Before we begin…
Back in 2012, according to Adobe, an omni-channel experience extends past social networks, email, web and mobile; for Adobe, it encompasses the entire customer experience, including things like in-store displays, kiosks, interactive television and set-top boxes. Essentially, omni-channel reaches to anywhere there’s a digital touch point, which nowadays is everywhere you look.
Similarly, Deloitte, in their 2015 edition of the Deloitte Point of View, point out that if consumers are moving around and across various channels, so should business – a single-channel world is no longer sufficient.
While, Abode’s definition itself seems simple and Deloitte’s view logical to the point of it being ‘common sense’, the reality of creating a truly omni-channel experience is decidedly more complex. Three years on from that statement, most of the digital marketing world is still trying to figure out where these touch points are and how to reach out to and interact with their customers consistently across them.
So why is it so hard to ‘get’ omni-channel? After all, we’re surrounded by a world that is quickly making internet its connective tissue; why is it so difficult to make our interactions with it similarly cohesive?
Well, hopefully this ‘recipe’ will give both aspiring and seasoned businesses the necessary information to make omni-channel happen. A word of advice – while this may be quick to read and, hopefully, easy to understand, it will take a fairly long time to make (see Cooking time below for more details).
With the preamble out of the way, let’s get cooking.
Like every other good recipe, this one needs premium, responsibly-sourced ingredients. The ingredients list can be varied and you can use different brands, but there are a few things you should consider when selecting them. Of these considerations, none is more important than building the right foundation for your recipe – your integrated digital platform.
A true omni-channel experience requires a combination of tools and processes to allow it come to fruition and help prevent it from breaking down and coming apart; the digital platform is the mixing bowl and the spoon. So when it comes to selecting your platform, chose wisely – they are expensive and become harder to change the more time goes by (just have a look at the “digital transformation” projects currently going around).
Remember how I said you can use different brands? While this is true and often desirable – I’ve heard many of my clients say they don’t want to be locked to a single vendor – make sure to carefully select products within your digital platform that are able to talk to one another and share that oh-so-important customer data; this will make or break your ability to deliver a consistent experience and engage customers ubiquitously. As a certified Adobe expert, I have a certain affiliation with the Marketing Cloud platform, but I’ve been a part of a few very successful implementations that involved mixing in ingredients from other brands such as Optimizely and the tried-and-tested Google Analytics.
The digital platform you construct must allow you to not only create and manage your digital content and assets, but also provide the ability to know and understand your visitors on a more personal level so you can meet their demands rather than just your sales targets.
To achieve this, you’ll need the following list of ingredients (in no particular order):
- One or more analytics tools (have a look at Adobe Analytics, Google Analytics, Teradata)
- One A/B testing tool (I’d recommend Optimizely, Adobe Target)
- One content personalisation tool (definitely check out Adobe Target, Optimizely, Sitecore Experience)
- One content management tool (Adobe AEM, Sitecore and Oracle WCS are some of the leaders in the field)
- One multichannel campaign management tool (ExactTarget, Adobe Campaign and Pardot are just a few excellent campaign tools)
- One social communities management tool (Adobe Social, Hootsuite are just a few examples I’m aware of)
- One tag management tool (DTM and GTM are, in my opinion, the strongest candidates)
- One rock-solid content model (made during cooking time)
- One content strategy (made during cooking time)
- Several intelligent user personas (made during cooking time)
- One personalisation strategy (made during cooking time)
- One analytics plan (made during cooking time)
This recipe will take at least 12-infinitely many months to make. It may sound scary, but it’s necessary (refer to my earlier remark about digital transformations, or read this blog on why digital transformations fail). Ultimately, cooking time will depend on what ingredients you select and how proficiently your organisation is able to use them. If your ingredient selection doesn’t meet the initial criteria of mutual ability to share data, the omni-channel experience will fall flat like a bad soufflé.
Remember, if you don’t want to go all in, you can always start by incrementally building a digital ‘layered cake’; just be aware that without a proper plan in place this can easily fall apart and leave you a plate of crumbs.
This recipe is for experienced digital chefs. While we all (think we) understand digital, that doesn’t make us experts. Don’t let this discourage or deter you though. Personally – and I’ll put this out there straight away – I am by no means someone that has exhaustive knowledge of all the tools that make up the ingredients list. What I do have, though, is the ability to recognise their place and importance in the recipe, and a willingness to go and seek advice from people that know more than I do.
While this recipe requires a capable chef to create and direct the making of the omni-channel experience, even the best chefs rely on capable cooks and talented helping hands to deliver the final product. This is not a one-man effort, but a collective push to disrupt and change the perception of the digital sensory landscape within your organisation.
This is my approach to making this recipe; it may not be perfect and it may leave your digital kitchen in a bit of a disarray, but the results may surprise you. Practice has shown that some of the steps are interchangeable, but be prepared for different outcomes if you chose to mix up the directions.
- Understand your current challenges and opportunities by interviewing and observing stakeholders and customers, auditing and evaluating your content and brainstorming ideas; this should help you get a clear picture and understanding of the current ecosystem and its inhabitants. By the end of this process, you should have a number of persona-shaped pieces of digital dough and several content model moulds. The personas should react to their name and have opinions on what they like and don’t like. They should also recognise their doppelgangers when they see them out in the real world. We will use the content model moulds later in the recipe…
- Shape the vision by defining user experiences and content objectives. Use the persona pieces to role-play valuable moments, and use those moments to create colourful and meaningful user journeys. With the user journeys in hand, create a personalisation strategy that reacts to the persona that takes the journey.
- Create the content strategy. Take the content model moulds you set aside earlier and fill them up with various digital assets. If some of the models fall apart when tested against the personas and journeys, don’t despair – adjust the moulds and repeat the process until all of the content is used up. You will likely notice an interesting thing happen – some of the content models will naturally gravitate towards one another and form bonds that keep them in place. These bonds or relationships are natural and should occur – this means you’re on the right path to a great omni-channel experience! Finally, apply a good dose of content lifecycle to bind the strategy together.
- Make sure to continuously test the content strategy against the personas, their user journeys and the personalisation strategy as you go or you might end up with a disconnected model, which can cause the whole strategy to fall apart.
- Now it’s time to make the experience layer. Brush the content models with some visual design, sprinkle some taxonomy and metadata on top and put them to bake in the digital creative oven until they form digital patterns. The patterns should be shiny on the outside and firm on the inside. While the patterns are baking, move on to making the analytics strategy. The analytics strategy should be based on the personas you created in step 1, the user journeys you mapped out in step 2 and the information architecture you identified while creating the content strategy.
- Continue to test the digital patterns and iterate throughout the baking process, altering the baking time or amount of visual design until perfect. Assemble a design pattern library. This library will form the foundation of your digital language layer.
- Finally, build the digital experience. This step requires the use of a connected digital platform, involving the implementation of the content management elements such as templates and components, digital assets and a responsive design. It also involves implementing an analytics rules-based engine based on the analytics strategy you’ve created, and a personalisation framework based on the user segmentation and user journeys. Wrap this up with a campaign strategy using your campaign tool that allows the business to react to both positive and negative statistical events. Lastly, top it all off with a tag management system that orchestrates your digital solution. While this may seem like a handful of simple steps, this last step alone can take up to 12 months to complete. Patience is advised.
- Stand back and marvel at your creation – you did an awesome job!
- Now the ‘easy’ part is done, you need to keep continuously measuring, testing and amending the recipe. Unlike other baked goods, this one requires constant attention and involvement to make sure it stays fresh, appealing and spot on.
Bon Appétit!content management, Content Marketing, content strategy
This post was written by Zoran Nikolovski