‘Omnichannel’ may never catch on, but it’s the next big thing for local
There are a lot of buzzwords that purport to describe the latest digital marketing strategies for brick-and-mortar stores: multi-channel, cross-channel, online-to-offline, and omnichannel. Though all have slightly different nuances, they all describe (to some degree) an evolution of the way the wide variety of marketing media relate or intersect.
Omnichannel isn’t a new term, but it seems never to have really caught on. Yet conceptually, it seems to be the next logical step for the path from search to purchase. Fred Argir, Chief Digital Officer at Barnes & Noble, put it this way: It’s a stupid word, but it’s no longer optional for businesses.
The Local Search Association (LSA) worked to define the search space and path to purchase. While we initially illustrated it as a funnel pointing toward the final purchase, we realized that the funnel was too limiting — that consumers searching for products and services didn’t follow such a clean model. What we came up with was something more holistic.
Search is no longer typically used in a standalone fashion; instead, it overlaps and intersects with other channels. For example, search results pull up social media pages which direct to websites that may lead to a call or in-store visit. Other information or results lead to other types of searches, more refined searches or use of new keywords.
The problem businesses have faced is the need to anticipate a consumer’s path to purchase so that they can reach a consumer at the right time and right place. Lots of tools have been developed to find consumers using data including location and search terms. Yet after reaching a customer, much of the action is to direct them down a linear path, even if that path involves multiple channels or media. For example, a consumer successfully targeted with a mobile ad might then be directed to a coupon with the goal of driving the consumer to redeem it in the store.
Consumers today each make their own path. And they aren’t going to silo their journey into bite-sized experiences segmented by media or channel. They demand seamless experiences across different devices, channels, media and people. They want you to provide information they find helpful at that moment, not be pushed down a fixed path to purchase.
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