A total of 71% of CEOs say that omnichannel fulfillment is a top priority, according to a PWC survey. Moreover, based on my recent conversations with more than 100 CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, omnichannel is a priority beyond retail for both B2B and B2C businesses.

Most of those CEOs see omnichannel as a critical success factor for customer engagement. That's not to say the retail aspect doesn't matter but that those CEOs understand that looking beyond the transaction to the actual interaction is what will keep customers coming back to their product or service.

However, finding the right ways to engage with customers today is harder than ever. No longer do we try to get things done in our professional or personal lives using one path—it is far too high-paced and competitive out there to limit our options. And customers are choosing the path of least resistance to get what they need.

If your product or service happens to be on that path of least resistance, you will gain new business. If your product or service is not on that path, you risk falling behind your competitors.

But executive teams are challenged with finding that path of least resistance and achieving omnichannel engagement reality for several reasons, not the least of which is culture and structure. Many companies are built on a brand or product-centric structure. Employees are motivated to live and die by the brand.

So, how do executives think about resorting their marketing mix to put the client at the center? Here are tips and actual quotes from the C-suite.

1. Start with customer experience

"I asked my team to build a differentiated experience for the customers, and they spent weeks obsessed with the latest digital, social trend," one CEO said. "When we sat down to look at it, the experience didn't make any sense. Though it was cool, it was completely ineffective."

We all have experienced that moment in one way or another. The hotel room with the amazing design but no lights. The beautiful package that you can't open. The amazing experience that was completely disconnected from the experience the customer wanted.

To prevent that from happening, the solution is simple. Start with your customers. Watch how they interact; ask them questions; listen and learn.

Unfortunately, making this change is not as simple because organizations are built around products, not around customers.

2. Behaviors are the new markets

At a recent Customer Advisory Board session, one of the CEO participants remarked that behaviors are the new markets. New markets used to be thought of as new geographies like Brazil, Russia, China, or a different demographic. But now, a pharmaceutical executive said, "Behaviors are the new markets. This is where everything needs to rise and fall. New markets will come by focusing on different customer behaviors."

If we put customer behavior, not just customer at the center, what will that yield that is different? It will force us to think behavior and intent first, and to consider the ways to engage with that behavior second or third.

3. Simplify, simplify, simplify

We all know simplification is the key to the perfect experience, but it is incredibly difficult to make things simple.

For example, the first Apple box you opened was beautiful and simple, but the process to make that experience so simple took the company painstakingly long. What the company remained focused on through the entire process of designing that box was the customer experience. How will you see it? What will you feel? How would you use your hands to open it? What does the product look like at first glimpse? Yet in the end, it is a white box, simple and elegant, and it makes the customer feel special. That is the ultimate experience that we want, regardless of channel.

* * *

In this world of hundreds of channels and ways to engage, one can easily shift from an obsessive focus on products to an obsessive focus on channels and remain blind to the customer.

Forget all of the products and all of the channels, and focus on the customer. Ultimately, what customers want is for their life to be simplified.

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image of Jane Hiscock

Jane Hiscock is president and founder of Farland Group, a marketing consulting company that specializes in convening corporations and their most important stakeholders to transform their customer engagement strategies.

LinkedIn: Jane Hiscock