June 12, 2014

Decentralized Commerce

We're seeing change in two different directions.
  1. Omnichannel - The idea that every single thing in a business is fully integrated, from merchandise to marketing to creative, all along channels that allow Google / Facebook / Verizon / Westfield Group / Epsilon / Trade Journalists / Apple to get paid.
  2. Decentralization - The idea that you are there when the customer needs you. Pinterest would be a good example of decentralization - the customer is inspired by an image pinned by somebody the customer admires - then the customer has an opportunity to interact with a retailer - maybe the retailer makes it easy to interact, maybe the retailer is oblivious and the customer has to do a lot of work - regardless, the experience is fully decentralized (and Verizon / Google / Facebook still get paid - think about that one for a moment).
Now, you can have a decentralized experience within an omnichannel framework. If somebody wanted to watch The Belmont Stakes last weekend at a party, they can ask me to punch it up on my phone, I can download the app from NBC, and we're doing it (with Verizon getting paid - hint hint) - that's a decentralized experience within NBC's omnichannel framework.

But here is what is important, folks.
  1. Old-school channels are inherently "omnichannel".
  2. Mobile is inherently "decentralized".
As such, it is terribly hard to integrate mobile into an omnichannel (structured) framework. In a structured, omnichannel framework, you work terribly hard to create time-based campaigns that align across channels ... the catalog is sent on Monday, emails are sent on Tuesday and Thursday, the app reflects the campaign, the creative in-store aligns, and you demand that the customer walks through the Monday - Friday experience in order to buy something on Saturday in a store (or catalog or website). 

In a decentralized, mobile world, the customer has a need at a point in time (Wednesday, 3:47pm, 88 miles from home). The marketing strategy to capture and satisfy the customer need at 3:47pm, 88 miles from home, is at direct odds with the structured omnichannel framework of campaign - reinforcement - response - repeat.

Customers naturally align with an omnichannel (structured) framework, or a decentralized (mobile) framework. Some do both. Until we acknowledge that there is this fundamental difference in marketing strategy, we're going to continue to waste resources and make mistakes. Have different approaches for different customers. Segment them - it's not hard (contact me at kevinh@minethatdata for help).