The only constant when customers move from one channel to the next, from their smartphone to their laptop, is the content -- the way it is delivered, and the way it’s consumed. In essence, omnichannel experiences come down to a publishing problem.
Know the Who, What and How
My company recently started working with a very smart client. They are known worldwide for insightful reports, perspectives and both the breadth and depth of their research. However despite the quality of the content, it was not being consumed by very many people and perhaps more importantly, it was not being consumed by the people who could drive the right commercial outcomes for their business.
Which made us ask, whom were they trying to reach? What is their audience really interested in? And how do they want to experience the content?
It turned out they had a really good understanding of the who, but not a good handle on the what and very little insight into the how. Before they could start helping them deploy an omnichannel solution, we had to figure out which channels mattered most and how their intended audience behaved when they were open to the experience.
We applied the science of virtual ethnography to study the audience where they live online. Based on our research, we formulated some compelling user stories and mapped them to the company’s own goals, i.e., what they wanted the users to do during the experience, what their conversion metrics should be.
Armed with a massive amount of relevant data, the client gained a much greater understanding into what the experience should include as well as where and how it should take place. The next step was figuring out how to deliver the experience in an omnichannel fashion, aligned with the desires and expectations of their audience.
People, Process and Technology
As with most customer experience challenges, the solution was a combination of people, process and technology. From the people perspective, it was a question of getting the content authors to produce the types of content most in demand from their audiences. If for example, the average CEO only spends one to two minutes scanning an article, then writing 2,000 words in densely packed paragraphs won’t have the desired impact. If the millennial MBA candidate likes watching videos on a smartphone while commuting to campus, downloadable PDFs aren’t the answer.
Next comes the process. Most large companies’ marketing organizations have built a lot of silos. There’s brand, product and loyalty marketing groups. Email, web, media and social teams and if the company has multiple divisions, the silos are often repeated for each line of business.
In order to deliver a great experience across channels, these silos have to come down, or at least open up to each other and share strategy, processes and tools. If they don’t, it doesn’t matter how good the content is, it will be disjointed from channel to channel. The customer doesn’t care how you’re organized or even which product your pushing at the moment. From their perspective, you’re a single entity and the other half in the customer experience tango.
Finally, we come to technology. Which is where so many companies try to start when they’re talking about omnichannel experience. There are two primary components to selecting and being successful using customer experience technology: First, you have to choose a content publishing solution, typically a CMS product, which is able to decouple the application layer from the presentation layer. This separation is key in that if will allow the marketer to easily publish the same content regardless of form factor, device or distribution platform.
And secondly, the publishing technology has to enable personalization across three dimensions: what the customer is trying to do, where do they stand on the continuum from anonymous to authenticated and what is the context of their experience. The later will have a tremendous impact on the channels, devices and platforms used.
I’ve worked with a lot of companies but if I can point to any single impediment to success when embarking on an omnichannel journey, it’s the rush to go out an buy and deploy technology before they have solved the audience and business process issues. Any rafting guide will tell you, there’s a dozen different ways to get through the rapids, the only problem is most of them will get you killed. Follow the right path.