Unpacking Omnichannel: Debunking Misconceptions & Exploring its True Potential

  In the rapidly evolving digital advertising landscape, new buzzwords continually emerge. One such term that has gained significant attention […]
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In the rapidly evolving digital advertising landscape, new buzzwords continually emerge. One such term that has gained significant attention of late is "Omnichannel", hailed as the latest innovation that holds the potential to reshape the way brands connect with audiences. But what does Omnichannel truly mean? And how can businesses harness its power to drive success?

Last month, we brought experts from our Brand Advertising and Programmatic Trading Committees together in an exclusive virtual event to help demystify Omnichannel, debunk misconceptions, and uncover its true value. 

Speakers included:

  • Nick Welch, Head of Programmatic, IAS & Chair of IAB Europe’s Programmatic Trading Committee



  • Ekkehardt Schlottbohm, RVP, Northern Europe,  PubMatic



  • Stafaniya Radzivonik, Business Development Team Lead, EMEA Smaato/Verve Group



  • Alice Beecroft, Senior Director, Global Strategy & Partnerships, Yahoo



  • Alex McGibbon, Global Head of Omnichannel, Xaxis




In this blog post, we aim to bring that discussion together to shed light on this new transformative approach and to help educate on how to leverage its potential.  


So, what is Omnichannel?

To kick things off, our experts dived into what they felt Omnichannel was, sharing different perspectives from across the supply chain.

Collectively, it was suggested that Omnichannel refers to a comprehensive approach to advertising and marketing that utilises multiple channels to reach users and create a seamless customer experience. Unlike multi-channel advertising, which focuses on promoting a product across different channels without considering the customer journey, Omnichannel advertising puts the user and their relationship with the advertiser at the center.

The key difference between cross-channel advertising - a strategy that involves utilising multiple channels to interact with users in a seamless and integrated manner, helping to bridge the gap between online and offline channels - and Omnichannel lies in data. Omnichannel advertising goes one step further, conducting a deep data analysis of user interactions across all channels, including the products viewed and purchased, as well as the ads seen and clicked. This data is then used to tailor and modify messaging in different channels, aiming to eliminate boundaries between online and offline experiences and ensure a return on investment (ROI) for advertisers.

The general consensus was that Omnichannel is not solely about retargeting but that it involves using data to inform different messages, in multiple channels, based on the user's stage in the customer journey. It’s about bringing together two or more channels to achieve cohesive and connected messaging and allowing the ability for fluid budget optimisation between channels.

It was also highlighted that measurement will play a crucial role in enabling brands to go beyond individual channels to identify which stages and channels drive incremental value for advertisers. The goal is really to identify all the pathways a user comes from and to utilise measurement to feedback and adjust planning cycles based on the incremental lift.

From a sales and SSP perspective, it was also suggested that an Omnichannel approach requires fluidity and the ability to provide solutions throughout the customer journey, which programmatic advertising supports by identifying touch points along the way. When it comes to measurement, it was suggested that we should not focus solely on self-reporting but also consider different markets and standards that require reporting in each. This dimension of multi-market advertising needs to be addressed.


How do you solve fluidity across different environments to drive performance?

The comments here initially highlighted the importance of establishing a universal way of measuring and understanding the impact of various channels. From an activation perspective, it is crucial to have consistent Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that align with an advertiser’s business outcomes. However, the group suggested that challenges arise when integrating channels that have different characteristics and require unique KPIs, such as DOOH (Digital Out-of-Home) and CTV (Connected TV). The question was also raised about whether it is realistic to expect a universal KPI for such diverse channels.

The main response to this was that while it may seem challenging, it is possible to work towards a universal KPI by adopting a learning process. This would involve taking a test-and-learn approach and adapting over time. This experimentation could enable the industry to push boundaries and discover disruptive yet positive solutions within Omnichannel. Collaboration and transparency with clients and agencies were also emphasised as it is important to understand their specific requirements and drivers of performance, to enable the formulation of universal KPIs to be aligned with desired outcomes.

Additionally, this highlighted the significance of data in seamlessly integrating online and offline channels. Sharing data at the right points plays a crucial role in preparing campaigns and ensuring the successful coordination of different environments within an Omnichannel strategy.


But is there a risk that we will optimise in favour of maturer channels, where more agreed standards are already in place?

The group's response to this really revolved around the need to shift focus from initial user engagement towards a more holistic approach. It was suggested that instead of fixating on one single measurement or channel, there should be a consideration of post-initial user engagement metrics such as reach, offline sales, or panel-based brand uplift. The idea of establishing universal KPIs was also reiterated. This is because a UKPI ensures that channels are viewed on their own merit, and less mature channels do not lose out to the more mature channels.But beyond this it could potentially involve five KPIs based on each desired campaign's outcome, serving as a standardisation framework for each specific campaign. 


In order for advertisers to make more informed decisions, is it important to have independent data and measurement to drive an authentic Omnichannel experience?

The importance of having a combination of both proprietary data and independent measurement in order to drive an authentic Omnichannel experience was key to the discussion here.  

On the one hand, having proprietary tools and access to raw data and insights can provide a competitive edge and differentiation for providers. However, it was stressed that it is equally important to provide advertisers with a choice. They should have the option to use independent vendors and not be limited to a one-size-fits-all approach. 

In addition, the role of auditors and the importance of education were highlighted as they can play a crucial role in helping advertisers to evaluate campaign performance. 

Overall, a balance between proprietary data and independent measurement was seen as necessary to drive an authentic Omnichannel experience while ensuring transparency, choice, and reliable evaluation.


Finally, how do you see the future of Omnichannel evolving?

Several key points were raised when discussing the future of Omnichannel but excitement for this channel was the general consensus.

From an SSP perspective, it was felt that there should be a key focus and a lot of work to do on preparing the inventory and collaborating with publishers, agencies, DSPs, and advertisers to ensure relevance and the effective packaging of data within the ecosystem. 

From a DSP perspective, the emphasis was more on the benefits of seamlessly bringing channels together to achieve cost savings and better results. There was anticipation and interest in how the industry will navigate the shift to cookieless environments in the next 12 months. Additionally, there was a growing desire for collaboration and data integration, as we know operating in silos is counterproductive. The measurement side of Omnichannel was once more highlighted as an area that requires significant work and improvement.

For Omnichannel as a whole, the evolution of the universal KPI was once more considered as essential from an activation perspective. This would involve leveraging existing data and incorporating new AI tools to learn from data sets. The reduction of wastage and a focus on sustainability were also seen as super important aspects of future developments in this area.

Overall, there was an emphasis on closer interaction and collaboration between different stakeholders in the ecosystem, and finding ways to adjust measurement methods for Omnichannel campaigns, analysing the right data, and maximising ROI for advertisers were seen as key objectives for success.


If you’re a member of IAB Europe and would like to get more involved with our Omnichannel series, or are keen to discuss how you can join, please reach out to Helen Mussard [mussard@iabeurope.eu] Or Liz Haines [haines@iabeurope.eu]


You can also find the full event recording here

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