Why retailers should recruit a chief omnichannel officer now

Thanks to disruptive technologies and digital tools, opportunities to engage with a brand today are ubiquitous. Customers can shop anytime, anywhere. Omnichannel is the new nirvana and smart retailers are getting on board fast before it becomes table stakes.

For a customer, omnichannel delivers a consistent and uniform experience across all touch-points — online, brick-and-mortar stores, social media, events, mobile, and more — all the time. For a retailer, omnichannel reaches its pinnacle of effectiveness when each channel’s operations are connected at the back end to continuously provide integrated, customer-specific information to the organisation. This highly valuable data can then be analysed and acted upon to build a sound strategy for new — but consistent — marketing and sales efforts going forward.

Transforming a multichannel entity into a true omnichannel organisation however is much easier said than done. It is a job that requires a dedicated, totally focused individual that has the responsibility — and seniority — to integrate multichannel systems across all customer touch points: store operations, marketing, call center, and digital (which includes all forms of non-store-based commerce). This is a tall order as in most organisations structures have evolved into fairly ingrained silos.

A chief omnichannel officer, however, can help a retailer go from silos to seamless. Here’s how a chief omnichannel officer can help transform your business:

Eliminate walls

Customer touch-points today usually exist in the store as point-of-sale systems, online as e-commerce systems, and on-the-go as m-commerce platforms, the contact centre, and other systems. Up to now, sales and customer information has been collected and stored right back within the different system silos.

Retailers in the early states of their multichannel efforts have traditionally kept channels independent of one another. This approach is fine, but does it really provide a true picture of how a customer interacts with a brand all the time? A savvy chief omnichannel officer will eliminate silos and integrate all channels at the back end to unlock the value of multichannel: making the most of the data that is generated by the customer.

Get the most out of customer information

To turn customer data into real information assets you need a central repository that can synthesise and deliver useful information back to the various channels. Today, disparate CRM systems are left struggling to get a single, consistent view of the customer.

The lifeline of a truly effective omnichannel experience is data that is integrated in terms of every customer data touch point, and that means integrating existing systems without minimising each systems’ effectiveness. This is a tricky IT challenge and one that is at the forefront for a chief omnichannel officer.

Get teams on the same (omnichannel) page

Technical challenges aside, siloed skills among staff also create issues. Disconnects exist between a retailer’s business and technical staff. Open conversations that focus on people, processes and technology are rare between the chief marketing officer and CIO.

Separate heads for all functions — marketing, finance, merchandising, HR, stores, etc. — all report to the CEO or president. As a result, very few people have a holistic understanding of the business, much less what it takes to create an omnichannel presence. What’s more, most high-level, C-suite executives are too tied up with other business issues to commit to the kind of focus necessary to drive the creation of a functioning omnichannel organisation.

A key responsibility of an omnichannel officer should be to drive — from a senior level — a commitment to omnichannel throughout the organisation, oversee accountability in that commitment, and ensure omnichannel becomes ingrained into the company culture. Change is hard, but breaking silos to achieve synchronisation, alignment, and ownership among staff is paramount.

How to find the right candidate for the job and set them up for success

The transformation will come faster if in addition to managing the development of strategies that integrate the company’s systems, people and activities, the chief omnichannel officer takes on somewhat of a P&L role.

When recruiting for the position, discuss the possibility of responsibility for revenue generation activities along with a reasonable share of the profitability. In the ideal scenario, the chief omnichannel officer will look after the execution of omnichannel and will also be responsible for the ROI on marketing investment. In that way, he or she can inculcate an organic acceptance of omnichannel best practices across all departments, while at the same time encouraging digital growth in such a way that it doesn’t affect current high-performing channels.

No doubt, the idea candidate needs to be a multi-dimensional individual. Someone with strong digital marketing experience and exposure to other key business functions is a good place to start, and should enable the individual to grow into the role properly in a short period of time.

Transforming an organisation into an omnichannel powerhouse is an exercise in managing change. Placing the right person in charge near the top of your organisation will make it clear to all that it is an initiative to be taken seriously. If a retailer can achieve this, the company is on its way to converting your investment in omnichannel into tangible long-term results and strategic market advantage.

The Happiest Minds team