Oh omni-channel, you naughty little digi-prangster…

For those of you who are regular readers, you may recall my bride enjoys her fashion.

And while I can rarely discern where her fingers end and her various screens start, she does not just rely on websites for her fashion information. And the retailers know this fact, because she is not alone amongst their customers.

Fashion, cosmetics, jewelery and accessories retailers all use personalised mail to build their brands, generate store traffic and to sell stuff. They’d go broke if they didn’t, as mail is one of the most successful and proven channels in retail marketing.

They also use email, social sites and in some cases apps, to communicate with their customers. Dare I say it, they’re omni-channel marketers. Oh my digi-goodness, how innovative of them.

You have to love the marketing buzzword “omni-channel“. According to Marketo it refers to the fact consumers can now engage with a company in more than one channel to enjoy a seamless or universal experience. Yes it’s true dear reader. And apparently something new in retailing, this multiple-omni-thing.

And omni-channel even has the buzzword ‘engage‘ in its definition – so it must be fascinating. If you want to read even more omni-drivel, particularly about the value of the omniscient customer experience click here.

For the digi-impaired here’s what it means in layman’s terms. Before the internet was invented, consumers were limited in the ways they could engage with brands – particularly in a seamless or universal way. They only had television, radio, press, print, mail, catalogues, sales people, retail stores, trade shows, telephone, sms, promotions, posters, brochures, sponsorship, videos, CDs, events, multi-level-marketing and such channels.

How frightfully old-fashioned I hear you say?

Now they can still engage using most of those channels of course. But they can also engage via a website, social site, app and email using various computer devices. So obviously this rush of new digi-channels demands a new buzzword to describe the fact consumers can now engage with a company in more than one channel to enjoy a seamless or universal experience. If you get my digi-drift.

It’s undigi-believable this brilliant ability of the digi-buzzword to claim ownership of behaviour we’ve always exhibited in the analogue world and now also exhibit in the digi-world. That is, we use a number of different reference sources before buying stuff – both online and offline sources. Amazing insight this omni-thing.

I was chatting with my soccer mums recently – as I coach their kids. I’m sure one of them said she loved this new Omni-world. She could look at a product on a printed catalogue. Then she could drive to the store and see the same image of the product on a poster at the store, or she could look at it online.

But if the product image on the poster or the website wasn’t a seamless match to the image on the catalogue, she could refuse to buy it on the basis her shopping experience was not universal and seamless. Such consumer control of brands is scary.

Apparently it happens all the time – consumers always use marketing speak when conversing with each other don’t they? Just ask a digi-spruiker.

In case you’re interested, Omni comes from the word Omnis, which can mean ‘all’ or ‘universal’, depending upon your definition reference. Yet there is no agreement on the spelling of the buzzword – is it Omnichannel, Omni channel or Omni-channel?

Let’s look at a a couple of Omni-channel graphics shall we:

omnichannel 1


As you can see these images describe a recently discovered parallel universe. In this new Wonderland humans don’t shop in physical stores (despite the sexist image of women shopping at a retail store). These people don’t speak with other humans, watch TV, listen to radio, see outdoor or in-store posters when they walk or drive, read catalogues received in the mail or engage in any other analogue channel. They just spend their life staring at screens and tapping keys.

What Omni-bollocks!

Yes, on some occasions people will notice or search for something online and then buy it online, without involvement in any other channel. This is a growth area of retailing. And the more consistent the content on the various screens, the easier it is on the eye and mind to process. This knowledge comes from decades of analogue retail experience by the way.

And yes, in many cases a statistically insignificant number of people will comment on a social site about their purchase, or even on the retailer’s site, or even less on a ratings site.

But in the real world, most people use any combination of analogue and digital channels when deciding what to purchase. Mind you, when they are repeat purchasing groceries for instance, they rarely use any channel to guide their decision, apart from the brands they see on the shelf. “What’s on sale today?

If they buy groceries online, they often have a set shopping list and just hit the re-order button. Very little omni-experience there.

But back to the fashion retailers – they are Masters of the Omni-Channel.

In the last week both Mecca Cosmetica and anna thomas have mailed different types of catalogues with news and offers for their customers. For those who don’t know, Mecca has 40 stores across Australia and NZ, while anna thomas has six boutiques in Australia.

Here’s some shots from their mailings. Mecca is a cross between a catalogue and a broadsheet newspaper. It also included The Mecca Report Hotlist as an insert…

Fashion shots 006

Fashion shots 008

Fashion shots 007

The anna thomas mailing was a poster folded to C5 size:

Fashion shots 003

Fashion shots 004

Even Country Road doesn’t miss starting a new season without mailing their customers a broadsheet catalogue:

Fashion shots 001

Fashion shots 002

In fact, they probably do as Peter Sheppard did decades ago and use the sales results from their mailing to determine the floor stock for their stores.

And if you look at these retailer’s websites you’ll discover they include the same content on their sites as they do in their mailings, so they create a seamless experience for their customers – they’re omni-channel purists if you ask me. Bloody retailing legends really.

But I have to go now. I have some omni-engagement to do. I have a catalogue to read and a website to view – to help me drop hints for a Father’s Day gift.

Have an omni-goodweegend – and if you’re in Oz, Happy Father’s Day!



  1. Hi Malcolm – seems omni-channel blogs are flavour of the month! I hadn’t seen this till today, after I just published a post poking fun at the terms omni, multi and cross-channel.

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