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.
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
Over the last couple of installments of this Omnichannel Forum series, we’ve challenged a group of industry professionals to tackle the question, “What is omnichannel?” and to give the ecosystem a grade on its journey to delivering on the omnichannel (think, truly customer-centric) promise.
This time around, they were asked to give some perspective on what would accelerate their omnichannel evolution. Several themes emerged, and I’ve outlined a few below:
A clear vision and strategy. This seems the most obvious but is so often overlooked. That’s because it’s hard – it takes top-down commitment and long-term investment.
Organizational design and structure. It takes a village to deliver on the omnichannel promise, but if the villagers are at odds (or simply don’t communicate), the whole thing falls apart.
Data that is organized, clean, and accessible. More often than not, organizations are rich in data but poor in usable data. There may be gaps and redundancies in data sets, systems are disconnected, data governance is lacking, or employees are simply unable to access what they need.
Supporting technology and infrastructure. This is where the rubber meets the road. But it’s important that tech investments support strategy, not dictate it.
I’ll readily admit that all these things are hard. I’ll also acknowledge that virtually no one has the luxury of getting started from scratch. And finally, even with all the right components in place, industry developments — like the loss of signal (i.e., MAIDs, 3P cookies), a rapidly evolving regulatory and legislative landscape around consumer privacy, and the inexorable rise of more walled gardens — present material challenges to delivering on the vision of perfect, connected omnichannel experiences.
“The Achilles heel for all omnichannel is data interoperability and privacy in & between walled gardens”, notes Gemma Spence, Global Vice President, VMLY&R Commerce.
But this needn’t mean we give up the fight. It means some re-framing of what perfect should look like. And accepting that progress may come in fits and starts, and that’s ok. More to come on this in future installments.
– Joanna O’Connell, Industry Analyst
What is one thing that would need to fall into place for your organization to accelerate its omnichannel evolution?
Principal, CPG Business Consulting, EPAM Systems
To pinpoint one factor is tough, I’d like to evaluate four key factors that can accelerate the omnichannel maturity of an organization within the advertising industry; and those are an investment in technology, depth and breadth of the data they ingest and analyze, integrated team structure and of course data-powered customer-centricity.
Collaborating and integrating marketing efforts across channels is essential for achieving success with an omnichannel approach. This may involve aligning messaging and branding across channels and coordinating efforts between teams or departments.
Overall, it is important for organizations to have a clear strategy and plan in place for how they will approach omnichannel advertising and to be willing to make the necessary investments in technology, people, and processes to support this evolution.
Founder & CEO, Stratably
The blurring between sales and marketing is challenging so many consumer brand organizations. It started with retail media and is now bleeding into analytics capabilities.
Organizations that can embrace these blurred lines and take a blank-page approach to roles, responsibilities, and incentives will be well-positioned as their retail accounts evolve and new platforms and models come to market.
For us to reach omnichannel nirvana, we need the silos that have been erected inside agency and brand organizations to come down.
As long as separate teams of strategists, planners, and buyers operate by specific channels, we’ll need to provide tools and services for specific channels. With a shift towards consumer-centricity, we’ll see faster omnichannel adoption. Another driving factor is Google’s deprecation of 3rd-party cookies in Chrome. This will put digital ads targeting more on par with traditional channels and make for more consistent campaign variables and, hence, omnichannel execution.
Sr. Dir of Garden eCommerce Sales, Central Garden & Pet
There are many factors that can influence a company’s ability to accelerate its omnichannel evolution. I will list 2 that are some of the most important ones for our organization:
A clear vision and strategy for the organization’s omnichannel efforts. A clear understanding of the goals and objectives of the company’s omnichannel strategy and how it fits into the overall business plan can help ensure that resources are being focused on the right areas and that progress is being made.
Investment in the necessary technology and infrastructure. Implementing an omnichannel strategy often requires significant investments in technology and infrastructure, such as CRM systems, data analytics tools, and e-commerce platforms. Having the necessary resources in place can help to ensure that the organization is able to execute its omnichannel plans effectively.
Director of Digital Marketing, HART Consumer Products
The digital marketing world essentially is always in a state of evolution. The tools/platforms marketers have access to, the data that can be used to target key prospective customers, and the ability to attribute marketing efforts to sales – all three of these feel like they constantly change.
When our organization talks about omnichannel growth, the first question is typically “How can we measure that?” followed immediately by “What does good look like?”
These are two incredibly valid questions, but as many performance marketers know at this point, these answers seem to change from quarter to quarter. Being able to better centralize our data so we can more easily compare marketing channels and move faster to chase performance whenever possible would be the fastest way for us to accelerate our already rapid growth in omnichannel activations.
Director, Performance Solutions, Rakuten Advertising
In order to accelerate omnichannel advertising, brands need to start ‘saying yes’ and be open to the vast ecosystem of digital strategies left untapped.
Oftentimes, we see advertisers dismiss strategies due to a potential forecasted ROAS or, even more so, the inability to produce the creative necessary for that ad unit. While advertisers certainly have budgets to adhere to, we advocate for the motto ‘test first and measure later.’ Measurement is muddled, but if the strategy is working, the success should clearly reflect in topline KPIs.
Head of Omnichannel Product Solutions, Group M Nexus
If by organisations we mean advertising agencies, then I think it’s finding the balance between Agility and Coherence.
At its heart, Omnichannel represents the opportunity for true agility in advertising – planning budget between a multitude of channels to find the most effective solution according to a client KPI, optimising in-flight to ensure that KPI is reached most effectively and without wastage, etc. Versus the need for Coherence – best-in-class technology and logistical/operational capabilities to make the dream of Omnichannel work seamlessly for clients from the first conversation to the post-campaign analysis.
If organisations are advertisers, then I think it’s about embracing the potential for omnichannel and embracing the potential simplicity of the premise – you have a budget, and you have an “ask”… what’s next? How might you achieve that “ask” differently when compared to past tried and true channels? What audiences do you want to reach and have never been able to reach before? It’s about taking a leap of faith and letting go (somewhat) of the past ways of approaching digital advertising.
Global Vice President, VMLY&R Commerce
Consumers pick omnichannel again and again as their preferred approach for shopping. By 2024, global omnichannel retail powered by m-commerce sales is expected to reach nearly $4.5 trillion and make up 69.9% of total retail e-commerce sales. Smartphones drive 50% of e-commerce sales, so designing mobile-first omnichannel experiences is key.
The Achilles heel for all omnichannel is data interoperability and privacy in & between walled gardens. As platforms are media owners who leverage sophisticated algorithms to drive mental, physical, and digital availability, it is important to harmonize efforts across social platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat, as well as retailers and brand DTC solutions. Customer journey planning is notoriously difficult near and within these walled gardens, and I believe this will continue to be the biggest challenge for brands from a targeting perspective.
I work in SaaS, so omnichannel applies to us in different ways than a consumer-facing business.
In B2B, going omnichannel means recognizing fewer distinctions between new and existing customers — between demand generation and customer experience. It’s all the same, intermingled loop, and we need to expect net-new prospects to want a sense of the client experience from the first interaction and our client baseline to need marketing that helps them think bigger, helps them evolve the relationship, and expands their programs.
To accelerate our omnichannel evolution, we need to empower our audiences to engage with everything we offer more easily, reducing friction in the buying process and creating connections between our offerings through a shared platform instead of disparate products. It’s the same idea – support the customer to be able to do whatever they want when engaging with our business rather than impose our own expectations and restrictions on the experience.
As a marketer, the thing we need to accelerate our omnichannel advertising evolution is the technology that can orchestrate our media and surface intelligence for us in efficient ways. We rely on a few key platforms, such as Skai, 6Sense, and our strategic publisher partnerships with Google, Meta, and LinkedIn for execution, and it’s helping us break down walls and move really fast.