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Technology + People + Shopping = The Omnichannel Evolution

by Chris Haines, Fluid / May 17, 2013

Note: This blog entry is available in English only.

The 2013 Tony Award nominees were announced today and it got me thinking about how much technology, people and shopping have evolved over the last 17 years. If Broadway theatre, technology and shopping seem like wildly unrelated topics, allow me to explain.

Back in 1996, I was the founding editor of the Tony Awards website, a joint venture between the organizations that run the Tonys and a startup Web development company. Because the Web was so new and unfamiliar, the folks running the awards (and everyone else on Broadway!) didn’t understand or appreciate the value of another communications platform. They tolerated our online efforts, but were strident about us not scooping the traditional press, even though we were an extension of the official brand.

On this morning 17 years ago, after the nominees were announced at Sardi’s, I was handed a print-out and CD-rom with the full list of nominees, straight-armed my way past the donut table to the subway, and hurried back to the office so we could post the full list on the site. As if this delay wasn’t bad enough, I came back to an email from the talented actor Mark Linn-Baker wanting to know why the Tonys couldn’t get our act together enough to post the nominees at the same time as the television announcement.

“What do you want me to say?” I considered replying. Instead I wrote back to tell him the nominees were finally up on the site. And that I’m a big fan of his work.

“Success requires agility, adapting to evolving human behavior, meeting your customers where they are, not forcing them to meet you where you are.”

Flash forward light years to this morning, when I turned on the TV just as the announcement was ending.

I sparked up the Tony Awards site on my iPad to read the full list.

An alert pinged on my iPhone from the New York Times with more information about the awards.

Facebook started lighting up.

I texted a good friend to congratulate her for receiving a nomination for her performance in a play.

I even started shoping for an appropriate congratulations gift on Amazon.

The changes in technology between then and now are obvious—smartphones, tablets and social media weren’t even glimmers in their creators’ eyes back then—but the changes in people (especially the ones responsible for brands) and shopping are especially noteworthy.

Organizations like the Tony Awards, not to mention retailers, financial institutions, healthcare providers, etc., have learned that they are content creators just like the media that they courted so assiduously for so many decades.  And, as content creators, it’s not enough to be present in just one platform.  To succeed in today’s environment brands—particularly retailers—need to be present where their customer lives—everywhere, immediately and always.  It’s the Omnichannel Evolution.

After 17 years in this industry, I understand firsthand how challenging it is to keep up with technology and shifts in human behavior. But I also understand the cost of not evolving and innovating.  Probably the most important lesson I’ve learned as a digital strategist is that there is no “one size fits all” solution to getting from here to there.  Success requires agility, adapting to evolving human behavior, meeting your customers where they are, not forcing them to meet you where you are.

That’s why I’m proud to be part of the Fluid team. My colleagues are experts in understanding what makes individual brands unique, what their customers want most from them, and leading the brands through the Omnichannel Evolution, be it through e-commerce, in-store tablets with endless aisles, shoppable images, or strategic planning.

Still, I envy the person who’s running the Tony Awards website today.  He or she probably had plenty of time to enjoy that donut table and didn’t come back to any angry emails from famous people. And he didn’t have to wander from store to store to find just the right gift that says, “Congratulations on your nomination!”

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