January 01, 2023

Digital Omnichannelism

If this term becomes something, you'll refer back to this post.

Two articles got me thinking about my industry (here, and here).

Why does everything look sterile and ugly? Why does music not sound as lifelike as it used to sound?

Do the same concepts apply to retail? Let's look at a handful of home pages from Friday night. Tell me what you see.

It looks like three things are happening:
  1. There is an industry-wide calendar that demands that every company promote clearance and sale items as we approach January 1.
  2. There is a website commerce template that nearly everybody is using ... the same template. It's like somebody created a template in 2003 and the entire industry said "GOOD ENOUGH". I mean, is there a fundamental difference between North Face, REI, and Eddie Bauer? Did they share imagery at the same photo shoot to reduce costs? Of course that didn't happen. But you couldn't tell it from looking at their websites. All feature mountains over merchandise.
  3. Merchandise ... the very thing the customer is purchasing ... is irrelevant. Yes, irrelevant. The discount is what matters. At least Saks cares about handbags. Patagonia is selling a story as their primary target of interest (and yes, I get it, that's what they do ... but it still means that merchandise is irrelevant). Where is the product at Nordstrom? J. Crew? Macy's?

Yeah, it looks like my industry suffers from the same issues as the authors in the two articles at the start of this post reference ... this is a boring, cold, templated, lifeless digital presentation. No creativity.

I know, you're about to yell at me that it is clearance/discount season, retail brands are "supposed" to do this.

No, they are not. They are under no obligation whatsoever to all do the same thing at the same time and look the same way. No.

If you believe they are "supposed" to do this, then you adhere to the concept of Digital Omnichannelism.

What the heck is "Digital Omnichannelism"?

Let's define the concept.

"Digital Omnichannelism" represents passion for a selling process that prioritizes digital strategy, digital analytics, price manipulation, same merchandise across all channels, social/surveillance, engagement, mobile, and seamless/frictionless integration of online/offline channels at the expense of merchandising excellence and creative brilliance.

Scrape the J. Crew site ... you'll see analytics from TikTok and Google and Facebook. That's Digital Omnichannelism. Somebody cares more about tracking the customer all across the infinite nature of the online experience than selling a Smocked Puff-Sleeve Cotton Poplin Top in Stewart Tartan. And if somebody does care about selling that item, they're selling it normally for $79.99 but this week it is $69.99 with $34.50 off with discount code NEWYEAR. The goal is to track the customer journey, not to sell the item, and you get to track more journey if you offer the item at a lower price. 

Yes, I'm exaggerating for effect.

Scape the Nordstrom website, and you'll see analytics from TikTok and Google and Yahoo (really?) and Snapchat and Pinterest and Facebook.

Scrape the Eddie Bauer website, and you'll see analytics from TikTok and Pinterest and Facebook and Snapchat.

Get the picture?

It's all the same.

Everything looks the same.

Everything is executed the same - with a skew to digital engagement via mobile and social surveillance.

Everybody is executing the same promotion with comparable discounts at the exact same time.

Digital Omnichannelism.

Pick your favorite retail and/or e-commerce brand ... it doesn't matter. 65% to 70% of their presentations look identical, the analytics tools surveilling the customer are nearly identical, the promotional calendars they adhere to are nearly identical. They're all employing Digital Omnichannelism.

Think I'm wrong? Here's Jared, a jeweler. Same.

Scrape their site and you'll see Google Analytics and Facebook there, among other vendors.

In fact, you'll just keep seeing the same (digital) vendors over and over again across every brand. You exist to benefit them.

Digital Omnichannelism.

I can't tell you how many times somebody told me in 2022 how upset they were that Apple destroyed their customer acquisition program. When Apple decided to cripple Facebook's surveillance program, the emails poured in. "Apple cost us 25% of our new customers, they're awful." Well, they are awful if you adhere to Digital Omnichannelism. Your customer doesn't think Apple is awful. Those who embrace Digital Omnichannelism feel betrayed when the ecosystem they built a business around betrays them.

On the right side of the spectrum, we have Digital Omnichannelism. "Right" in this context means "correct" ... if you ask trade journalists, vendors, conference organizers, industry consultants, research brands, and professionals with "portable" skills across retail and e-commerce.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, we have merchants and creative professionals. They have a passion for what they are selling. They want the liberty to present the merchandise the way they see fit. Digital Omnichannelism has no patience for this audience. Better to measure a 27 step journey that leads to a 3% conversion rate than to have a 4% conversion rate via one visit where the customer interacts with your brand, unprompted.

If you care about this industry, poke holes in my argument. Tell me why I am wrong. Here's my email address (kevinh@minethatdata.com). Find me on Twitter @minethatdata. Tell me why I am wrong. I'll publish well articulated arguments based on actual customer data.

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