Omni what?

23 April, 2015 by Paul Heathcote | DesignStrategyRetailMobile WebUser ExperienceWeb

As ever in our Industry, new terminology continually arises and enters common usage with no clear authoritative definition. Often it’s just buzzwords associated with hype, but every now and then there’s something worth paying attention to.

One term which seems to be appearing more and more in conversations I'm having is "omnichannel."Until recently, I hadn't heard a decent explanation of what it was or why it warranted talking about.

And then I heard something that made me pay attention. Most companies today are still concerned with mastering multichannel, meaning the ability to deliver the same set of content, products and services across several different channels - physical, telephone, web, mobile. Being able to do this effectively is a not an inconsiderable challenge and requires companies to overcome a number of technical and operational obstacles.

Omnichannel is the next stage in this evolution. Yes, it’s about delivering products and services across multiple channels - but in a seamless and orchestrated way that is intuitive and optimised for the mode of communication in question.
Where multichannel is about technology and operations, omnichannel is about excellence in user experience in its widest sense. It requires an understanding of when and how someone is using a particular channel and how each channel can (and will) be used with the others available.
A successful omnichannel channel strategy requires the user experience to be consciously designed across each channel, rather than allowing it to happen accidentally as new channels are bolted on.

Good examples I’ve seen include mobile in store and the second screen experience. If you think about the very best digital interactions you’ve had recently my guess is they will have been with omnichannel organisations, not multichannel ones.