What is Omnichannel Marketing?

Have you been wondering what the buzz is all about? Omnichannel seems to be buzzword of the year, but what is it, exactly?

Forbes named it one of the top trends to watch in 2016, and everywhere we look, marketers and CMOs are trying to figure out how to master customer-centric communication and omnichannel. 

We think of it as a method for achieving customer-centric communication and a unified brand experience. Creating a customer-centric communication experience isn’t a new idea, but thinking of customer-centric communication in an omnichannel perspective is still fairly new. So, let’s dive into it….

What is omnichannel marketing?

The term is still so new that it’s hard to come up with a singular definition. To be fair, a simple definition wouldn’t do the complex topic justice: omnichannel isn’t easy. It isn’t simple, but once you start to master it, the rewards can be enormous.

Have you ever heard of amazon, alibaba, or netflix? They are just a few of the companies that often recognized for mastering omnichannel.

The term “omni” comes from latin, meaning “all”. According to cambridge dictionary it is a prefix, meaning everywhere or everything.

“Channel “ should be a familiar term to all marketers, even though the landscape is constantly changing. From offline to online, to paid/earned/owned, from pull to push, one thing remains the same: as marketers, we need to reach customers when and where they are. We need to put the customer in the middle, rethink his needs, and communicate accordingly.

When looking at omnichannel models (i.e. here), we also see a similar trend: the customer is in the middle, while various structures work around them. We come to the understanding of omnichannel; taking it to mean the practice of creating a streamlined customer experience across channels, space, and time.

Omnichannel Marketing: a streamlined customer experience

Have you ever bought something, say, a skirt, from a webshop, only to be haunted by ads with that same skirt for weeks?

Now imagine if instead, you were faced with ads for matching shoes, along with a discount coupon. Or imagine going into the store, presenting your membership card, and being offered discounted stockings now that winter is coming.

The latter is a simplified example of omnichannel marketing for ecommerce. As consumers, we no longer differentiate between offline/online or commerce/ecommerce, but prefer our needs being met before even realizing they are needs.

At the end of the day, Omnichannel is about giving the customer a better and more coherent brand experience whenever they interact with the product or brand. And our research shows, it’s not just for retail and e-commerce anymore.

What does omnichannel marketing require?

In omnichannel marketing we must not just look at channels, but also all the structures, aspects, cultures, and environments surrounding channels. Because creating a streamlined customer experience requires technology, data, communication, permissions, and a supportive organizational structure.

At NBI, our approach to Omnichannel (and The NBI Omnichannel capability assessment tool) is based on the omnichannel hexagon from Rasmus Houlind, (author of “Make it all about me, and I’ll buy it” and Chief Strategy Officer at Agilic) which bases omnichannel success on progress in six different disciplines:

  • Customer recognition and permissions
  • Data collection
  • Data discovery
  • Communication and Service
  • Performance Analysis
  • Organization and management


These disciplines interconnect and must work efficiently together to create a synergy effect if you are to be successful with omnichannel marketing.

One of the distinguishing features of the omnichannel customer experience from the multichannel customer experience is that omnichannel includes a true integration between channels and communication on the back-end.  Collecting data, getting permissions, and analyzing and organizing processes with respect to omnichannel are all a part of the means to the end of aligning communication and service with customers.

In this model, the middle, true customer-centric communication, is called “omnichannel nirvana.” So, the only questions that remains to be asked is – how close are YOU to Omnichannel Nirvana?

Curious about your own omnichannel potential? Assess yourself here


References and Resources:

As mentioned above, our approach to Omnichannel is inspired by Ramsus Houlind and his omnichannel hexagon. Read his approach here.

Other resources for learning more:

Entrepreneur: What you need to know about Omni-channel marketing

Marketo blog: The definition of omnichannel marketing – and 7 tips

Forbes: The omnichannel experience


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