Omnichannel is not simply a channel strategy; it needs to stem from your core business plan

Omnichannel is not simply a channel strategy; it needs to stem from your core business plan Author: Claire Stewart Published: 11 December 2018

Unfailing consumer experience is now the Holy Grail, but consumer journeys are becoming more fragmented than ever - can brands really afford to stop at a direct-to-consumer proposition? To build a stronger relationship with consumers through an ongoing dialogue, brands need to immerse themselves within consumers’ lives. This requires a lot more than finding a distribution centre and adding a shopping cart to the top right of our screens. Whilst technological advances are the life-blood of new, innovative brands, how can large and established businesses embrace and afford change quickly enough to retain their hard earned consumers?

Defining ‘Omnichannel’

‘Omni’ means ‘to be ever present’. From a shopping perspective, brands leading the way in their omnichannel strategies are making themselves increasingly present in the everyday lives of their consumers. By joining the dots between the various ways a person can shop, whether online, via an app or in-store, brands make it easier for consumers to research and purchase the items they want. Omnichannel is more than a channel strategy; it is the complete experience a consumer has of a brand, and is being adopted in varying degrees across the broad consumer sector.

The Changing Consumer Landscape

Due to ever expanding choice, availability and advances in technology, consumers are more demanding than ever, and expect more from their favourite brands. Somewhat driven by the rise of the millennial or digitally native consumer, a seamless shopping experience is imperative to retain and acquire custom. The retail sector has suffered over recent years; to counteract this, some retailers have approached consumer interactions as experiences rather than transactions.  Brands such as Shiseido and Estee Lauder have been exploring this for some time. Shiseido has unified its cosmetics and fragrance businesses, and Estee Lauder rolled out its virtual ‘try-on’ feature, allowing consumers to experiment with products quickly and without the mess.  However, many consumer brands are failing to exercise a meaningful consumer strategy and, by default, only implementing a basic transactional channel strategy.

A Holistic Approach

To construct meaningful relationships with consumers, brands need to build their omnichannel strategy into the root of their business strategy, to deliver a holistic experience:

Consistency - Objectives and plans need to be understood throughout a business to drive consistent communication. Buy-in is required internally prior to messages being echoed to the consumer through PR, advertising, sales and social media teams.

Using data to provide an effortless journey - Collecting data is easy, but many businesses fail to understand and use it effectively. Online shopping allows us to track a consumer journey, and data is a critical asset in driving marketing endeavours. With some sensible presumptions, we can identify the gaps in the online offering to eradicate confusion or wasted time for the consumer, helping towards that seamless journey.

Engagement - In our ever diverse and dynamic world, actively engaging consumers is what will keep brands relevant. It is no longer enough to reach a consumer simply to sell. The multiple channels now available to consumers allow brands to communicate in a diverse number of entertaining and engaging ways. Online footprints enable brands to collect critical consumer information to drive relevant communication strategies. Capturing this information intelligently needs to be at the centre of marketing strategies, rather than after thoughts of individual campaigns.

3rd parties and the importance of brand partners - Building 3rd party retailers into your omnichannel strategy is essential. For a new or small brand, the gains in awareness and distribution are a given, but larger brands cannot ignore the rising presence of other ecommerce brands and pure-players. Regardless of brand heritage and an established retail network, ecommerce is set to continue. Brands must approach 3rd party retailers as a strategic arm within their plans as they would any other account or key customer. Whilst brands cannot control price, they can control product. Proactively developing how a brand’s offering on a 3rd party platform could look, and engaging the 3rd party in such a way, can offer benefits for both involved. Brands need to accept that the appeal of retailers such as Amazon is not going to wane anytime soon; resisting this channel is a sizeable missed opportunity. With regards to luxury products, one could argue that whilst Amazon is a very trusted retailer, it may not exude the luxury appearance or environment for which brands want to be known. However, with the continuing rise of Yoox Net-A-Porter and Farfetch, resisting this change in shopping behaviour risks your brand being left behind.

Majority of industry is lagging

Despite efforts across the broad consumer industry, the latest research from PMCG Group confirms only 5% of UK consumers receive a ‘very consistent’ consumer shopping experience when comparing a brand’s website with its app or shopping in-store. So who is succeeding and what are the dos and don’ts of becoming omnichannel? Given omnichannel touches all areas of a business, where can you find the talent required to instil this change in mind-set and deliver it successfully?

Join us to learn first-hand from industry leaders

We also don’t believe in transactional relationships. As part of our omnichannel strategy, we would like to invite you to join an evening of networking and discussion, exploring how the consumer industry can best adopt an omnichannel mind-set and approach. We hold some amazing industry relationships, providing the experience and knowledge for what we hope will prove a beneficial and enjoyable evening.

With the Beauty and Cosmetics sector often leading the way in creating a holistic consumer experience, we have invited Ian Marshall & Gail Bojarski, aka ‘Mr & Mrs Benefit’, to share their direct experience of launching and growing brands within our evolving consumer landscape.

For further information on the above, or to attend the event, please contact Claire Stewart. Claire is a search consultant spearheading the Consumer Lifestyle practice at Berwick Partners, and specialises in recruiting senior leadership roles.

Claire Stewart is a Consultant in our Consumer Practice

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