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Why Omni-channel Alone Is Not A Strategy

Gordon Wyner

Though the temptation may be strong, scaling your organization onto every available channel is neither strategic nor always effective.

There are many channels for businesses to promote themselves, acquire customers and provide service. Retail stores. Websites. Mobile apps. Social media. Major bricks-and-mortar retailers, such as Walmart, Best Buy and Target, have taken significant steps to increase business in online channels, including company acquisitions, while native online marketers such as Amazon and Warby Parker have expanded into physical retail channels.

What’s motivating these and other businesses to expand their channel options, sometimes in ways that diverge dramatically from their historical strengths? The allure of omni-channel marketing is to create opportunities to connect with customers in new ways and improve business performance. Omni-channel marketing is anticipated to make customer experience seamless across different types of interactions, providing consistent, high-quality treatment. At the same time, detailed information on customer interactions enables a company to tailor treatments differently to distinct segments and continuously learn how to improve. 

But is omni-channel an imperative? Amid the enthusiasm for this approach, it’s worth asking how it furthers the overall business strategy. Before deciding how to go to market through channels, marketers should answer strategic business questions: What customer segments are to be selected? What branded value proposition is to be offered? How will the company profitably sustain a delivery capability?

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Gordon Wyner is research director at the Marketing Science Institute.