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Catch the Second Wave

April 10, 2019


Sam Richardson

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When digital commerce began its ascent, it looked like we were living in a binary world: Online vs. offline, with the smart money mostly on the former.  In the first wave of Omnichannel (more like a “dual” channel), Amazon was going to take over the brick and mortar universe as all commerce went digital.

It turns out that this view of the world was a little simplistic. Brick and mortar retailers were seriously challenged, and some disappeared if they were unwilling or unable to adapt. but they didn’t all disappear.  Shopper behavior evolved away from this “either/or online/offline” framework to something more dynamic and intertwined.  For example, Amazon started opening physical locations and bought a grocery chain with hundreds of stores. Some brands became retailers, marketing direct to consumers and seeking to own the sales channels to shoppers (and the first party data that provides).

Shoppers researched items online and went to the store to buy them, and vice versa. They went from websites to Instagram to check out influencers and back to a third-party website for a price check. Having looked at a dress, they responded to an email offer of a swatch sample to get a feel for the fabric, and then went to the store to try it on.

All this activity is giving rise to what we call the Second Wave of Omnichannel. Now the framework is no longer “either/or;” “it’s either/and.”  This scenario recognizes that the path to purchase has become infinitely more complex, as has the challenge of measuring and understanding shopper behavior across all the touchpoints that  influence buying decisions and brand perception.  Many retailers and CPG companies have yet to understand the full implications of this new phase and what it means for marketing strategy and measurement.  One reason: Measurement in particular often remains siloed in organizations, with one group tracking digital and another responsible for more traditional marketing mix metrics, for example.

This approach doesn’t fully appreciate, or capture, how the world has changed.  A better way is to adopt a whole new perspective – the shopper’s – and to track the omnichannel path to purchase (P2P) from his or her point of view. This allows you to collect data on all the touchpoints along the way – including digital, social, in store, out of home and more – and quantify their impact on purchasing decisions.  It also puts all behaviors and need states in context. For example, you’d learn that when someone who goes to a website, looks at a product, and doesn’t buy it there, that doesn’t necessarily represent an abandoned sale.  The shopper may have completed their online research preceding a purchase in a physical store. An omnichannel P2P measurement approach has to be able to close the loop on purchases, no matter where the purchase happens.

As the Second Wave of Omnichannel keeps rolling, many organizations are looking for a way to accurately understand the entirety of shoppers’ behaviors while distilling the data into actionable insights that drive strategy, tactics, and profitable growth. Embracing the “either/and” framework opens the door to a better understanding of what matters most shoppers and to your bottom line.