The Omnichannel Dream Still Out of Reach

Keeping customer identity aligned across both digital and physical channels remains a challenge for 49% of marketers, according to a recent study conducted by the CMO Council and IBM.

“Omnichannel is, without doubt, a very different beast than anything we as marketers have seen before,” says Liz Miller, SVP of marketing at CMO Council.

The report is based on findings from an online survey of 198 senior global marketing executives fielded in the second half of 2016. Some 38% of respondents have titles of CMO, senior vice president of marketing or head of marketing, and 24% hail from brands with revenues of more than $1 billion annually.

Among the compelling data points, Miller points to the fact that 43% of marketers admit that a shift to digital experiences has revealed cracks in systems as data is difficult to aggregate and centralize for a clear view of the customer.

“In reality, without this view, actually achieving an omnichannel strategy is impossible as a true omnichannel approach necessitates data on both the actions and intentions of a customer in order to meet them in real time and in the channel of their choosing, be it online or offline,” Miller says.

She adds that 38% of marketers feel they are seeing mixed results specific to reaching intended goals of digital engagements.

The roadblocks to omnichannel are well known: an over-reliance on the marketing department to realize the strategy when it should really fall on the whole organization, silos in the business, and not enough data being shared across the organization. But marketers have focused so entirely on finding technology to automate communications, that using technology to process and link data about customers in a holistic way is only recently starting to gain traction.

“Now that marketers are realizing this, that omnichannel really is a seismic shift, we’re seeing that’s it’s not just about making the content look the same in every channel across every device… omnichannel is do we know our customer across every device,” Miller says. “A lot of marketers are having to admit no, we aren’t really there yet, and more importantly, we may not necessarily have the foundation to deliver that holistic omnichannel customer experience.”

True omnichannel marketing will likely remain out of reach until the cognitive computing trend that’s sweeping the marketing industry matures. “When you look at something like cognitive or IoT, you’re looking at something that is going to flood our industry with data,” Miller says.

“But you’re also looking at something that holds the promise of not only humanizing the process, but also something that can self-learn… and will finally help us stop mass hoarding and collecting data and actually identify those points that are really important to have [for omnichannel].

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