June 14th, 2011
Do you ever feel like your head might just explode if you have to shove one more new business term in there? Or perhaps you’re simply in the mood for a friendly game of buzzword bingo. I have some extra cards right here…
Who could blame you? I mean, I think I actually met with the guys in this VIDEO just last week:
There isn’t room to list all the new words, terms and acronyms we’ve learned in the last few years: moblog, m-commerce, phishing, NFC, PPC, CPA, CPO, CPS, DSP, skyscraper, pure play, Splinternet, semantic Web, SMS, TCP/IP, VOIP, XML, RSS, API, CSS, SMM, SMO, black hat (and white hat – I mean, duh) SEO, cybersquatting, adware, P2P, spider, favicon, mousetrapping, greenwashing, augmented reality, branded entertainment, geotargeting, behavioral targeting, network effect, SERP, cloud, triple play, (Web) abandonment, (Web) arbitrage, bot, deep linking, delist, linkbait, spyware, widget, maybe a million others… and certainly dinner isn’t dinner without a good forking. Or something like that.
But there’s a new new term whose fear factor I want to eliminate right away: agile commerce. As defined by Forrester in its March 2011 paper, Welcome to the Era of Agile Commerce, agile commerce is “an approach to commerce that enables businesses to optimize their people, processes and technology to serve customers across all touchpoints.”
There are 15 pages of text and charts delineating the difference between multichannel and agile commerce, and the analyst also penned a Forbes article titled “Why Multichannel Retail is Obsolete.” “Agile commerce is a metamorphosis,” he says. “It is time for organizations to leave their channel-oriented ways behind.”
The problem is that all this relies on what I consider to be a seriously antiquated view of multi-channel operations.
The definition of multichannel commerce upon which the new agile commerce movement depends is a way of doing business that leaves customer touchpoints and transactions in silos: potentially envisioned, designed, managed and measured independently from one another. It assumes that prospects/customers probably use one channel but not another (e.g. Jack’s a “store person,” Jill’s a “Web person,”), that user expectations in each of these channels do not overlap, that content, design, functionality, payment options, etc. etc. all differ from one channel to another and that it doesn’t matter because consumers don’t really see all the channels anyway.
What contemporary marketer believes this anymore?
Is there a digital-savvy executive alive who doesn’t know all the stats about connectivity exploding, and audience fragmentation, and the accelerating evolution of technologies, and the emergence of smartphones and tablets and ebooks (oh my)? Is it news that TV watchers also like being online, or that newspaper readership is sliding around? And yet these are the metrics and conversation points that the paper uses to announce that it’s a new world and that ecommerce players better get with it.
For any marketer trained to start with the customer, the revelation that we must strive to deliver a 100% (a girl can dream) seamless experience from one channel to the next and that our business eco-system must be woven together and able to learn so that a user’s behavior is reflected and rewarded as she wanders from one touchpoint to another… well that’s no revelation at all.
Good marketers recognized and began turning their organizations toward this vision many moons ago. The consumer is where everything begins and ends. In the future, channels will be like lights in a galaxy that deliver a seamless, 24 hour brand experience. Rather than you having to travel to the brand (e.g., you drive to the store), all the access points will do the virtual traveling instead. With you in the center, the brand will constantly update its customized knowledge of and relationship with you, in all directions and in nearly all applications. A little like “Minority Report” but in a good way – and without having to remove your eyeballs. [And yes, I wrote this paragraph while entirely sober.]
Now don’t get me wrong here; I doubt there is an organization on the planet that feels fantastic about where it is on this trip we’re all taking together. Forget even the fantasy of walking into a physical location and having a person (or digital display) interact with you in a way that reflects a 360° level of knowledge of my relationship: I’d be excited just to talk to a call center rep who can see me transacting on his company’s own website in real time and help me out in a normal, knowledgeable manner.
We have a long long (long) way to go. But this post is my way of saying that no one should be discouraged, or privately assume that keeping up is impossible. The next time you see or hear a new Internet/marketing/digital business buzzword, it may be just that: a new arrangement of letters describing a principle you already understand (perhaps better than those making up some of these new terms in the first place) and live by.
Either way – as long as we keep our heads – it makes for a good game. And, hey! I’ve got Bingo!!!
A version of this post was originally published on the Marketing Executive Network Group‘s blog, MENGBlend.
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