We’ve all heard the buzz about “omni-channel” marketing – enabling a seamless and consistent customer experience across all channels and devices while offering marketers the potential and promise to better understand and reach customers. But is the promise of omni-channel marketing really achievable and are there significant benefits for those that embrace the idea? One thing is certain – it has made an indelible mark on both businesses and consumers and appears to be here to stay.  Real-world examples of this can be seen on Black Friday and Cyber Monday – integrated, interacting technologies and information are now connecting in-store and online buying to create truly seamless shopping experiences.

From all appearances, 2015 will be the year that omni-channel marketing becomes a reality and a mainstream phenomenon. At the very least, the path to omni-channel is becoming clearer and implementing it is no longer a “bleeding-edge” experiment. There are more reasons than ever for businesses to embrace omni-channel and the benefits are proving to be real and substantial.

One primary reason why a company must consider omni-channel is that consumers are demanding it. In a recent Accenture survey, 69% of consumers expect in-store and online pricing to match and 57% expect that promotions and offers to be consistent across all channels. Retailers are feeling that demand – 62% state that customer expectation is the primary driver for their pursuit of omni-channel initiatives, with the second-highest motivator being competitive pressure (55%).

But perhaps the most compelling argument for companies to implement omni-channel strategies is that they are working.  At the 2015 National Retail Federation’s annual conference in early January, the topic of omni-channel was a key focus and several retailers discussed how their omni-channel programs have begun to pay off.  Companies like Cole Haan, Kohl’s, Whole Foods, and Crate and Barrel all talked about the real successes and growth they’ve seen. Kyle Gallary, VP of Corporate Strategy and Digital Commerce at Cole Haan told the group “We’ve seen the economics at play, and we can verify that the customers who engage with us through our wholesale partners, in our stores and online are nearly twice as profitable.”

Another motivation for small and mid-tier retail companies to pursue omni-channel marketing is that it offers them the ability to compete with larger ones.  Because it’s a relatively new idea, businesses of all sizes can participate and reap the benefits. In fact, omni-channel is a new enough concept that smaller businesses may actually be better poised to lead the way through innovation and agility, enabling them to compete with much larger brands, and with less concern about physical locations and geographic boundaries.

Clearly, successful omni-channel marketing programs are becoming a reality for more and more companies. If you haven’t already, now’s the time to implement an omni-channel strategy, especially if your company is keen to give customers the best possible buying experience across all touch points. There’s no doubt it’s an exciting time to be a marketer!

But where do you start?  Like many things, it’s really just a matter of focus and in taking meaningful (and achievable) incremental steps toward achieving your goals.  Stay tuned for my next blog installment coming Wednesday offering some tips to guide your pursuit of omni-channel marketing – “6 Steps for Making Omni-Channel Marketing a Reality”.