Expert Voices

June 2023 Omnichannel Forum: What is essential for an omnichannel team?

8 min read


The Omnichannel Forum is a monthly series that poses a single question to a panel of industry experts. This month’s host is industry analyst Joanna O’Connell.

Gemma Spence. Global Vice President, VMLY&R Commerce
Lauren Bennett. Director, Performance Solutions, Rakuten Advertising
Alex Else. Head of Omnichannel Product Solutions, Group M Nexus
Aaron Goldman. CMO, Mediaocean
Katia Colston. Sr. Dir of Garden eCommerce Sales, Central Garden & Pet
Peter Galli. Director of Digital Marketing, HART Consumer Products

In last month’s Omnichannel Forum, we asked the group to outline their thoughts on what would accelerate their company’s omnichannel journey. We found important themes around vision and strategy, organized, clean & accessible data, the right supporting technology & infrastructure, and, critically, an organizational design and structure. This time around, we probed deeper, specifically on that last piece – the people piece. And several commonalities stood out for me:

Cross-functional collaboration is clearly necessary, as it provides the glue that binds disparate pieces of an organization (or connection to external partners) together in its pursuit of a more customer-centric approach.

Agility and nimbleness, too, are required in our people and processes in a world where consumer behaviors are rapidly evolving, global and/or economic conditions can shift with little warning, and business requirements can vary with the passage of time.

Channel-specific expertise sitting beneath knowledgeable leaders who “set strategic direction and align it with business goals” helps an organization make the most of each channel or environment without losing sight of the whole.

Content (mentioned by just one person) is about more than just making great marketing materials. It’s about having the right people in the room to challenge conventional processes (like the creative agency making a tv spot and throwing it over the wall to the media agency) but also conventional approaches to creative development and optimization.

These are good characteristics, but there are a couple of additional components – as mentioned by a couple of contributors – that will really push an organization upward in its maturity. I would argue both remain elusive for many organizations: aligned incentives and an investment in the necessary change management to bring people along on the journey. 

When incentives aren’t aligned around a customer-centric approach, budgets, and performance measurement are siloed by channel. In that world, not only does a narrow channel-specific view of performance lead individual channel leaders to have an incomplete picture, but it can lead them to feel protective of the budgets they’ve been allocated. And when changes are thrust upon employees (like new incentive structures) without proper change management in place, the result may be uncertainty and fear rather than progress.

– Joanna O’Connell, Industry Analyst

What are the essential components of a well-organized omnichannel team?

Alex Else

Head of Omnichannel Product Solutions, Group M Nexus

As per many other disciplines in online advertising and media, a well-organised omnichannel team will only thrive based on the subject matter expertise and all-around industry knowledge encapsulated within it.

At its core, such a team may optimally need Subject Matter Experts in commercial enablement, which drives towards performance, product solutions design and delivery, measurement unification and analytics, cross channel Strategy, Data Science, Operations & process, and Programme Management.

However, it’s not just these core disciplines which can ensure product success and commercial growth. There are potential blind spots that such teams should embrace to approach the natural challenges faced by such teams in the industry currently.

Maturity in Change Management can often be trivialised or taken as rote, but I have found this can make a true difference. Omnichannel is all about change, breaking down barriers, and finding the new normal, so such a team must be able to thrive in & drive change in an Agile and cohesive way. If not done so, the blind spot which occurs, from their perspective or that of their client, could easily usurp all the positive impact their insights and solutions may have.

Lauren Bennett

Director, Performance Solutions, Rakuten Advertising

The methodology that Rakuten Advertising uses to build a successful and well-organized omnichannel team centers around three key elements; data, technology, and people. We work closely with clients to assist with data organization and leverage our + Skai’s technology and platform to make the data actionable. Our talented team drives the desire to drive optimal performance through the execution of excellent digital strategy recommendations.

Data organization is easier said than done. We’ve assisted with onboarding to Google Analytics, shifting from in-channel to a single source, or even leveraging a third-party multitouch attribution partnership alongside our clients. We promote a nimble culture and customize to meet individual clients’ needs so they can lean on us to outperform and out-deliver results. 

Using Skai as our primary technology tool for management, optimization, and reporting from an omnichannel approach assists with task efficiency, budget monitoring, and leveraging AI for the future. Pairing this technology with a source of truth reporting is what makes Rakuten Advertising stand out.

Lastly, our people have an experienced tenure with strategic digital marketing with specialization across Programmatic, Paid Social, Paid Search, and Retail Media. We create layers of accountability within our team’s structure so our advertisers feel supported across all managed channels

Peter Galli

Director of Digital Marketing, HART Consumer Products

The key activities we have seen most needed in an omnichannel team lie in strategy (what do you want to achieve?), planning (how are you going to achieve it?), execution (the actual doing), and measurement (did you accomplish the goals you wanted to?).

What components are needed to function through these activities properly will depend on the organization, but communication is one constant we see as the most important. Communicating overarching strategy, how the plan will help achieve it, and what the measurable metrics look like in what can be dozens of channels is incredibly difficult, but the teams that do that best typically are more efficient.

Aaron Goldman

CMO, Mediaocean

I’d say collaboration and agility are keys to success for omnichannel teams. People need to be openly and frequently communicating – sharing data, insights, etc.

And folks also need to be open to embracing change. If one channel is performing well or there’s an opportunity to test something, you have to be able to pivot quickly. Consumer habits are always changing, so marketers must be agile in their approach and budgets.

You also have to have aligned incentives. If certain people on a team have compensation tied to results from one individual channel, they will naturally be motivated to focus on that channel at the exclusion of others. Omnichannel means everyone wins.

Gemma Spence

Global Vice President, VMLY&R Commerce

A well-organized omnichannel digital commerce team for brand advertisers requires effective leadership, cross-functional expertise, data analytics, technological proficiency, content creation, customer experience focus, external collaborations, and a culture of continuous learning. 

This team should be led by knowledgeable leaders who set strategic direction and align it with business goals. Its members should possess diverse skills and collaborate across functions, leveraging data analytics, technology, and creative content to enhance the customer experience. Additionally, partnerships with external entities and a commitment to ongoing learning ensure the team remains adaptable and achieves optimal results in the dynamic landscape of digital commerce.

Katia Colston

Sr. Dir of Garden eCommerce Sales, Central Garden & Pet

As a Sales Executive at Central Garden and Pet, I understand the significance of having a well-organized omnichannel team to drive sales and manage our eCommerce operations effectively. Our omnichannel sales, particularly at major retailers like Walmart, Home Depot, and Lowe’s, have been experiencing continuous growth, surpassing traditional brick-and-mortar sales. However, managing these channels has become more complex due to the various fulfillment methods we are exploring and those introduced by the retailers, such as Ship from Store, Dropship, DSV, and Marketplaces. Each of these methods requires a different approach to P&L analysis and understanding pricing and associated costs.

To ensure success in this dynamic environment, I believe the following components are essential for a well-organized omnichannel team:

  1. Cross-functional Collaboration. Collaboration between departments like Sales, Marketing, Operations, IT, and Customer Service is crucial for delivering a seamless customer experience across all channels.
  2. Data Integration and Analysis. We must invest in robust data integration and analysis capabilities to track sales, inventory, and customer behavior across different channels. This will enable us to make informed decisions and optimize our operations effectively.
  3. Accurate Forecasting. Traditional forecasting methods need to be improved for omnichannel sales. We must allocate resources and tools to improve forecasting accuracy, ensuring optimal stock levels and avoiding stockouts, which are particularly detrimental online.
  4. Channel-Specific Strategies. Each channel has its own dynamics and cost structures. It’s important to develop channel-specific strategies for pricing, promotions, and fulfillment models to maximize profitability and meet customer expectations.
  5. Technology and Infrastructure. We must invest in robust technology infrastructure, including ERP, CRM, and OMS systems, to support seamless order management, inventory visibility, and customer service.
  6. Continuous Learning and Adaptability. The omnichannel landscape is constantly evolving. Encouraging a continuous learning and adaptability culture within your team will keep you updated with industry trends, emerging technologies, and changing customer preferences.

By implementing these essential components, I believe we can establish a strong foundation for a well-organized omnichannel team that effectively manages our growing sales and enhances customer satisfaction in today’s rapidly changing retail environment.

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