Omnichannel. It’s a vague word to describe all the possible touch-points a customer can have with a brand, in hopes of landing on one seamless experience through every possible medium. A lot of articles I’ve read recently on the subject talk about consistency across devices — how customers can browse, compare, save, and purchase items while switching from tablet to mobile, to desktop, back to mobile, to in-store. It’s a display of how consistent user flows across platforms can broaden and unify the purchasing process.
It’s Not an Advertiser’s World Anymore.
While seemingly a new trend, maintaining a consistent omnichannel experience technically always existed as a concept within modern retail. In the past, advertising, in-store experience, customer support, and catalogues were the only players. Now, the world of retail has grown to include mobile, desktop, delivery and fulfillment, social media, geolocation, beacons, wearables…the list goes on, and will continue to grow. The more interfaces we come into contact with, the more complex managing all these channels becomes. This begs the question — what do we do next?
Let’s look to the TV show Mad Men. Peggy Olsen, a character on the show, hit a turning point in her career when she took her first stab at copywriting. A lipstick brand that offered 100 different shades wanted to emphasize just how many options they had. Peggy told the ad executives, “I don’t think anyone wants to be one of a hundred colors in a box.” At first, the stakeholders couldn’t see past the “more is more” mentality, but Peggy challenged them with a new perspective — and ultimately a new idea for an ad — that made their customers feel unique. She wrote to women, “there’s only one shade for you” and, “it’s your calling card color.” It was this idea that eventually sold the new lipstick ads. Peggy brilliantly showed that personalization matters, but it now takes more than a vision and smart copy to move the needle.
Not All Channels are Created Equal.
Retailers might argue that a native mobile app is just one channel out of many, another device that lives alongside desktop, tablet, mobile web, and social media. However, trends are increasingly pointing towards native mobile becoming not just one of, but the primary method by which a company can more effectively communicate with its customers. A 2013 study by the Google Shopper Marketing Council found that 79% of smartphone owners are smartphone shoppers, meaning they use their devices to inform their purchasing decisions. Of those smartphone shoppers, 84% use their devices while in the store to help them shop, actually resulting in higher average spend. With mobile adoption growing at an exponential rate, it’s undoubtedly higher today. That’s an incredible amount of influence mobile has on retail. Without understanding how people are using those devices, we may miss a huge opportunity.
Unified design languages, a growing number of mobile engineers, increased documentation and case studies, and access to usable data are all contributing to a brand’s ability to get into our devices’ hard drives and stay there.
The bigger the role our mobile devices have in our lives, the more gravity they have in the omnichannel universe.
As other forms of brand-to-customer communication draw closer to mobile, and as people become more comfortable with utilizing the power our devices can offer us, the more opportunity we have as an agency to translate those interactions to the screens we carry in our pockets.
You are All Beautiful, Unique Snowflakes
Mobile isn’t just growing, it will soon be the channel of communication between businesses and people. It’s your loyalty membership, your recommendation engine, your fast checkout utility, and its all personalized to you — your calling card. Big-box, one-size-fits-all solutions that standardize the shopping experience for the masses will become less and less effective. They will be replaced with smart data, personal touches, and a customer base full of VIPs who all get special treatment. Right now, our phones are perfectly poised to unify this vision of retail, because they’re the most personal and widely adopted devices we have. This means a better, more convenient shopping experience that lets us discover the things we want and buy them in the way we want to buy them.
Just like nobody wants to be one shade in a box of 100 colors, nobody wants to be a number in a dataset of millions. Customers want to be treated like people with specific needs, and that is what will keep us focused on the human aspect in the work we’re doing to help our partners unify their experiences through the power of the most personal channel yet: mobile.