Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Is 'Omni-Channel' the correct term? I don't think so!

The term Omni-Channel Marketing has continued to gather momentum, having first been coined 3 or 4 years ago in response to the continued evolution of Multi-Channel Marketing to envelope an ever-increasing number of digital-savvy consumers, using an ever-increasing diversification of devices, to access an ever-growing online marketplace.

When I first heard the term ‘Omni-Channel’, it jarred somewhat – it didn’t feel right. Every time I heard someone cite it in a keynote or interview, it made my lip curl, but having not invested the brain cells to consider why it invoked this intrinsic reaction, I filed it away for later.

I recently had the luxury of a few hours thinking time, having been delayed at the crushingly boring Newark airport for several hours, and I realised that the issue is a simple one; its the incorrect term for the product – it’s NOT ‘Omni-Channel’ – its Multi-Channel Marketing delivering an ‘Omni-Experience’.

Marketing is no longer solely a push activity, and hasn’t been for several years; advocates of the Omni-Channel term explain it as putting the consumer in the middle and delivering a seamless brand experience (which is strategically correct) but, with regards to the terminology, putting the consumer in the middle surely means that the marketing delivery needs to be termed in line with the receiving experience, not the channel approach?

The emergence of the term Omni-Channel only serves to prove that those using it still fail to grasp the central position of power of the consumers behaviour in this increasingly digitally enabled world.

Consumers engage with your brand in different ways according to the way they choose – because the channel they select will be the most relevant to that particular  engagement – they won’t turn on their desktop to give you a call, any more than they’ll use their mobile data allowance to spend an hour window shopping on your site when they have their office desktop and a lunchtime to hand.

Omni-Channel as a noun is therefore missing the mark – it fails to grasp the fact that the tactical provision for each individual channel should actually be different; not consolidated, whilst sitting within an overarching brand marketing strategy that delivers seamless relevance (and a great Omni-Experience) to the consumer.

You need to study the user to establish the way they use different channels, and importantly, devices, according to their context and desire.

No mean feat, with more scenarios than you can shake an Omni-stick at.

Top Shelf Issues

I am 5’2 3/4” tall, and have been since I was 12. I have proportionate length arms. I don’t consider myself to be exceptionally short… in fact I would guess that there are several million similarly built people in the UK. I happen to think of myself as independent and self-sufficient… until I have to do the weekly food shop.

The ‘Big Four’ supermarkets spend millions of pounds every year on refining the shopping experience for their customers, in what is one of the most competitive retail environments in the world. Our custom is worth billions of pounds a year. They have CX consultants, cognitive and behavioural scientists, and labs to run focus groups and trials specifically designed to put the customer in the middle of their in-store experience.

So tell me this - why do they place up to 25% of their products on shelves that are so high and deep that I cannot reach them?

In the past month alone, I have visited Tesco, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons, and have had to engage the help of either a member of staff or a fellow, taller, customer to help me obtain a product that I cannot autonomously reach; a multipack of crisps in Sainsbury’s; a packet of broccoli in Waitrose; a bottle of tonic water in Morrisons and a bottle of oven cleaner in Tesco.

I shouldn’t have to deploy my problem-solving skills just to complete a mundane household chore…

… and don’t even get me started on the issue of standard-fit kitchen cupboards - but at least I can climb on a chair and retrieve the ‘best’ saucers without having to ask someone else to assist.

Happy Feet by Design

Instagram has captured the imagination of a generations – not only the newer, digital generation, but also my generation – those who grew up in the ’60s and ’70s, by which time photography was accessible to the average family, but the experience was something to savour and much less spontaneous than today’s relationship with the camera. 

Cameras used to be film-fed, and each shot was a commitment, subtracting 1 from the precious few frames remaining on the film. Once you’d finished the film – often several weeks or special events after taking the first shot – you would take it to a shop and wait another week while the photos were developed; little squares of glossy treasure.

You couldn’t tell whether you’d taken a good picture, or put your finger in front of the lens, or cut someone’s head off until after the photos were developed and paid for. The whole thing – from first shot to excited first look – was a protracted and special experience, rewarded by a handful of paper photos that you then lovingly added to a scrapbook using sticky tape or little adhesive corners.

Everyone knew someone who had a Polaroid camera, which was truly a thing of wonder – the shot was taken, and the photo gloriously delivered in a matter of seconds through a slot in the base of the camera in a magical, white-bordered flourish of (almost) instant photostatic gratification.

Kids with cameras in the ’60s and ’70s, dreaming – or not – of a burgeoning photographic career, would mostly frame the mundane; or point and shoot at anything that happened to be in front of us at the time – faces, food, pets, feet, clouds, flowers in your grandparents garden. But a finished roll of film bought you a ticket to the main event – the experience of waiting, anticipating, basking in the fruits of your creativity, reliving moments just passed and, finally, ordering them and arranging them and putting them on display. The photos themselves would, by today’s baseline standard, be considered low quality – grainy, shaky focus, poor clarity, na├»ve colours and restricted in virtually every attribute.

Fast forward 30 years; the age of (actual) instant photostatic gratification – not just mobile phones, but mobile phones that connect to the internet, and that have inbuilt cameras. No more film, no more waiting to see the shot, no more cost and time of development barring your access to the product. We can take photos in high resolution, crop them, resize them, rotate, flip and overlay them.

Instagram connected these two worlds, dragging the nostalgia of the former into the miracle of the latter. If you look at the common themes in photos published by a broad set of users, those delightfully banal object studies have re-emerged; faces, flowers, the sky, food, and a bewildering number of shots of people’s own feet. All filtered through sentimental, prefab themes that faithfully reproduce our less sophisticated, analogue output from the early ’70s – even that little square format – as if to do away with the whole magical bag of tricks afforded to today’s technology-driven, retouch-obsessed society.

In doing so, Instagram’s neatly-design technology has engaged a unique set of seemingly unconnected constituents. The result is addictive and quite thrilling; an emotional ride through nostalgia, creativity, childhood places, convenience, belonging, sharing… and, oddly, feet.