Only Connect: Smart Retailers Stay Omni-Connected - Image by Steve Buissinne from PixabayFor many years now, the term “omnichannel” has served as a useful shorthand for companies that pursue every customer channel to market that is logical to them, often across physical stores, apps, websites, marketplaces and beyond. Today, we need to go another step and consider a new phase in the buyer/seller relationship. A place where connectivity is the driver for the millions of stimuli that lead ultimately to transactions, happy customers and high lifetime value scores. As a result, brands have to anticipate, follow, and influence their audiences wherever they stand.

The pace of change in technology trend adoption is a curious phenomenon. Ideas are a dime a dozen. A few of these evolve to become memes that seep into our consciousness in the forms of media (and social media) coverage, conference keynote speeches and analyst reports. We have moved from never using the terms “digital transformation,” “user experience” or “Internet of Things.” In the next, these phrases are pervasive and ubiquitous. But technology often moves more slowly than we might think. It can take several years for most of us to really understand and apply the power of these ideas.

Think about being ‘omni-connected’

That’s why it’s critical to now think about being omni-connected, as omni-connected is this generation’s real-time. Previously, business leaders recognised the need for speed, for example, what TIBCO founder Vivek Ranadive called a “two-second advantage,” over rivals. Today’s leaders must recognise the need to connect any device, system, and application, with anyone.

The quick-quick-slow erratic progress of technology adoption has been disrupted recently by major shifts. Most notably, the pandemic and lockdown have nudged us into adopting new habits. For example, there has been a shift towards working from home on Zoom. We have become omni-connected, thanks to fast access to devices, networks and apps from wherever we happen to be. And we have become accustomed to making and consuming digital content at dizzying rates. In a couple of years, we have fast-forwarded to a point that would have taken many years longer. Understanding what that means for our shopping habits and buy/sell relationships is essential for retailers who want to see what people want now, and anticipate what they will want next.

Let’s zero in on a few trends.

There is a world of choice at your fingertips. We live in an age of digital ubiquity. Humans, systems and machines are today connected in real-time at every stage of the buying journey. From the moment our interest was piqued to marketing, sales and purchasing.

Changing channels. Once we drew pillars outlining the respective advantages of a physical store (touch and feel products). Website (ability to browse more products) or app (mobile convenience). Today, we are channel hoppers and we value the overall experience over the specific channel.

Mature predictive analytics. Our ability to understand customers, what moves them, triggers for the next activity and so on has become sophisticated. Furthermore, it will only become more so. So, we can build content, offers and upsell opportunities that delight customers and work to build mutual respect, brand loyalty and even advocacy.

We know, however, that catalysts that act as klaxons to purchase are rare. Instead, we need to benefit from a fine web of interconnected experiences across channels. This is the logical successor to the omnichannel world. Omnichannel doesn’t go away, but we need a superset of connections where we curate light-touch communications across media, persistently but without being invasive. We know that even slight friction leads to shopping cart abandonment. We get that disconnected processes across channels (fill in another form, explain who you are again…) have a jarring effect. We understand the value of consistency of look and feel. Now we need to apply that knowledge and create connected experiences everywhere. To our customers and prospects, but also to our suppliers and partners.

Putting it into practice

This stuff isn’t easy. If we rely on legacy systems and processes, then we can’t expect rapid progress. So we need to modernise, renew, integrate and connect islands of information, re-engineering processes that slow us down or act as silo blockers. We also need to harness and corral data on a different scale to the past. What I call predictive engagement combines the most relevant and personalised interactions between retailers and prospective customers. This might include past buying behaviour, preferences, context, location, inventory availability and peer pricing, all in real-time. The result is a dynamic, continuously learning system that becomes better and better at predicting next actions. In addition to creating automated orders and offers based on that data.

An example of how all this works in practice comes from the Spanish apparel retailer Desigual. The company had a desire to have “the right product in the right place at the right time.” To achieve this it connected warehouse systems with real-time inventory management. In addition, it provided store staff with knowledge of customers previous purchases and preferences, Desigual now provides fast, personalised assistance.

In Howards End, the British novelist EM Forster coined the term “only connect,” stressing the importance of eschewing the fragmentary and seeing situations in the whole, balancing head and heart, the prosaic and poetic. By looking at situations holistically and balancing them based on knowledge and experience, retailers stand the best chance of creating the sorts of deep emotional connections they have always wanted with customers. That is, profound bonds based on trusted behaviour, relevant communications and offers that delight. This leads to buyers and sellers enjoying mutually sustainable exchanges.

TibcoTIBCO Software Inc. unlocks the potential of real-time data for making faster, smarter decisions. Our Connected Intelligence Platform seamlessly connects any application or data source; intelligently unifies data for greater access, trust, and control; and confidently predicts outcomes in real-time and at scale. Learn how solutions to our customers’ most critical business challenges are made possible by TIBCO at


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