The Secret to Omnichannel Thinking
FSW explores the multichannel vs omnichannel content divide and why holistic approaches to content always win in the end.
Fashion and luxury brand content is a tricky business. By necessity, brands need to delineate and differentiate their unique brand story, vision, and values at the same time they need to focus on marketing products, building brand loyalty, and fostering customer experience and community. Add in the pressures of an always-on content and shopping marketplace driven by constantly-evolving social media platforms and the majority of brands are not keeping up.
For some brands, the not-keeping-up approach to content is deliberate, particularly luxury brands that are naturally skeptical of digital platforms because of worries about brand dilution and internal content management capabilities. Yet many fashion and luxury brands believe that they have omnichannel content under control because they have a functional e-commerce website and marketing and social media teams in place with active content marketing programs for all the major social networks.
The problem? Most fashion and luxury brands take a multichannel approach to content, rather than a truly omnichannel one. Even when a fashion and luxury brand says they are doing omnichannel, in reality, content operations and content creation internally are highly siloed, dispersed across different teams with different KPIs, different platforms and tools, and different visions and goals for content. Also, most brands take a foundationally organizational approach to content architecture and content management with nonexistent content governance, which means that internal teams function with minimal oversight and lack consistent processes, workflows, tools, and guidelines to plan, create, and manage content.
Taking a multichannel, rather than omnichannel approach to content strategy has a bevy of repercussions for fashion and luxury brand storytelling, customer experience, and tech spend across platforms.
Omnichannel content strategy is both a mindset and a strategy. Building a flexible, scalable, and brand-appropriate omnichannel content strategy framework and roadmap is an ongoing practice. It requires time, dedicated thinking, and a test-and-learn approach. But, for brands willing to put in the work, omnichannel content strategy is always worth the effort.
Multichannel Content Strategy vs Omnichannel Content Strategy
Recently, the agency behind FSW presented the results of a two-month-long content audit to a B2B client. Two of the biggest findings were that their business model is in practice B2B2C and that they currently take a multichannel approach to content rather than an omnichannel one.
When contextualizing this client’s current complex enterprise content ecosystem as multichannel rather than omnichannel, our agency team got a lot of puzzled looks. So, we illustrated our point with a series of process mappings of fully siloed content intake workflows team by team. Every team had its workflow for updating content for its specific channel, its separate tools for creating, managing, and tracking content, and its ways of managing and storing assets.
The brand also took an excessively product-focused view of content, leaving customer-focused content by the wayside, which left customers running into dead ends and experiencing circuitous digital journeys when traveling between social channels and the company’s website and back again.
It was mind-boggling.
Multichannel content strategy focuses on creating brand-authentic content channel by channel. Internally, different teams tend to manage different channels with their own unique budget, goals, tools, and data. Multichannel content strategy is an extension of traditional broadcast marketing, even if your brand is successful at engaging consumers on specific channels and building sales from them.
Omnichannel content strategy, on the other hand, is by its nature audience-focused, which includes both external customers and internal employees. It is holistic and focuses on telling connected stories and building experiences within and across channels through content. As an ideal type, think of the transmedia, channel-agnostic storytelling of a media giant like Disney when it comes to building stories across platforms, time, and content types (e.g. film, TV, books, social media, etc.). Very few consumer-focused brands do this well; but the ones that do reap the rewards.
From the past few years, our strongest examples of omnichannel fashion and luxury content strategy come from the realm of content marketing and are mostly in the form of luxury brand collaborations. These omnichannel content marketing campaigns tend to utilize a phased strategy comprised of some combination of splash campaigns, installation marketing, and consistent content marketing and community-building approaches across platforms. For instance, the Louis Vuitton x Yayoi Kusama collaboration from 2023 involved a dual digital and IRL omnichannel content marketing strategy that felt highly cohesive, with consistent, targeted content timed well across time, channel, and geography. Of course, we have no visibility into the content planning or management behind the campaign, but the external marketing was nonetheless compelling.
The Art of Omnichannel Content Thinking
The secret to omnichannel thinking is viewing content as a channel-agnostic, holistic user journey that is personal, complex, and by no means linear. Customers, the media, and the everyday person on social media are potential brand users; but so are employees, the creative director, and the board of trustees.
As an agency, we keep telling fashion and luxury clients that the future of commerce is in connected content. The mainstreaming of creator-led live shopping marketplaces like TikTok Shop, AI-driven content creation tools, and an eternally evolving landscape of consumer product trends form a very real and ongoing threat to traditional retailers, particularly those with a monolithic, multichannel approach to content. Tech-fueled innovations have transformed content from information into a product. Content is itself a product and a commodity.
Of course, none of this means that selling online is dead any more than e-commerce spelled the actual end of bricks-and-mortar stores. But all of this does necessitate a mindset shift when it comes to the value of content. Content strategy works when it is closely connected to corporate business strategy, brand strategy, and marketing strategy. One recent revised definition of content strategy from Deborah Carver of The Content Technologist is:
Content strategy defines why, how, where, and for whom a company creates content. It comprises the activities that connect business goals with audience (aka consumer, customer, user, or client) needs, defines content’s purpose in an organization, and specifies the conditions that make content successful.
Omnichannel thinking is a difficult path for fashion and luxury brands. Most brands are used to a clear demarcation between their corporate organization and their brand vision, goals, and employees and the universe of their products and consumers. Omnichannel content strategy is more open and democratic, less prone to the rabbit holes of excessively organizational thinking.
When our agency asks clients: Who is the end user of your content? The answer is never straightforward. Yes, it is usually consumers who buy their products. But even the most rudimentary of content-focused user journeymapping usually brings up at least six or seven customer personas who all shop and experience brand content—and, in turn, products and experiences—in different ways and with vastly different decision-making. Also, clients rarely include internal audiences in their assessment of target audiences across channels. Omnichannel content thinking involves targeting different audiences simultaneously, as opposed to separately.
Unlike multichannel content approaches, an omnichannel content strategy framework can reduce internal siloing, improve content operations, governance, collaboration, and management across teams, and astronomically reduce tech and staffing spend within the organization. It also can give brands a realistic roadmap towards the twin future of personalization and innovation when it comes to customer experience, leveraging formerly segregated customer datasets into cross-platform, real-time, and, more importantly actionable feeds of customer behavior.
In the end, the future of fashion and luxury content lies in brands learning how to embrace a holistic, omnichannel content strategy that is concomitantly focused on selling products, communicating corporate brand DNA, and building personalized, community-oriented customer experiences that are consistent, connected, and powerful across platforms.
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