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The omnichannel oversell

(Image credit: Image Credit: M247)

Omnichannel experiences promise to provide cohesive, personalized consumer-brand interactions across channels and devices. The goal is to create seamless experiences that don’t just turn consumers into customers once but provide ongoing support that boosts retention and overall lifetime value. 

The theory is unarguable.  But unfortunately, execution has been lacking ever since the term “omnichannel experiences” became the buzzword of the century in marketing circles. 

Partly it is an issue of perception.  Omnichannel experiences should be what every modern consumer is enjoying from the brands with which they interact. Yet, most companies have failed to deliver on the full promise of the omnichannel experience. Why?

What makes omnichannel experiences so hard to deliver?

There are six main reasons that make omnichannel so hard to master

1) Consumer Channels Have Exploded

In 2020, the average household had ten different internet-connected devices. All told, the number of these internet-enabled devices is expected to hit 46 billion globally in 2021. Using these phones, watches, computers, tablets, and other devices, people are interacting with brand social media channels, blogs, chat services, podcasts, ads, webinars, affiliate marketers, PR efforts, and more. 

With all these channels, today it takes a consumer an average of 8 “touches” or interactions before they complete their first conversion. The explosion of channels upon which consumers can have their omnichannel experiences has created a lot of ground for marketers to cover.

2) The Time it Takes to Create Omnichannel Content is Mind-Boggling

Content lies at the heart of the omnichannel experience. It’s the first branded element with which consumers will interact, and it’s often the same element that will guide their entire relationship with a business. 

But this makes content both a blessing and a curse in modern marketing.

It’s a time-consuming task to create content for all the previously mentioned channels, devices, and platforms. And that task becomes almost unfathomable when a business must generate fresh, high-quality, personalized content at such a scale. Creating the right quality and quantity of content to feed the omnichannel experience machine is nearly impossible when there is no strategic system in place.

3) Customer Information is Siloed

Close to 40 percent of customer experience leaders say that fragmented or siloed customer data has hurt their efforts to develop true omnichannel experiences. 

Silos in the workplace are often a result of technological tools that can’t effectively share data with each other. And this fragmentation of information is worsened by poor communication tools and habits. 

It’s a hard nut to crack, but the businesses that can update their tech as well as modernize their communication practices should also be able to overcome customer information silos.

4) Managing Huge Amounts of Customer Data

Even if a business can gather all the necessary customer information in one place it then faces the issue of how to organize all that data, make sense of it, and apply what has been learned.

This demands a customized combination of tools, complete with artificial intelligence (AI), to develop and apply these consumer data learnings. The gold standard of this application is the delivery of real-time personalization.

5) Real-Time Personalization is a Full-Time Job

Real-time decisioning (RTD) is the process of delivering the right experience to the right consumer at the right time—and via the right channel – it is the engine of successful omnichannel interactions. But enabling this kind of quick, universal personalization either takes a lot of time or a lot of tools, such as AI-powered customer data platforms (CDPs), predictive analytics systems, and more. 

That’s why- according to recent research - only 14 percent of marketers would call their experience with decisioning successful. To be part of the modern marketing departments raising that percentage, a business must be ready to put in a lot of time or invest in the right tools.

6) Most Current Tech Simply Can’t Keep Up

The last reason that omnichannel has not lived up to expectation is that most of the marketing technologies at use in ANY given business was created before many of the above developments (always-connected consumers and the push for personalization push) became the new norm. 

In fact, 66 percent of developers say maintaining legacy technology hinders productivity. 64 percent of IT decision-makers have already prioritized upgrading said outdated tech. Old-school, legacy technology is holding many organizations back from creating successful omnichannel experiences.

Creating an architecture that enables omnichannel

In the face of these issues, it is all too easy for many businesses to take the line of least resistance and avoid an omnichannel strategy. Even though the customer demand for omnichannel capabilities is rampant, many businesses simply give up. 

But with the right foundation with which to integrate and implement modern marketing technology, these issues can be addressed strategically, logically, and effectively.

In a digital-first world, the right foundation is a MACH architecture.  When it comes to marketing technology, MACH means tools that: this means marketing technology that:

  • Is built on lightweight apps called Microservices
  • Can connect and communicate via Application programming interfaces (APIs)
  • Lives in and is delivered via the Cloud
  • Employs Headless architecture, especially for the content management system (CMS)

It’s this last characteristic—the headless architecture—that makes agile CMS the cornerstone for successful omnichannel experiences. 

With a modern, headless CMS, content creation and content presentation exist separately. This structure makes it so that marketers can generate content-led experiences while designers and developers build out the perfect distribution channels that make those experiences omnichannel. 

And because of the modular, flexible infrastructure of headless CMS, it’s easy to integrate with all kinds of tools and services—like the CDPs and predictive analytics systems as well as CRMs, e-commerce platforms, localization tools, and lots more. Taken together, this makes creating large amounts of personalized content possible.

To correct the years of omnichannel being oversold, businesses now realize they must create real omnichannel experiences that consumers trust.  This is built on a content creation process that employees believe in, which in turn demands that businesses pull their technology out of the past. 

Like all good marketing technology and strategy, this will be all but invisible to customers, who will simply see an ability to interact with a business as, where, when and how they – as a consumer – choose.  Getting this right will be the hallmark of successful companies in the decades to come.

Varia Makagonova, director of product marketing, Contentstack

Varia Makagonova is Director of Marketing at Contentstack.