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Omnichannel is so last century, please delete it

I’m at a conference last week and someone says, “I hate the phrase ‘omnichannel’”, and then talked about cloud, big data and more management gobbledygook after dissing omnichannel.

Now don’t get me wrong, we all hate buzzwords but I really hate the use of the phrase omnichannel (I call this a phrase, as it is two words imho).

I hate it because it’s just some crappy made-up phrase that some technology marketing nerd dreamt up to talk about the challenge of all these digital touch-points.

One step forward form multichannel (1990s), omnichannel purely adds in the mobile as a new touchpoint.

For me, it just falls into my bin of 20th century sayings that include video, tape, disk and more.

We don’t have vinyl or floppies anymore, unless you’re nostalgic or have body parts over the age of 60, and anything with the word channel in it firmly belongs to that era.

We started talking channels because we originally had one customer touch point: the branch.

The branch was a physical space.

Then we added the ATM.

The ATM is not a channel, although most banks refer to them as such because you can display a balance and a personalised ad for a mortgage or whatever.

Then call centre came about.  We didn’t really talk about that as a channel either, but just as an alternative to branch access.

It was only when the internet came around that we started talking about multichannel, because we were layering this new access to our old paper space.

Branches were designed for physical transactions with paper.

Suddenly we were moving away from this tried and tested operation to remote to remote transaction with data.

Ooooh, this is hard.

We had to think about consistency.

We had to wonder about how the customer would feel if they did something online and then found the call centre or branch had no idea what they were talking about.

So we started to provide more integration of channels, as we now referred to them.

Then the mobile and finally mobile internet hit, along with social networks and more.

We are now bombarded with channels and, being stuck in our 20th century speak, we coined the term omnichannel, purely to move away from multi– which implied a few to omni- which implies everywhere, non-stop, all the time in real-time.

Or does it?

I don’t think so.

I think it’s just a neat way of saying oh look, we’ve got another technology to layer over our old branch network.  We can’t refer to this as multichannel though as it’s more difficult than just adding the internet.  I know, we’ll call it omnichannel.


It’s not a channel.

There’s no such thing as a channel (as I’ve said before).

There’s just a digitally enabled world that augments our physical being.

We digitising everything and, as we do, we need to think about how we connect humans to the net.

That’s the point.

As Matt Webb, CEO of BERG Cloud, said: “The web getting inside physical things is the 21st-century equivalent of electrification”, and I say: “connecting humans to the web is the 21st century business war”.

So for all you guys talking about channels, you are dead meat.

You are stuck in the last century.

Start talking about how to digitize everything, and stop talking about adding another channel to your old branch network purr-leeeeze.


About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, the Finanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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  • Gill Greenwood

    I feel it’s worth a few words to stick up for the phrase omni-channel, or at least the idea behind it. After all, ‘channel’ is simply a ‘means of conveying’ and ‘omni-channel’ a ‘universal and seamless means of conveying’. I too hate buzzwords but I can sort of see why this one gets used. At least omni-channel attempts to describe the perfect integrated experience, and acknowledges that our digital and physical lives are now one. But clearly it is not helpful if it refers to just ‘another technology layer over an old branch network’.
    The retail industry has used the phrase for some time, but omni-channel in retailing means far more than layering new touch points. It represents a state where customers interact in multiple frictionless ways, online and offline, with retailers engaged every step of the way. We’re seeing some great new services as a result.

  • Chris Skinner

    Nice try Gill but …
    … the reason I’m anti the phrase to be absolutely honest, is that it implies evolving old infrastructure.
    A digital bank or retailer is one where there is a single digital infrastructure accessed by multiple streams of usage: store, telephone, online.
    An omnichannel bank or retailer is one where the is a complex mass of infrastructures, each built to evolve the core to support new technlogies.
    The latter is analogue; the former is digital.

  • Miguel

    Chris, I understand you are pushing much like Brett King the Digital Bank revolution which is a great both of you are great speakers ; however sorry to say first – you can’t erase out of the map centuries of banking , second I don’t want to become a cyborg and be digitized entirely I want to have a choice.
    There is an ongoing transition and evolution into Digital. Omnichannel is not about the banks is about us, experiences should be consistent if either I am in Dubai, London or LegoCity.