By Rachel Hansen, Account Supervisor & Dan O’Connell, CEO

The term “omnichannel” has been getting a lot of attention lately. In this blog post we will do a Q&A on omnichannel – as marketers, what should we know?

What is omnichannel?

Simply stated, Omnichannel Integrated Marketing means that you have a cross-channel strategy in which brand touchpoints hold hands. Efforts are not simply duplicated across all available channels. Each channel builds on one another with the end goal of improving trade partner velocity and consumer experience.

What considerations should I keep in mind when building an omnichannel strategy?

It is best looked at from multiple angles. Ask yourself:

  1. Does it work for our brand? Does my brand experience align with the channel?
  2. Can we meet the needs of our trade partner customers? Does my formulation fit? What about pack sizes? Bundling? And if we can’t meet that need now, what do we need to adjust?
  3. What will be the end consumer experience? What does the consumer expect? Can we fulfill or exceed those expectations?

What should I watch out for?

While “omni” might mean “everywhere,” a misread that a brand can make when looking at building an omnichannel strategy is the assumption that the brand needs to have a presence in all available channels. Many big brands are structuring around omnichannel; however, this approach can lead to “silos” unintentionally. One size does not fit all. Understanding where not to play is just as important as determining where to play.

Here is an example. A client of ours makes premium coffee and tea. They are a regional retail brand with a national foodservice presence. Brand message, quality and experience are consistent across channels whether it is at retail groceries, convenience stores or restaurants. They align their programs with each channel served: the equipment offered, product mix, packaging, sizes, etc., all differ depending on the channel. While perhaps one of the biggest opportunities can be in chasing large national restaurant chains, as they could certainly meet the needs of this trade partner, it isn’t right for their brand. The brand is not willing to sacrifice the quality of their product to meet the demands of the big guy. Better targets are the emerging chains and c-stores that are looking to become food and beverage destinations and thus have a better understanding of the quality/price balance that our client delivers.

Now let’s look at the consumer experience. If the consumer is expecting a low price point at his or her favorite big burger chain, we’d need to make some major changes to our formula to meet those price expectations. The question is, should we? This chain is not likely a coffee destination. Its consumer is driven by value or the chain’s other signature food offers, not by a premium coffee experience. Our client’s brand of premium coffee does not meet this trade partner’s needs or its consumers’ expectation for value.

What can be gained?

While not all channels are created equal, and not all trade partner needs will fit your core competencies, brand/channel congruency may lead you to look at a different point of entry in the marketplace. Remember that omnichannel means cross-channel, not every channel. Being selective about channels does not mean they all need to be a perfect fit. Especially in food and beverage marketing, where, as an example, lower margins could be accepted from a particular channel if it offered a live sampling opportunity. Other synergistic opportunities might present themselves from new channels; looking at each channel on its own merits relative to your brand and business goals is key.

While certainly not a new concept, omnichannel is gaining renewed attention. As you explore omnichannel opportunities, there is a necessity to be mindful of the brand, while understanding our trade partners’ needs and meeting our consumers’ expectations.