Essay 4: Dealing with An Omni-Channel World.
The 1990s were marked by a back-office revolution in efficiency, systems and re-engineering. As
we transition into the 21st century, the key revolution is the front-office interface with customers.
It is no longer a simple mix of brick-and-mortar integration, or even “bricks and clicks” integration.
Rather, with the advance of social media, mobile media, always-on communications, the Internet
of Things and multi-channel markets, the new catchphrase is “omni-channel.” What do we know
about this world? Is it truly different than multi-channel? How might solving the last mile”
problem change the game in traditional industries such as consumer packaged goods and who is
going to do this? Amazon? Do the traditional theories and approaches work in such an omni-
channel world? What new capabilities do firms need to put in place to take advantage of this world?
How do I figure out how and where my customers and prospective customers want to buy from
The fundamental problem is not the maximization of a particular channel, but the interfaces that
link between channels. Think of these as drop offs and hand-offs between channels. Where do we
see the drop off occur? Is there a standard pattern across industries?
What is the right mix of customer interfaces?
Keep in mind that many of the interfaces are no longer under the firm’s control (e.g., Yelp), so
how can we stay in front of these messages. Can we shape the debate?
How does this work across countries?
In many cases, the technology in developing countries, or the political infrastructure, are at odds
with integration in a world economy. How does the political, economic and social context shape
the ability to integrate a global company?
How do I organize to coordinate across channels?
The fundamental problem in most cases is the way the company organizes, rewards and manages
profit and loss groups. A particular activity may be in the best interest of the overall firm, but not
in the best interest of a particular business unit or group. How does the firm reward the unit that
appears to be losing out?
What are the implications for in-store sales personnel?
How enables and accountable do they need to be in terms of awareness, knowledge and access
across chancels? Put simply, do in-store personnel need to be experts on mobile, websites, call
centers and other touchpoints that the firm is using to reach out to customers?
How do I develop an omni-channel strategy for my brand?
Are there general rules of thumb, or is every firm different? What is best practice, what is worst
practice and what is next practice? What are the implications of omni-channel for selecting channel
How is omni-channel changing B-to-B markets?
Are there unique challenges in the B-to-B world that we do not see in the B-to-C world?