Omni-Channel? A Definition of Terms Please!
In looking through the massive number of potential items to cover that fill up my inbox in a virtual continuous stream, I came across something that caught my attention. It was a press release titled, “Johnston & Murphy Steps Up Omni-Channel Commerce with Demandware.” Given that “omni-channel” in just a few short months replaced "multi-channel" as the term du jour for categorizing 360-degree customer engagement, I was intrigued. That was until it became apparent that one person’s definition of omni-channel is not the same as another’s, and for all of us that is not a good thing.
This is in no way to belittle what high-end footwear retailer Johnston & Murphy (J&M) is trying to accomplish with the migration of its digital commerce operations to Demandware’s cloud-based commerce platform. In fact, J&M as a cutting edge retailer is setting an example that is being replicated by retailers around the world in leveraging the cloud to free its IT people from managing infrastructure to concentrating on enhancing customers’ shopping experiences whether they are online or offline. It also enables J&M developers, marketing and sales to use the data generated by customers using various channels for information and transactional purposes to continue to fine-tune capabilities that create sustainable competitive advantage.
That said, I took a look at the Demandware site to see all of the capabilities its platform had to offer, and read further as to where live customer interaction with contact center agents, possible even with the help of in-store employees, was part of the omni-channel experience. Interestingly, the ability of the customer to use their voice, as opposed to just their smartphone or tablet, was nowhere to be found.
The good news is that, the headline may be a bit misleading as can be seen from the following: “Our customers expect increasingly sophisticated shopping experiences, so for Johnston & Murphy, we started with a refresh of our ecommerce site. Our next step will be to optimize our site for mobile devices and eventually take digital into our stores, working toward a true omni-channel experience,” said Heather Marsh, vice president of ecommerce at Johnston & Murphy. “With Demandware, we have a powerful, yet agile platform that will help us move faster to achieve our ultimate goal of omni-channel enablement.”
Therein lies therub. When the industry is using very specific jargon as a marketing tool, it needs to be very careful. Having a great cloud-based e-commerce website customers can interact with to obtain information and perform a multitude of self-service capabilities is not the same as being truly omni-channel.
In fact, as TMC’s (News - Alert) recently concluded WebRTC Conference & Expo event highlighted, when it comes to enhancing the customer experience, particularly in regards to contact centers, you are not omni-channel if voice is not a key component of customer engagement. Indeed, self-service can only go so far and it is still the personal touch that has significant impact on customer satisfaction and customer loyalty. If you are skeptical for some reason, look no further than how closely social media is being monitored by retailers and how the majority of experiences shared have to deal with bad personal interactions with customer service people.
In short, words matter (double meaning intended), and our industry needs to be really careful how it uses them so the hype does not create unrealistic expectations.
Edited by Maurice Nagle