After Omni-Channel: Preparing for Digital Context – A FutureM Review


Read Time

6 min


Share Article

This post originally appeared on MITX’s blog

One of the most interesting seminars I was able to attend at FutureM was titled ‘After Omni-Channel: Preparing for Digital Context’? presented by Stone Mantel’s Martie Woods as well as Stacey Symonds, Senior Director of Consumer Insights at Orbitz. The content of the seminar focused on what many agencies claim to do already: owning today’s consumer purchase journey and what that means for the future.

Woods opened with a slide full of buzz words and asked who in the room has used these in their presentations lately. With the word ‘omni-channel’? on the screen, majority of the room painfully raised their hands realizing omni-channel has quickly (and apparently) become a thing of yesterday.

Woods and Symonds explained that today’s consumer is evolving past the non-linear purchase journey that marketers have been trying to master. Now, they expect even more from brands. And it can be broken down into five insights:

Consumers are expecting to reduce the gap between thinking and doing.

With new technology and brands that have already accomplished immediacy, consumers look for the quickest, easiest solution and nothing less. Think about how you plan and then do these days. You want to travel? You go on hotwire and book a hotel. You didn’t get to see your daughter before you left for your work trip? You Facetime her. You want a ride? Uber. So what does this mean for marketers? Before, brands strived to be relevant. Now, brands are proving how they can fulfill a need and reduce the gap between thinking and acting.

Consumers surround themselves first, and then make all sorts of micro purchases.

Symonds explained how she learned this with Orbitz customers. A family was traveling to a national landmark and needed to know directions to get there, as well as places to eat and things to do. But they didn’t have any cell signal so they could not access this information and were suddenly frustrated with their trip. So marketers are realizing that it’s no longer about getting into the consumer’s consideration set. It’s about getting into their queue. It’s about anticipating the jobs they are going to need done. Orbitz knows now they need to deliver a product that will fulfill a traveler’s needs before they realize the need.


amp blog 4

Consumers are seeking to maximize their attention.

These days, consumers feel detached from the world by merely driving their car ‘ they walked out of their house where they were texting on their phone, catching up on Netflix on their TV, and on social media on their tablet. Suddenly, driving in the car becomes an inconvenience because the consumer is unplugged. We are at this point that we are used to multitasking and just constantly doing. Royal Caribbean, for example, found that consumers were booking a cruise, but then canceling when they found a cheaper cruise. The brand found that consumers are not on the hunt for a cheaper option, they just continue to browse and research cruises because they are used to the behavior so inherently continue the habit. Before, brands wanted to combat multitasking to get the consumer’s attention. Now, we must embrace the ‘while.’? Think about what they are doing while they are interacting with your brand/app/etc.  When you design an app for example, it’s not building  something that will get their full attention, it’s about knowing what else they will be doing when they use the app in that moment.

The customer journey is no longer about a path. It’s just a constant state of moving.

So instead of trying to map out a complex journey, Woods explained that we can follow and reach the consumer by understanding their various behaviors. And we can do this by looking at ‘modes.’? A mode is a manner or disposition of accomplishing a task. I.e. improving, competing, planning, playing. It is a general pattern for focusing and getting things done. They can be highly useful in predicting activity, design thinking, and driving cross technology innovation. Modes represent the first truly digital approach to profiling consumer behavior in a way that supports consumers, aligns with what they value and works across technologies. Before it was about knowing the customer journey. Now, we need to understand what the consumer is trying to accomplish under each specific mode.

Consumer behavior demands more than omni offers.

When thinking omnichannel, brands have the mentality ‘customers can find me when they need me in whichever channel they choose.’?  Essentially, marketers think they have solved the problem by just making the brand available on every available channel. However, consumers expect the appropriate channel based on their specific mode. So, the new mentality a brand should have is ‘I support thinking and acting for my customer at the right time in the right way.’? Marketers must shift from thinking about omni-channel to digital context. Woods explained three pillars of digital context:

  • Environments: Sensor driven physical environments that can respond to tools and modes
  • Tools: Devices and apps, primarily mobile, that can access personal data and respond to environments
  • Modes: Behavioral states that drive receptivity and determine what is valued

A local example of this is the New England Patriots. The company saw low attendance at games, so they created Patriot Place ‘ a new environment that used the right tools and responded to the appropriate modes to answer the fans’ need for a better experience. On a national scale, United Airlines integrated Uber into their app, knowing the consumers would be looking for car services after their flight.

Amp blog 5

Overall, while a lot of the content could be considered subjective, the root of the seminar was how agencies are all trying to solve the same problem, and we’re all going about it in the same way’?¬¶ but maybe that’s our roadblock. Instead, if we take our focus away from how to define the consumer journey and zoom in on the consumer’s specific behaviors around their purchases, we can define a new strategy to reach and influence a consumer, and maybe we won’t all be trying to stake the same claim.

Let's start something great