There is No Online or Offline

In the last three days I have met with three very different CEOs of three very different companies. One, an industry leader in vertical media; another, a multi-billion retailer; the last, a major national insurer. At a minimum, each of these companies spends millions on information technology and millions on marketing.

Flying back from California, I am reflecting on the discussions and I’m struck by how similar these conversations were. Each of these company chiefs used eerily similar vocabulary. “We have learned that the customer decision journey is too complex for overly simplistic measurement,” one said. Another: “We have to make all the channels work together; customers aren’t linear.” The third: “I’m as interested in what we are doing offline to support localized marketing as I am online – because I need to generate awareness in new ways as well as convert it through my web properties.”

Yes. We are at an inflection point. These leaders are aggressive, they are comfortable with data, and they are thinking beyond channels. They are thinking omni-channel.

There is no online or offline shopping anymore… there is just shopping.

eBay sells 9,000 cars per week on mobile. Some 4.3 million shoppers have made a mobile purchase on eBay. Meanwhile, 120 million customers flowed through these 400 stores last year. For Apple, there is no online and offline experience. The stores are a profit center. But you cannot measure them that way, because they are also a source of inspiration and customer service. They are as much a place to cultivate brand loyalty as they are to push new products.

None of the CEOs with whom I spoke are demanding overly analytical ROI attribution models. They are accepting the inherent complexity of customer decision-making and asking thoughtful questions about how to put customers at the center of the company. When is digital media most influential in the customer journey, and how can it improve the customer experience? How can technology inject local flavor into national initiatives? How can digital initiatives inspire greater passion and commitment in our employees?

I am energized about how digital media is pushing businesses to get better both online and off. When business leaders ask the right questions about how they make their companies better, I remember why I do what I do.