post.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Strategy | Internet Marketing | Marketing Strategies Column


About The Author: is Managing Director at W2O Group, where he co-leads marketing and is the head of the newly formed Social Commerce practice. Aaron assists clients with mobile and location-based marketing campaigns and strategy. He is also the co-author of Location-Based Marketing for Dummies (wiley) and an avid blogger, podcaster and speaker. Earlier in his career Aaron spent time as head of marketing and social media at Mzinga and Powered/Dachis Group. Before heading off into the startup/agency world, Aaron worked at Fidelity Investments for 9 years in a variety of digital marketing roles.


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  • Bryson Meunier

    Just submitted my response to your column for next week’s mobile marketing column, called “Omni-Channel Marketing and Mobile-Focused Marketing are Not Mutually Exclusive, Stupid.” I don’t think you or other One Web advocates are stupid, of course. I just think you’re overreacting to stripped down mobile sites by throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Many types of mobile-focused marketing, like mobile coupons, GPS-driven store locators and location-aware reminders, click to call, indoor maps and barcode scanners are highly effective and loved by users. We can still provide adaptive content when appropriate as part of omni-channel marketing, and provide great mobile-focused marketing when appropriate. I agree that omni-channel marketing is important, but it’s not incompatible with mobile-focused marketing, as your article somewhat insultingly suggests.

  • Francesca Nicasio

    “Those that create the best omni-channel experiences for their clients will hold a significant advantage over the competition.” –Couldn’t agree more. In an age where showrooming’s so common and retailers are closing up shop, it’s more important than ever to establish a presence on several channels and platforms (i.e. brick-and-mortar, mobile, online, catalog etc).

    Not only that, but companies have to let customers to transact, interact, and engage across these channels simultaneously or even interchangeably.

    Aside from the examples you mentioned above, I think Nordstrom is also doing a pretty good job in ominchannel. It’ll be interesting to see how other companies execute their strategies.

  • aaronstrout

    Bryson – I think you are missing my point. I am still a HUGE advocate of mobile and location-based marketing (I wrote a book three years ago called Location-based Marketing for Dummies). I also write a monthly column here focused on mobile/LBS marketing. My only point is that marketers need to stop looking at channels like mobile in a silo.

    Bottom line, customers want to research, discover, interact, shop and share when and where they want. Forcing them to pick one channel or another or worse, not connecting the dots between those channels, is not good business.

  • aaronstrout

    Thanks Michael. Appreciate that. And I like your thinking about the new definition of “mobile” as a conduit.

  • Bryson Meunier

    Aaron, thanks for the response. You can probably understand my confusion, given that you say “Don’t adopt mobile-focused marketing” in the title of your article, and write mostly about experiences that are possible regardless of context. This seemed like one of many pieces I’ve read claiming there is no mobile context, which I’m glad you don’t agree with. Appreciate the clarification. The article I referenced went live here this morning: May not apply to your position, specifically, but it should be of interest to those many people who are advocating One Web, omni-channel, adaptive experiences at the expense of providing relevant mobile experiences not possible on all platforms.


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