Omnichannel for 2015—It’s All in Your Mind

As one year ends and another begins, it’s customary to look both ways: behind us at the technologies and best practices of the past year, and ahead at what’s next. Omnichannel leaps to mind. If we look back, we see how retailers have embraced the omnichannel experience, and the clear value it’s brought to them and their customers. If we look ahead, we see that experience becoming part and parcel of the B2B world as well, even in the most complex and expensive products.

The changes we see are not in terms of new products or new infrastructures or new IT architectures. Omnichannel isn’t about technology—it’s about customer experience. We won’t see a stream of new (and expensive) omnichannel solutions; we’ll see a stream of new strategies, deployed by innovative people, tying everyone together that participates in a sale.
Here are just three of the changes we’re sure to see.

Sales Cycle Acceleration

Prospective customers are going to see a much shorter and much more efficient cycle, even for complex, multimillion dollar deals. Reps will be able to answer hard customer questions and make important decisions on the spot. Days of deal-busting dead cycle time while they check on availability, configuration, third-party partners and more will disappear. Every moving part in the sale—suppliers, manufactures, warehouses, shippers, third party partners—will operate within the omnichannel. That includes Sales leadership: reviewing and approving big deals, special discounts and more can happen on the spot.

Call Center Expertise

Omnichannel agents will be fully armed with all the information they need to resolve tough issues on the first call. They’ll have a single view of every interaction that’s taken place with customers or on customers’ behalf. That will transform them from reactive problem solvers to proactive experts because they will be able to change an order, reconfigure products, upsell on the spot, make promises, and more.

IT Simplicity

Here is the most important trend: how little you will have to change things to create the omnichannel experience. Omnichannel is not a rip-and-replace proposition. You won’t have to pull out your phone system, rearchitect your network, upgrade your software and servers. As omnichannels emerge, it will become clear that there is very little new technology involved. The real initiative will be to integrate existing (and sometimes very old) technologies to deliver a seamless, customer experience.

The Bottom Line

There will be other changes. Supply chains will be more agile, customer self service will explode, and analytics will be more accurate. But the companies that win in the omnichannel will do it not with major investment, but with major innovation.

In other words, we’re not going to see a lot of Big Omnichannel Products.

We’re going to see a lot of Big Omnichannel Thinking.