The central role of digital channels in the Omni-channel world

The original version of the chart below was created by Kevin Cavanaugh back in Unica days (Kevin’s now CTO at Allant Group). Still to date it’s one of the most popular pieces of thought leadership content I carry around with me on my USB drive everywhere I go. Folks in the audience often take pictures of this during presentations.

What it shows is that customers engage with our companies through so many channels and that some of these channels are more likely to be used during certain times in the customer lifecycle. For example, after learning about a brand via mass media commercials a prospect might grab their tablet to learn more about the product and then ultimately call the call center to ask further questions and sign up or purchase.

Channels of interaction over course of the Lifecycle

Channels of interaction over course of customer life cycle

Yet, over the years there has been a dramatic change. Kevin originally created this chart to visualize how critical it is to integrate online and offline channels for successful customer strategies. That is also how the chart was introduced in my book in 2008.

But today when you look at the chart you see an expanded number of digital channels at the heart of it. Digital is slowly taking over the chart. And the #1 take away from the chart today isn’t the online-offline integration anymore.

Rather, it’s that digital channels in themselves are an Omni-channel world ranging from website to tablet, phone, email, ad networks, social media networks, etc. Many of the most successful digital marketers today tie these digital channels together for continuous customer engagement. When a customer drops off from one channel, they continue the dialog with the customer on the next channel that he or she comes back on. That is assuming that the customer has at some point authenticated on each channel or device so he or she can be identified again.

Optimizing each of the channels and devices is bread & butter. But optimizing how they play together — that’s the Nutella on top.

One fun anecdote is that back when Kevin first created this chart we had question marks for the role of mobile in the customer lifecycle because the smartest phone around was still the Blackberry back then. It wasn’t clear at all back then how mobile would be used in the customer life cycle. Boy have we come a long way since then. Mobile is everywhere now.

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