7 Pitfalls that Can Cause Your Omnichannel Strategy to Fall Apart

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Industry analysts discuss the hazards that can cause a seamless customer experience to unravel

Omnichannel strategies should be tablestakes for both marketers and retailers, but technological pitfalls can cause seamless experiences to unravel. In this article, industry analysts identify seven issues that cause omnichannel strategies to fall apart.

1) Not having a single view of the customer or product inventory

Leslie Hand, VP of research for IDC Retail Insights, describes today's omnichannel world as a “blended reality” of physical and digital properties. Failing to track customers across touchpoints through a common or integrated database, she explains, prevents marketers and retailers from influencing customers' paths to purchase, such as through contextual and personalized experiences. If companies don't inspire their customers to purchase, she says, they can bet another organization will.

However, having a single-view of the customer is not enough. Hand says retailers also need to have a single-view of their inventory. Not doing so can create a disjointed and frustrating experience for the shopper.

Even if marketers and retailers have a unified view of their customers and products, this data won't do them any good if it's not actionable. Analytics can help marketers and retailers deliver tailored interactions and meet customers' contextual needs, Hand notes; however, she says companies need to map out the customer journey and pinpoint the moments when they can influence a conversion.

“Retailers really need to start with identifying what the typical customer journey is in their organization,” Hand says, “and then figure out which technologies they can leverage to intersect the customer at any point to, once again, improve the odds of driving a conversion.”

2) Leveraging low-quality data

Still, having all of this data isn't useful if it's poor quality. While Melissa Parrish, VP and research director at Forrester Research, says it can be difficult to judge data quality, especially when it comes from third parties, she advises marketers to turn to testing.

“It really is about testing with a small-scale program to begin with,” she says, “and [seeing] if it matches with your expectations.”

She also encourages marketers to have open discussions with their vendors and agencies when they do spot a data quality issue. While she says it can be tempting to skip this conversation to avoid pointing the finger of blame, she says it's important to bring everyone together to identify the break in the chain. 

3) Having an opaque view of programmatic inventory

When it comes to media buying, Parrish says marketers often think that cheapest equals best. This focus on quantity over quality, she notes, has led to a lack of transparency and an “opacity” of inventory sources. She says it can also cause a brand's ad to appear on a website that doesn't align with its values.

“Marketers have thought that cheap media is what they're trying to achieve,” Parrish says, “but that's not right.”

Instead, she encourages marketers to focus on buying the best audience possible – even if this results in purchasing fewer ads. She says they need to identify the business value that they're hoping to achieve through these ads – whether that's a click-through or an email address – and concentrate on that greater gain.

4) Planning for the short-term

Technology shouldn't be purchased for short-term gains. Before implementing a new technology, Hand says retailers need to create a roadmap outlining what they're hoping to achieve and how. Then, she says they need to see how a platform's capabilities tie into this long-term plan. She also encourages retailers to devise a strategy that extends beyond the next three years and to consider how the technology would integrate with future systems.

“Am I putting a platform in place that will enable continued integration?” she says.

5) Not having upper-management and company-wide support

No matter how great a retailer's strategy is, it likely won't succeed if it doesn't garner upper-management and company-wide support. Hand says even the best plans fall apart when they're not adopted or supported by the organization as a whole.

“It's really important that the technological shift comes with the cultural shift,” she says.

6) Failing to use the same lingo

Programmatic may seem like a straight forward term. But Parrish says programmatic buying for digital media is different than programmatic buying for offline channels, like TV. Even the word automation can have different meanings, she says.

As a result, she says it's important for companies and their partners to establish clear definitions from the get-go and to ensure that everyone is using the same language.

“Just make sure that everybody is on the same page,” she says.

7) Not doing anything at all

While not every trend is worth pursuing, ignoring industry shifts can be problematic. In fact, Hand says companies can lose time trying to play catch up.

As she puts it, “That is not a sound strategy — waiting for it all to blow over.”

Welcome to Omnichannel Week, a week at DMN where we examine the state of omnichannel marketing.

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