The word is 'omnichannel' - and these days, it gets thrown around about as much as a football in Tom Brady's lounge on the 4th of July.
The term has already become somewhat of a laughable, well-entrenched meaningless business buzzword that very few seem to truly understand.
The dream of actually achieving true omnichannel success however, is not so simple.
For retailers, an omnichannel strategy doesn't simply mean that 'you have physical stores, as well as an online store.' No.
If you have physical stores and an online store then that's what you have - two different channels. That's a multichannel set-up.
Omnichannel implies that customers can easily shop from either a physical outlet and / or an e-commerce site and the integration (both perceived and programmed) between the two channels is completely seamless. The two channels - as well as all the other customer-facing touch points like social, mobile, email and instant messaging - are then fully integrated and interwoven with each other.
It's like looking at twins - tough to tell apart.
Or like the bad guy in Terminator 2 - the T-1000 - it was difficult to tell where the person ended and the machine started.
That's omnichannel - unbelievably tricky to get right, because all of those moving parts, and people, and departments, and strategies etc etc etc all need to combine and align together perfectly to achieve it.
Omnichannel vs Multichannel
To be fair - there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to deliver a multichannel strategy; in many cases this is more than good enough to deliver on the goals that a retailer may have. It's cheaper, easier and will suck up far less capital and human resources to deliver successfully. Considering the target market - a multichannel approach is probably best for mainstream brands.
If however you are pursuing an omnichannel strategy, just be really sure that you fully understand what you are actually talking about and what long-term benefit it's going to offer the business before you invest the considerable amount of money required to get it right.
Opting for the omnichannel option means that you are choosing to play in the Super League of business strategy - be careful what you wish for and use the term sparingly.
Clarify your strategic intent
Over the years, Jonathan Cherry has consulted to numerous organisations helping them clearly define their strategic intent and strategy map for accelerated business growth and resilience in uncertain times.
If you need a facilitator to take you through this process for your organisation, please get in touch here to chat with Jon.