What does omnichannel actually mean? Connected experiences, not disconnected silos

A network of computers, tablets and devices, all displaying the same green wave on the screen.
Published
November 24, 2020
Category

Strategy

Here's an exercise: Take a look at your phone screen. If it looks anything like mine, it will be chock-full of apps. Folders of apps, even. There are your old-school apps like Facebook Messenger and Instagram. And then there are the newcomers — apps that you could definitely live without a year ago but have somehow become integral parts of your day.

Where we used to have a couple of apps on our phone, now we have hundreds. And we increasingly can't live without them — I know Google Maps has delivered me from the back streets of nowhere many times. Looking at your apps is a good picture of how far omnichannel has come. The internet is a wildly different place than it was just five years ago, and as a result, customers have wildly different expectations. Not only are there new devices and channels, but people have become more dependent on them. 

There are the apps, of which there are many, and then there is the Internet of Things, web, social media, VR/chatbots, and messengers. Our lives have become a little bit like that cluttered phone screen — full of digital experiences and the expectations we attach to them.  

The word used to encompass all of these touchpoints is called omnichannel. The experience that a customer has across all of the touchpoints is an omnichannel experience. When a customer, looking at your brand, bounces between Instagram, Pinterest, your webpage, back to Instagram and then to Etsy to make a purchase, that's an example of an omnichannel experience. 

A new challenge for marketers 

All of these digital touchpoints create a new challenge for developers, marketers and content creators. The biggest of which is presenting a single source of truth, regardless of the channel or device. That means a company's message, pricing, product information, tone of voice, brand design and other details are consistent no matter where the customer is viewing your brand. 

Imagine a customer who copies a discount code from a Facebook ad and goes to use it on the webpage only to find out it doesn't work. Or consider a scenario where a customer loves the jokey copy on a brand's Instagram only to find the webpage is deadly serious — it would be enough for the customer to do a double-take. 

It comes down to this: The key to a successful omnichannel experience is a consistent brand experience across every channel and device. Customers need to know what they're in for, no matter if they are on their phone or looking at a digital display. Unlike a marketer or content creator who is thinking and strategizing around the different channels, a customer only sees the brand — and if something is off, they're going to notice. Anything less than a consistent experience across channels — disjointed branding, pricing differences, or contradictory messaging — is enough to erode trust and lose potential customers. 

Is your CMS hurting or helping your omnichannel experience? 

So, what's stopping people from achieving a cohesive, engaging omnichannel experience? In our recent survey of CMS users, 76% of participants said they don't have the tools they need to deliver consistent content across channels, even though it's what 75% of consumers expect. In other words, while marketers know offering an omnichannel experience is what people expect, the tools make it hard — really hard. 

So, how did we get to this point where people are using inadequate tools to deliver a complex web of content? It started with the legacy or monolithic CMS. These CMSes were very useful in the days where brands communicated to audiences via web pages. When more and more digital channels and devices appeared on the scene, a single CMS was no longer enough. But instead of ditching the old CMS for a new purpose-built product (like a headless or decoupled CMS), people kept adding CMSes to their stack to cope. 

While it might have been a temporary solution for a time, now, with the amount of content required, it's become a bit of a nightmare. Content is spread across CMSes, stored in different locations, and often lost after use. There's a lot of copy-and-pasting. 

The result of jumping back and forth between CMSes is that your channels and devices become disconnected silos. In this case, losing organizational efficiency also means losing the ability to provide a cohesive omnichannel experience. Multiple CMSes = multiple chances to get it very wrong. 

The content hub: Made for the complexity of omnichannel 

There's no denying that offering an omnichannel experience is complex, but your CMS doesn't have to make it harder. It should be the opposite — the right content solution can streamline workflows, connect your silos and improve your content operations. And it won't just help you right now. By investing in the core capabilities which drive your omnichannel experience, you're also setting yourself up to scale in the future. Remember the app screen? In a few years, it's going to get even busier. 

So, we know it's not multiple CMSes, but what is the solution? To create a successful, adaptable and robust omnichannel experience, you need a content hub. Contentful's content hub aggregates all of your content in one place and distributes it to all of your channels and devices. It's a single access point to all of your content — no matter if it's video, an image, a GIF or a block of text. This content repository is not just stupidly convenient; it also means that you can make your content stretch much further. When you have all of your content before you, you can revise, edit and reuse content on the fly.   

Contentful's content hub also allows you to: 

  • Add in your favorite tools and services for translation, personalization and analytics. The content platform is customizable and extensible. 

  • Work independently from your development team. Contentful is practitioner-friendly which means that non-technical folk can create, edit and revise content without using engineering resources. 

  • Scale. Like I mentioned before, it's about to get even more crowded in this space! When you work with Contentful, you're ensuring that you're ready for the next channel or device to pop up. No need to add another CMS or tool. 

Read Is digital sprawl diluting your brand? to learn more about how a content hub with omnichannel delivery will help you build the next generation of digital experiences.

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