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Omnichannel strategies need the customer at the centre

Stuart Lauchlan Profile picture for user slauchlan June 16, 2013
Omnichannel strategies will work if organisations remember that at the end of the day it's all about interacting with the customer, not a pursuit of the latest fashionable buzzword.

Omnichannel strategies will work if organisations remember that at the end of the day it's all about interacting with the customer, not a pursuit of the latest fashionable buzzword.

According to a piece of joint research by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and The Winterberry Group, 91.7% of respondents among marketers and ad agencies agreed that omnichannel strategies hold great value, with 82.4% saying they intend on investing in the same in the near future.

Now, Winterberry/IAB did only interview 120 senior executives from "marketers, agencies, publishers, technology developers and solution providers", but some of the conclusions are well worth mulling over.

For example:

  • Brand identity and recognition are cited as the main benefits of an omnichannel approach, ahead of higher response rates and revenue growth.
  • A quarter of respondents said cross-platform capability is “very important” in driving customer engagement today.
  • Some 79%  of respondents believe it will be crucial in the near future.
  • Gaps in supporting technologies and internal business processes continue to hamper marketer and publisher attempts to achieve wider omnichannel transformation.

The report - Taking Cues From the Customer:“Omnichannel” and the Drive For Audience Engagement - outlines six areas that marketing needs to address:

  • Customer analytics and multi-platform attribution as these are the foundations of a deeper understanding of the customer and the engagement strategy best tuned to their needs.
  • Rich content must be optimized for context and strategic intent so as to enhance the value of every consumer interaction, and support a range of tactical priorities addressing both branding and performance marketing.
  • Operational infrastructure geared to the needs of customer engagement, including media buying and selling tools that support various channels (and metrics), as well as business processes, incentive structures and key performance indicators aligned with the same.
  • Cross-platform, audience-driven media products to allow advertisers to more readily identify and engage with customer segments through their chosen platforms.
  • Integration of deeply engaging, yet effectively disconnected media channels - which includes addressable television, mobile video, out-of-home media and others.
  • Elevation of the ‘omnichannel strategist’ as a senior role to ensure accountability and coordination of customer decisioning, product development, pricing and other critical functions.


When it comes to content marketing, organizations need to rethink their approach. The report urges them to:

Focus resources on the development of rich creative and informational content that is geared to the needs of the customer (as a first priority), business strategy (second) and medium (third)—guided by the need to deliver relevance and user engagement across all platforms

Integrate delivery of interactive content (i.e. user-generated media, social media, live and digital promotions, etc.) into mainstream branding and direct response marketing efforts, recognizing that consumers are increasingly coming to value credible, contextually appropriate interactions that address their needs

This is essential because:

Consumer engagement begins with user experiences that deliver value—either through brand messages that fulfil individual aspirations, information that addresses consideration gaps or offers that provide demonstrable worth. As consumers become more adept at proactively locating product and offer information that meets their needs—as they “take control of the dialogue,” as some say—the need for marketers to expand the breadth, quality and relevance of their targeted content will grow ever more acute. So, too, will the need to deliver content with enough underlying value to offset lingering concerns about potential hazards associated with data compilation and audience segmentation.


The report emphasises the importance of the 4 Ps in effective omnichannel strategies:

People: the continuous recruitment, education and performance-driven compensation of talented individuals whose work powers the four contiguous processes that support customer engagement.

Processes: the development, refinement and alignment of internal workflows, handoffs and informational feedback loops designed to promote the optimal flow of resources (including insights), both within the organization and among key partner stakeholders.

Platforms: the technologies and tools that support a continuous customer dialogue across each of the four key engagement processes, including analytical platforms, recognition/match engines and multiplatform attribution tools (insight); data management platforms, campaign management and real-time offer management tools (decisioning); content management systems, variable-content deployment engines and demand- and supply-side real-time media buying tools (execution); and customer messaging/CRM management platforms and channel-specific optimization tools (engagement).

Partners: the network of advisers and other third-party solution providers whose support—through consultation on creative, process management, use case development/ validation and other best practices—will be critical to ensuring a “continuous improvement” capability is built into the overarching infrastructure. May include agencies, database management vendors, management consultancies and other stakeholders.


Finally Winterberry/IAB suggest five tips to assist in the shift to an omnichannel approach:
  1. Guard against the disruption to business-as-usual needs to ensure that the organization does not lose short- or medium-term competitive ground while it pursues long term strategic objectives.
  2. Seek out “quick wins”, highlight them and get buy-in from a broader spectrum of organizational stakeholders.
  3. Address concerns that a focus on “all” channels will diminish the marketer’s skill with respect to individual media outlets by making sure to deliver best performance across all the individual channels. 
  4. Make sure data governance is a top level strategic priority so that you don't step out of line.
  5. Defend against poor decision making by constantly evaluating business strategies (and tactical treatments) to ensure alignment with business strategy—and customers’ best interests.


Some sound guidance from Winterberry Group and IAB here that recognises the complexity and the challenge of turning a buzzword - omnichannel - into practical action without being badly burnt in pursuit of fashion.

We like what they have to say about content of course - it's a very diginomica-l view of the world. And the emphasis on people and their expertise, especially when it comes to decision-making is well mentioned.

At the end of the day, omnichannel will only really work if we all get back to the basics of CRM - and that means thinking about how we interact with our customers. And how those customers want us to interact with them.

Well worth a more detailed read of the entire report.


Graphics: The Winterberry Group

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