After a few days and posts covering the United Airlines incident, I want to briefly turn attention to omnichannel.
You probably know what omnichannel means, but a quick definition is always helpful. It refers to the various touch points by which a business/organization can reach a customer. The idea — and the ideal — is to get the offer in front of them at the time they’re most likely to be interested. Typically in the modern business ecosystem, omnichannel refers to:
- Brick and mortar locations
- Social media
- Other digital efforts
- How you come across on mobile
- Face-to-face interactions between customers and employees
There is more you could group under omnichannel, but that’s a good start. Unfortunately, in a few years from now, we may need a different approach entirely.
Omnichannel and the rapid scale of Big Data
Consider this: in 2020, it’s possible 1.7 megabytes of new data will be created for every person on the planet every second. If you do the full math on that, the total volume of data globally in 2020 might be around 44 zettabytes. A zettabyte is a trillion gigabytes. This is somewhat because of “The Internet of Things” — connected devices and sensors — which should have an economic value of $3 trillion by 2025. Internet of Things tech alone will be 3-6 zettabytes of that total.
Now we know the rapid scale of Big Data. It’s actually arriving in daily life maybe faster than even mobile did. What are the repercussions?
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The repercussions for omnichannel
As noted in this post on Information Age:
Companies hoped “omnichannel experiences” would enable them to anticipate customers’ needs to provide them with a personalised response, which meets or even exceeds their expectations. And this effort is based on the company’s ability to mobilise the necessary data to deliver.
But what happened?
Today, these same companies struggle to draw together all the information required to give them a unified view and appreciation of their customers’ needs. The result is a mixed bag of omnichannel initiatives, many of which result in failures. In the retail sector, for example, only 18% of retailers claim to have an engagement strategy, which covers all channels.
The sheer math looks like this: 44 zettabytes of generated data in 2020 is 10 times — yes, ten times — what we are generating now, three years earlier. Companies are already struggling to manage data properly towards better customer experience. What will happen when 10 times the data is available in 33 months or so?
What’s the future look like for omnichannel and CX?
This is obviously hard to predict. In times of great complexity, though, sometimes sticking to the basics — i.e. The Five Customer Experience Competencies — isn’t a bad idea. A strong base almost always beats an all-over-the-place strategy.
In my mind, this is what needs to happen:
- Companies need a good handle on what really drives their business now and what could drive it in the future.
- This involves products/services but also types of customer and platform they use.
- Once that picture is mostly clear, senior leaders need to be on the same page about the importance of customer-driven growth.
- “Being on the same page” also involves, ideally, vocabulary and incentive structures.
- If the customer-driven plan/platforms and senior leadership alignment are there, now you need to make sure the work is prioritized.
- No one should be running around on low-value tasks when great opportunity is right there.
- Kill a stupid rule, etc. Basically move as many people as possible to higher-value work, especially if lower-value work can be more easily automated.
- It’s all been important so far, but let’s bold this: You don’t need to collect all the data. You need data that relates to your priorities and growth.
- That data should be analyzed and condensed for executives. You may need “data translators,” yes.
- Decision-making should come from relevant information and customer interactions.
This flow is hard to arrive at for some companies, but essential.
Phrased another way: trying to be “omnichannel” in five years and looking at an Excel with trillions of touch points/data on it? That will just burn out employees and managers alike. You need a prioritized, aligned plan focused on customer-driven growth and well-articulated goals. That will get you there post-omnichannel.