Expert Voices

March 2023 Omnichannel Forum: What does ‘omnichannel’ mean to you?

8 min read


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


Russ Dieringer. Founder & CEO, Stratably
Gemma Spence. Global Vice President, VMLY&R Commerce
Margo Kahnrose. CMO, Skai
Mert Damlapinar. Principal, CPG Business Consulting, EPAM Systems
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

“Omnichannel”: it’s become a favorite word in the marketing industry. 

And rightly so — we live in a world where consumers are less constrained by digital and physical bounds when it comes to learning, consuming entertainment, connecting with other people, discovering and buying products and services, and more. So, it stands to reason that brands (and the service providers and technology partners who support them) would believe that successfully connecting with consumers means being where they are.

But we in this industry need to be careful when using a word like “omnichannel” because there are several possible apertures to consider. I know from my own stints as a practitioner I’ve fallen into the trap of using the word “omnichannel” loosely. Let’s take advertising, for example, something near and dear to my heart.

An omnichannel advertising approach should dictate a paid media approach designed to deliver relevant ad experiences in relevant moments; omnichannel marketing is necessarily broader, but it still has a specific aperture – delivering paid, earned and owned marketing experiences. If we really want to think and act “omnichannel” it means opening the aperture as broadly as it is for modern consumers – being able to interact with the world around them, in their manner of choosing, on their desired timeline, in whatever way they want. Of course, it means tossing out traditional notions of a purchase funnel or continuing to make rigid channel-based budgeting decisions. These are necessary but not sufficient.

What’s needed is a fundamental reorientation of how we think about our relationships with consumers when, today, they are the ones in the driver’s seat rather than us. But what does it take to really make that happen? Especially in a world that’s constantly evolving around us.

I hope you’ll enjoy probing this question, and several more to follow, as much as I will.

– Joanna O’Connell, Industry Analyst

What Does Omnichannel Mean to You?

Headshot of Russ DieringerFounder & CEO, Stratably

Russ Dieringer

Founder & CEO, Stratably

Omnichannel is a recognition that the consumer is in control, and their expectations of entertainment and translatability are heightened. It means having the ability to reach and transact with the consumer wherever they want. That could be inside a store, on a digital storefront, or even on a platform like TikTok.

Beyond the consumer, omnichannel also surfaces in the way consumer brands and retailers do business together. New opportunities around retail media and analytics are becoming central to commercial relationships, with both sides expecting investment and excellence.

Headshot of Gemma SpenceGlobal Vice President, VMLY&R Commerce

Gemma Spence

Global Vice President, VMLY&R Commerce

After 2+ years of shopping online, omnichannel is back with consumers desiring more than ever for in-person, augmented, and enriched experiences, brick-and-mortar stores have rebounded fast. To me, omnichannel encompasses all digital, physical, augmented, and social storefronts that give shoppers access to products, services, offers, and experiences; this covers all channels, platforms, and devices. 

The reality is that almost 75% of shoppers use multiple devices for browsing before buying so it is in a brand’s interest to ensure cohesion and connectivity of everything from equity to loyalty-driven activities.

Headshot of Margo KahnroseCMO, Skai

Margo Kahnrose

CMO, Skai

Omnichannel advertising puts customers at the center of a marketing strategy rather than the channel. While in theory, all marketing campaigns aim to be customer-centric and merely executed through a mix of media channels, the reality is that most often they are planned and measured based on expectations from each channel rather than expectations from the customer interaction. The quality of that interaction, the effects of it, all of that take backstage to quantitative, channel-specific measures like cost, reach and ROI. 

An omnichannel approach, on the other hand, is founded on the idea that customers are omnichannel — meaning not specific to engaging or transacting with a brand on only one channel — which is an evolution from the days of cohorts based on binary shopping behaviors like online vs. brick-and-mortar. Omnichannel advertising reflects and powers this fluidity by supporting customers and letting them drive the relationship.

Headshot of Mert DamlapinarPrincipal, CPG Business Consulting, EPAM Systems

Mert Damlapinar

Principal, CPG Business Consulting, EPAM Systems

Omnichannel advertising, to me, is a brand’s holistic approach to every customer touchpoint across channels. A robust marketing platform can give brands the power to integrate all their channels across markets and ensure every marketing action works together in harmony. This will provide unbeatable efficiency and effectiveness. To do that right, brands need to research and collect insights, analyze the data they collect, segment and tailor to map the customer journey and finally test, measure, and optimize their tactics to maximize the ROI.

Headshot of Lauren BennettDirector, Performance Solutions, Rakuten Advertising

Lauren Bennett

Director, Performance Solutions, Rakuten Advertising

Omnichannel advertising goes beyond what we know from the past. As an industry, we are far beyond looking at digital marketing channels as they are being tracked by a website. Today, we are able to look at incorporating branding efforts, retail media, offline, and more for a comprehensive overview of consumer behavior. Any platform that contributes to the brand image or for purchasing a product drives brand growth at a macro level. 

Headshot of Alex ElseHead of Omnichannel Product Solutions, Group M Nexus

Alex Else

Head of Omnichannel Product Solutions, Group M Nexus

Omnichannel advertising first and foremost is about providing an advertiser with an agile, seamless, effective solution to a very basic brief scenario – a budget, and something the client wants to achieve (a.k.a. the advertiser’s “ask”). Omnichannel goes above and beyond the capabilities of single or multi-channel advertising and should then be able to provide them with the right scale, flexibility, and outcome-based solution to achieve that chosen goal. 

There are lots therefore that have to go well in order to achieve such a solution – holistic planning which keeps the client’s chosen KPI as the focus across all channels involved, coherent data-based targeting which does not rely on data sets which will become obsolete [soon], the flexibility of delivery between channels and in optimisation to meet the chosen goals during the lifetime of the campaign, a measurement structure between channels which works and measures performance and outcomes effectively, and technology which enables seamless execution of such campaigns during their lifetime.

In short, omnichannel represents an evolutionary step to enable advertising to work better for clients and all other parties involved.

Headshot of Aaron GoldmanCMO, Mediaocean

Aaron Goldman

CMO, Mediaocean

I think of omnichannel as an approach that enables brands to deliver engaging experiences across all media channels – from TV to TikTok, and everything in between. Omnichannel also encompasses all environments – from the physical world to digital/mobile to AR/VR – and all creative formats – from video to audio to text. For brands, the omnichannel imperative means meeting consumers wherever they are, in the moment, with relevant messaging and pathways to purchase. It’s easier said than done but certainly a noble goal. Being truly omnichannel allows brands to be omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient. Who wouldn’t want all those omnis?

Katia ColstonSr. Dir of Garden eCommerce Sales, Central Garden & Pet

Katia Colston

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

“Omnichannel” advertising means a cross-channel approach to marketing that seeks to reach and engage with customers through multiple channels, including online and offline channels, such as social media, websites, email, mobile apps, physical stores, and traditional media (e.g., television, radio, print).

For a consumer-packaged goods (CPG) company like Central Garden & Pet, omnichannel advertising involves creating targeted campaigns that reach customers through a variety of channels, using data and insights from across the customer journey to inform and optimize the campaigns. Omnichannel advertising has proven to be beneficial for our company because it allows us to reach customers where they are, and in the way that is most convenient for them. It also helps us to better understand and track customer behavior, allowing us to tailor our marketing efforts more effectively and create a more seamless and consistent customer experience across channels.

Headshot of Peter GalliDirector of Digital Marketing, HART Consumer Products

Peter Galli

Director of Digital Marketing, HART Consumer Products

I have seen omni mean both online only, all digital channels, and online and in-store combined. For our marketing and sales organizations, omni means accounting for all touchpoints with a customer. For marketing, that means packaging, in-store signage, display, social, CTV, YouTube, etc. 

From a POS standpoint, it means brick-and-mortar, PUT, online sales, marketplace sales, etc. The term omnichannel truly feels like it has been used as a catchall over the past few years. In the simplest of terms, thinking about a business in an “omnichannel” way these days means that no action happens in a vacuum. Every touch point with a customer can and will have an impact, our challenge is to find the best ways to measure that impact effectively.

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