One of the biggest advantages that omni-channel has over multi-channel is its ability to provide an integrated experience across all touchpoints in a user journey. While the multi-channel approach maximizes the strength of each channel, it does not treat those interactions as part of a larger, holistic experience in the same way that omni-channel does.
Omni-Channel vs. Multi-Channel
To clarify how we differentiate between omni- and multi-channel, here are the basic definitions:
Multi-channel is an approach to delivering content to all the channels your target audiences are on. The content distributed through this approach is intended to address a large audience, not a specific individual.
Omni-channel focuses on a seamless, adaptive experience personalized for the individual consumer. Content is tailored to address a user’s specific preferences, behaviors (e.g. previous interactions with the brand), environment, and mindset.
Organizations that employ multi-channel strategies often have separate departments managing the channels, each with its own goals, metrics, and loosely-aligned strategy. Multi-channel strategies focus on the means of communication and crafting messaging based upon the strengths of each channel. While one department is focusing its attention on a print advertising campaign, entirely separate groups are planning the strategy for the digital advertising, social media, and email campaigns. Contextual reuse of information across channels is not a central mission.
On the other hand, omni-channel separates the message from the medium and repurposes information across channels. And adaptive content is the cornerstone upon which successful omni-channel strategy is built. It is adaptive content that enables the presentation of information to users in the most useful and meaningful way, regardless of the channel.
Adaptive Content Models
An omni-channel strategy fueled by adaptive content begins with a strong content model. The content model documents the types of content used and the elements or attributes of each type. It further defines the relationship of the elements to each other. This is a critical tool in repurposing content across channels and displaying it contextually.
An Example of a Content Model
For instance, a large chain of grocery stores could structure content in a CMS to pull content attributes from the repository in a manner that supports versatile publication. The content model might look something like this:
Benefits to Content Owners: Improved Efficiency and Flexibility
Content models break down each content type to its most basic elements to show the interconnectedness of information across types. This means that these content attributes can be created once and pulled into a variety of media for different purposes. The content-creation and maintenance process therefore becomes more efficient and improves the consistency of information across channels. In an ironic twist, the structured nature of the content model ultimately enables the flexibility needed for a true omni-channel experience.
Content types can be extracted, tailored to the appropriate medium, and delivered according to programmatic business rules.
Promoting an in-store cooking demo, for example, can be simplified by such a content model. Creating the event in the CMS is a breeze, as the location, presenter and recipe can be pulled from pre-published Store ID#s, Employee ID#s and Recipe ID#s. While a text message or tweet about the event might just list the name of the presenter, the store’s website (using a computer’s IP address to display local events) might also feature the speaker’s bio on the event page. Other media might tap into additional system resources, such as the User Profile to personalize an email invitation, which could list the shopper’s name in the greeting and reference similar presentations that the individual has attended in the past. CMS data can also be leveraged to produce in-store signage and print mailers to advertise the event. The possibilities are only limited by the imagination — and the strength of the content model.
A Content Model Used Adaptively
Information delivered contextually according to device and location is only the tip of the iceberg. Adaptive content is crucial to omni-channel’s ability to provide a user-centric experience. Additional factors can further personalize the user journey for loyal customers, and even customize the encounter for anonymous visitors.
Imagine the ways the grocery-shopping experience could be enhanced by a strong and adaptive content model. Little is known about a new visitor to a website or an app, aside from perhaps location, garnered via IP address or GPS. However, that is enough to begin making the user journey relevant to the potential new shopper. By presenting information about the nearest store’s services, hours, staff, events and specials, the retailer has already made life easier for their potential customers.
Once initial contact is made, the user’s actions suggest interest in certain products and services that trigger the display of relevant information. The example below demonstrates how the user’s click-behavior starts to inform the system about his/her intentions. The website or app can then customize information based upon business rules coded into the site and carefully-tagged content that adapts to current circumstances. As the user explores the site, the system learns more and reacts accordingly. Even though the user has not yet registered, a profile is being built with each successive visit so that engaging content will be delivered according to the perceived needs.
Even more powerful experiences can be created when the user registers and provides information about preferences. This establishes a relationship respectful of the boundaries set by the intended customer. In this way, the omni-channel experience truly serves the needs of its audience without treading into territory that may seem invasive.
The example below demonstrates how to leverage user profile attributes to pull content in a personalized and contextual manner.
Obviously much effort is required to develop such rich user experiences. So why invest in omni-channel? Numerous studies have demonstrated that users not only expect a more personalized experience, but that they spend more when the shopping experience has been customized to their preferences.
Phase2 can help you use adaptive content to fuel omni-channel and increase conversions. We can facilitate collaboration among technical and business teams to craft content, define business rules, and implement delivery systems to achieve omni-channel goals. Get started by downloading our new white paper, “Omni-Channel Digital Experiences: Your Organization’s Catalyst for Digital Transformation.”