Business as usual today often means the customer experience starts with the mobile experience. Smart organizations are building omnichannel solutions to provide a consistent user experience across multiple channels, with the knowledge that mobile may be the starting point of the customer journey. 

While we see a lot of debate around what strategies to adopt in order to complete a successful BYOD or Corporate Owned, Personally Enabled (COPE) roll out, what remains overlooked is how employee-facing apps, especially mobile point of sale apps, can be built in alignment with the omnichannel strategy.

The discussion of enabling omnichannel experiences on employee facing apps boils down to the discussion of enterprise mobile architecture. Can this architecture deliver a consistent user experience regardless of whether the customer touch point is on a consumer facing app or an employee facing app?

Challenges of Providing an Omnichannel Experience

The pivotal capability to provide a consistent omnichannel user experience lies in the ability to leverage data from multiple channels, analyze the data quickly and use that intelligence to serve up the user experience. Several organizations are already making rapid changes in this direction, by consolidating customer facing systems into the same technology platform instead of maintaining them as siloed systems. However, the challenge is to enable a consistent experience across customer facing channels and employee facing channels.

There is a dominating school of thought that argues that architecture for employee facing apps needs to be different from that of customer apps dueto the nature of data that flows through both. Another reason for this argument is the difference between security techniques that are used to secure the connectivity between the two different types of apps and mobile backend. The more important question is whether this school of thought is in line with the objective of providing a consistent omnichannel customer experience, regardless of the channel.

As the lines between sales and service continue to blur and employees use mobile devices to service customers at the store, field, door-to-door or over the telephone, how far will organizations go with the omnichannel experience when providing two architectures for employee facing and consumer facing systems?

Learning Opportunities

Several enterprises have been using methods that move data back and forth between employee and consumer facing systems to serve up the customers with intelligent and predictive treatments. But that approach fails to acknowledge how fast customers move between multiple channels -- including store to mobile, mobile to web and web to store. Moving data between systems to achieve omnichannel experience comes at the cost of lost opportunities. By the time the systems move data, analyze data and are ready to serve it up intelligently, the customer has already completed the purchasing process and moved on to the next area of interest. For example, if a customer checks out a specific product on his or her mobile phone app and then walks into the store, the employee who processes the purchase using the employee point of sale tablet needs to be aware of this customer’s specific interest in certain products, which may not be that easy and straightforward with disparate systems and architectures.

Omnichannel is More Than Transforming Existing Customer Channels

The point to drive home is that enterprise apps can no longer be classified into two broad categories. Considering a third category of apps called employee facing consumer-enabled apps helps to look at the problem in a manner that addresses the omnichannel requirements within an employee facing app, while addressing the security requirements of an employee enabled app.

While the industry has made a few steps forward in breaking down the barriers between different customer engagement channels with the focus on an omnichannel strategy, it's time to break down the barriers between employee facing apps, customer facing apps, sales oriented apps and service oriented apps. The advent of API management platforms and API analytics makes it possible to build an omnichannel architecture that cuts across all of these apps, across multiple form factors.

When organizations plan their digital transformation exercise, they should broaden their scope from the experience on existing consumer facing channels. Both consumer and employee experience on current and future digital channels (including connected devices) needs to be considered when organizations go about digital transformation. Organizations with a narrow approach to omnichannel transformation will find themselves in the midst of another expensive transformation exercise a few years down the line when the channels start to look different. API management platforms provide the necessary toolkits to extend the omnichannel discussion into all of these dimensions. What becomes key is how the toolkit is optimally leveraged to address the different facets of the omnichannel problem.