Written by: David Kaplan, Partner, bluesalve Partners

Omnichannel, omnichannel, the word is everywhere. It is used, misused, abused, and misunderstood, promoted as a buzzword and synonym for strategy by experts and charlatans alike. When a word becomes ubiquitous, but its meaning stays open to interpretation, it is important to get grounded in what the term really means.

First, know that when we use the word "omnichannel," we are not saying that you sell through every conceivable channel. We are actually talking about your customer’s experience. If you are looking at Omnichannel from the perspective of your business, you start by knowing your customer and their current journey to your doorstep. Omni is all about your customer’s experience through the pipeline and sales funnel. It is about creating an experience that engages your customer where and how they want to be engaged with an experience appropriate for your brand promise.

While omnichannel is, in part, about reducing friction during the customer journey, do not believe anyone who promises a totally friction-less experience. There is no such thing as a totally friction-free experience. The important word here is “experience”, which means aligning strategic and tactical efforts for sales, marketing, customer service, and where applicable, product development. It sounds cool, it is cool, it is necessary for survival in today’s marketplace, but it is hard work.

Let’s talk about your customer’s journey for a moment. These days customers engage in the commercial world though a myriad of social media platforms, apps and channels. These include, email, Facebook, Facebook Messenger , Instagram, LinkedIn, Mobile Apps, Twitter, SMS, SnapChat, WhatsApp, Clubhouse, chat, et al. Even a large enterprise can be run ragged trying to keep on top of it all. However, if your focus is on your customer and what is important to your customer, your social media strategy becomes narrower and more manageable, though it will still need ongoing maintenance and updates. You will not focus on trying to do everything; just everything that's important to your customer. The best communication platforms for you are, quite simply, your customer’s favorites.

One detail that is almost a given as part of your customer’s journey is that at some point they will land at Amazon. Not selling on Amazon or only selling through Amazon are both viable options for some companies but know that most category searches bring up an Amazon link on the first page. When your customer lands at Amazon, they will be shown a plethora of choices in pretty much any category you can think of. Getting out of the clutter for visibility on Amazon is possible and necessary. The task can be driven by purchased key words or organically, through sales velocity driven by reviews. Like it or not, the content you serve up and how you present it on Amazon (and who owns the buy box for your brand) can be critical, and is often a key area where we see enterprises miss-fire.

Whether you are direct-to-consumer business selling your product through single or limited sales channels, or engaging your customers multiple sales and distribution channels, or trying to sell though mass distribution everywhere that people buy stuff, customers today expect a seamless experience across all platforms. Omnichannel means focusing on the entire customer experience—not the collective discrete experiences on different channels.

In conclusion, your job is to make sure that experience reflects the values and value of your brand. You must engage your customers wherever and however they find you to learn about your category and company. And, of course, however they do commerce, whether it's through a laptop, tablet, mobile device or physical store.