How to Give Your Customers a True Omnichannel Experience

The digital marketplace has evolved to such an extent that brands now need to offer consistency across all platforms.  Whether through social media, via e-commerce or in-store, the need to provide an omnichannel experience is critical to modern brand survival.  That could primarily be because there are many different platforms a consumer can use.  With more apps and services becoming available, even some of the biggest global names have struggled to balance their channels.

What is an ‘Omnichannel Experience’?

The term ‘omnichannel experience’ refers to any given customer’s relationship with a brand over several different platforms.  These could include a company’s call centre, physical storefronts, website, Facebook and YouTube channels, for example.  A streamlined experience in this sense is one where all channels are offering the same service, the same quality of care, and the same products.  Getting this balance right, across marketing, customer care and sales – takes due care and attention.  But in a competitive world, what steps should you be considering to create a true omnichannel presence for your customers?

Knowing the Difference Between Multichannel and Omnichannel

While multichannel, as a noun, means that there are several different channels and platforms in play, omnichannel refers to how they interact.  Multichannel is a term which defines a brand’s operational strategy.  Omnichannel is more of a business model in that it defines how such channels are going to be used.  It is all about how each platform communicates with each other.

For example, some brands and retailers may choose to blend physical and e-commerce together.  Click-and-collect services offered through apps and websites by big supermarket brands are an excellent example of this working in practice.  You can now shop with, for example, ASDA online, and can pick up your purchases in-store.  This connectivity allows customers to blend their app and digital commerce experiences with physical interaction.

Ensuring All Areas Co-operate

Chats between customers and service operators via webchat or app could be carried on or referred to via telephone.  Omnichannel-ready brands actively share customer data between contact centres and telephone operations so that users don’t have to worry about starting a process from the beginning.  This is an example of how true omnichannel allows for a business to offer the same answers from one channel to the next.

Omnichannel is a multi-channel strategy which understands a customer’s need for simplicity and for communication.  Poor customer service arises when two facets of business fail to communicate properly.  This approach to blending digital and physical operations together only strive to speed up and enhance the customer’s shopping experience.

Creating a ‘True’ Experience – and the Challenges Involved

In practice, true omnichannel relies upon a great deal of understanding on the part of the brand.  A business needs to understand that their customers require channels available to them to communicate with one another fluidly.  The same brand also needs to know how this approach impacts factors of their operation.  Marketing, web design, sales, customer care – these are just a few essential elements which need to be redeveloped and reimagined from the same blueprint.

Putting true omnichannel into practice may not be as simple as cutting a few digital or physical corners.  Many brands struggle with reimagining their existing systems for them to communicate with one another on a whole new plateau.  Challenges arising such as cost and inflexibility in systems or personnel can all impact upon the length of time it can take for brands to adopt omnichannel fully.

It is therefore commonplace to see most brands offering a multichannel experience.  However, it is less common to see all channels working together to allow customers to drift between them with ease.  An openness to change and potential restructuring is not only recommended, but it’s also required.  Brands such as Argos, Virgin Atlantic, Starbucks and Disney all offer true omnichannel experiences to the delight of their customers.

The Omnichannel Checklist

It’s good practice to analyse your existing channels to ascertain whether or not your customers can easily travel between them.  Can your customers move from social media to the online store to look for new ideas?  Can they buy items on-app and collect in-store?  The other way around, can your customers scan items in-store to buy later online?  These are all great ways to start building a true omnichannel experience, although they are by no means exhaustive.

You need to consider how you can make your customers’ lives easier.  Are they spending more and more time speaking with call centre staff, when you can supply and back up answers in-app?  Can they shop for products from their pins on Pinterest, or from likes on Instagram?  Gradually connecting your channels together is the easiest route towards omnichannel excellence.

The Bigger Picture

It is recommended that you consider the bigger picture.  Think about the ‘whys’ for omnichannel experiences – your customers want efficient, comprehensive, simple care.  They want to be able to explore ideas without having to go through the same process twice.  Working out your omnichannel strategy is somewhat like a feat of engineering, in that it may be worthwhile mapping out your existing network to see where corners can be cut.

Understanding the importance of omnichannel for your customers is vital.  The world is becoming more and more convenient thanks to technological and software evolution. Meaning, you need to start considering how to offer maximum convenience to your core audience.  Social media, for example, has drastically cut customer service time for both brands and consumers.  App innovation encourages banking, purchasing items and subscribing online – why can’t it be integrated with physical channels?

The biggest thing to consider is that there is now a world beyond your main website.  Make your e-commerce site an essential part of your omnichannel network, not the be-all and end-all.  Understanding that your customers have a wide range of options at their fingertips and that they need them to be actively working with each other is key to success.

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