Ready for the Omni-channel onslaught ?

Savvy consumers are reshaping when, how and why they engage with a brand. Smart devices and social media have made the digital landscape forever interactive and the formerly passive consumer has become an active participant, circulating information, influencing buying decisions and even building or demolishing brands. With the emergence of the third platform built on mobility, cloud, social interactions and big data, consumers are connecting with businesses from a wide variety of channels and devices. And while we have been devising channel specific strategies to keep up, the modern consumer is making his journey across multiple channels and touchpoints.

Consumers expect a consistent experience in-store, in-app and on the web …
It’s not only about delivering relevant content, commerce and service at every step of a customer’s omnichannel journey, but also being consistent across these channels. If the information delivered at a kiosk contradicts what a consumer sees on his mobile app, our chances of retaining his interest diminish. Moreover, the information and transactional capabilities delivered across these journeys need to convince consumers to use these touch points in their next omnichannel journey. Additionally, these touchpoints need to provide insights to guide businesses towards building better products and services. Gartner cites multichannel consistency as the top priority for digital strategies.

While we cope with evolving Biz-tech environments.
With the unprecedented proliferation of software and services, our customers, employees and partners are constantly looking to extend capabilities, interconnect systems and adopt the next big technology. Moreover, the modern digital enterprise is built on adaptive exchanges from multiple providers, with the expectation that those providers change frequently. So in this broader context of changing stakeholders and technologies, a key question is how can we build a secure and agile digital ecosystem of interoperable technologies?

Delivering consistently takes agility and stability
Our promise of a truly relevant experience for each new visitor, needs to be consistently backed up by the content on our multiple web properties and the capabilities of our evolving technology landscape. But let’s be real about this- we are often concerned that the ROI of technologies may not be worth its TCO. We need strategic long term relationships with enterprise vendors, but also short term deals with smaller vendors — switching costs notwithstanding. We need to improve productivity and extend capabilities while ensuring that our infrastructure is reliable and doesn’t accumulate technical debt. All this calls for greater collaboration and continuous synergies between business, development and operations. So we now need a way for content creators, developers and external contributors or systems to collaborate or work independently to deliver consistent multichannel experiences. How can we facilitate this?

Differentiated capabilities on agile platforms
Scott Brinker, creator of the Marketing Technology super-graphic , points out how backbone platforms such WCM, CRM and e-commerce can act as stable coordinating platforms whose core capabilities in content, data and back-end processes are strategically enhanced with point solutions for differentiated marketing capabilities. For success however, the architectures of such platforms need to be based on agility, interoperability and modularity.

Enterprise Agility: For consumers to get multichannel consistency our content marketers need to publish efficiently and developers need to innovate freely. The foundations for this are a flexible content model and an extensible component model. This can allow us to reuse content and web components across all our channels, thus saving our content and development teams a ton of potentially inconsistent efforts in creating channel specific content, designs or functionality.

Open Integration: To integrate capabilities and interconnect systems, the content, data and services residing in multiple systems and formats within our IT landscape, need to be made accessible and digestible via open APIs. This in turn allows us to aggregate contextual or transactional Metadata and use this to enrich content for personalized delivery across our webchannels. Supporting a standard RESTful API, open standards like CMIS and JCR or providing service APIs etc will not only help us integrate easily with our existing IT ecosystem but also prepare us for future technologies.

Modular Flexibility: Our platforms should be independently scalable, upgradable, clusterable and extensible without upsetting the other solutions connected to it. But why stop at just platform level independence? For instance, if we only need to address an expanding visitor base, we shouldn’t have to scale the entire platform but only the content delivery tier. A modular architecture would allow us to scale, extend, cluster or integrate individual layers of our platform so that we can accommodate visitors, contributors or external systems independently.

Especially if a platform managing important customer touchpoints for us, it should not only facilitate the delivery of outstanding digital experiences but also enable the people working behind it to be agile, efficient and innovative at their jobs whether its content creation, web design or feature development.

Marketer, Techie, Storyteller