For a long time, omnichannel was just another confusing marketing buzzword.
In some cases, it was unclear precisely how an omnichannel strategy differed from a multichannel approach. In others, it met resistance because of a reluctance to move away from the product-centered practice of getting a product or service in front of the right people.
Now though, the paradigm shift to omnichannel is impossible to ignore. The overwhelming emphasis today is about getting people to product, while making the process of doing so as effortless, consistent and contextual as possible.
Customer Focus Means Omnichannel
Customers just don’t respond in the same way to traditional marketing messages any more. Being both tech-savvy and information-savvy, it is now far easier for customers to research products and services independently by reading reviews and using comparison sites any time of the night or day.
Having this knowledge means customers aren’t easily swayed by bold claims, and even price has become less of a differentiator.
That’s why organizations that want to succeed today have to prioritize a quality, consistent experience for the customer in order to remain competitive, as well as to acquire and retain customers. That need to be customer-focused demands that brands be omnichannel by creating high-quality offerings across all physical and digital touchpoints while maintaining cohesive messaging regardless of the channel.
Aspirational, But Doable
Achieving an omnichannel approach requires several things, not least the need to combine your online and offline data into a unified stream and the ability to understand and analyze your customer journeys.
Becoming omnichannel is aspirational, but definitely doable. Recent research revealed that 16.8 percent of marketers have been able to connect all their channels for an omnichannel customer experience, with 51.5 percent saying it’s a goal they are moving towards. When asked what they can achieve with their marketing data, just 3.5 percent said that they do not believe omnichannel is possible, reflecting how a once mythical strategy has emerged as one of marketing’s most vital requirements.
Based on this evidence alone, omnichannel should be a regular word in your marketing vocabulary.
Customers Expect Seamless Delivery
With shoppers being more knowledgeable than ever, it couldn’t be more important for all your channels to deliver a seamless and consistent brand experience. For example, if customers start their journeys on their mobile devices, they may want to complete their purchases on their laptops — or in stores. The expectation is that any information customers have provided you with through social media channels, apps or websites will be maintained as they continue their journeys.
Customers don’t think about channels, nor do they appreciate that their information could be stuck in your departmental silos. As far as most are concerned, they are speaking to a single brand and expect the service to continue through the method that suits them best.
In short, today’s customers know what the market can offer and expect you to know the same.
Dude, Where’s My Car Part?
For instance, earlier this year I bought a new car. When choosing the specifications at the dealership, there was an optional extra I wanted but was told by the salesperson that the accessory was only available as part of a more expensive upgrade.
Using my smartphone, I discovered that the option was indeed available separately through the manufacturer’s official parts website. If I could buy the accessory, what was stopping the dealer? My salesperson agreed and the option was fitted to my car.
This experience would have easily been avoidable if the brick and mortar dealership had been aligned with the manufacturer’s online offerings.
Prioritizing the Customer Journey
With an omnichannel approach, the customer journey takes top priority. No doubt your organization has created customer journey maps enough to know that rather than merely documenting a path down the sales funnel, customer journeys can help identify friction points and opportunities for engagement.
If you want to deliver the very best customer experience, then you need to understand not just that every customer undertakes a unique customer journey, but that the journey can switch and change between any one of your channels. Marketers can’t afford to think of journeys as linear flowcharts — or even as disconnected touchpoints for that matter.
Rather, the goal is to monitor and optimize what’s more accurately described as an experience ecosystem. In addition to looking at past interactions such as buying and browsing behavior, journey entry points and which of your marketing efforts customers have responded to in the past, you need to anticipate future actions using predictive analytics that use the contextually relevant information you have gathered to provide your customers with exactly what they need, when and where they need it.
Achieving the One-to-One Experience
The goal of omnichannel is to achieve a one-to-one experience with your customers. This means that when they connect with your brand, you are able to deliver personalized, contextually relevant messages and an accurate understanding of their buying needs. For the retail market in particular, it also means facilitating purchases however they take place.
This could include, for example, aisle stations that enable online purchases while shopping in a store showroom, creating an AI chatbot concierge to enable website purchases without leaving social media or a smartphone loyalty app that ensures your pre-ordered drink is ready by the time you reach the coffeehouse.
Today’s consumers are changing. Shopping is changing. If omnichannel isn’t yet part of your vocabulary, then it should be to make sure that your customers won’t seek more relevant, engaging and consistent customer interactions elsewhere.
Learn how you can join our contributor community.