Omnichannel is all about providing the customer with a seamless experience whether they engage with a brand from a desktop website, mobile device, telephone or in a face-to-face situation. For true Omnichannel experience to exist a brand must have a single customer view, actionable data and a journey allowing the customer to transition between various channels in a seamless and effortless manor.
What is and Omnichannel customer experience
Omnichannel can be defined as a multi-channel approach that delivers the customer with an integrated and effortless customer experience. So for example, a brand that provides a true omnichannel experience will have the ability for customers to start a purchase decision making process on a mobile device and complete that purchase in an offline manner without any barriers or preferred channel methods forced upon the customer.
The difference between omnichannel and multi-channel essentially comes down to the level of integration a brand has between its channels. Any brand providing an omnichannel experience will use multiple channels, but not all multi-channel experiences are omnichannel. A brand could have an award winning mobile application, targeted social media campaigns, and a well-designed website. But if these channels don’t work as one, it’s not an omnichannel customer experience.
Why is Omnichannel important
Most brands today invest in multi-channel experiences. The majority have a website, blog, social media presence and some have apps or mobile experiences of some guise. Each of these platforms are used to engage and connect the brand with their customers. However, in many instances, the customer still doesn’t experience a seamless and consistent journey or message across each of the channels.
On the flipside, an omnichannel experience accounts for every platform and device a customer can use to interact with a brand. The combined knowledge can then be used to deliver a fully integrated experience. The brands that are successful in developing a true omnichannel experience do so by aligning their marketing message, business objectives, channel goals, and design across each channel and device.
Omnichannel is becoming increasingly important because customer behaviours and technology is adapting at a fast rate. 10 years ago only the early adopters had a Facebook account and now there are over 2 billion users worldwide.
Technology is becoming increasingly integrated into our day to day lives with wearable technology and smartphones always within reach. As a customer, you could be in a bricks and mortar store shopping for a new pair of shoes whilst comparing the price vs their competitor on your mobile phone. Technology has increased the competition and changed the purchasing habits of the general consumer.
Innovation is inevitable and technology will become increasingly important within our day-to-day lives. What we have typically been used to doing offline may quickly become an online transaction or a combination of the two.
As customers change their behaviours and technology develops, brands will need to respond accordingly. Brands need to innovate and develop their approach, because a competitor or emerging start-up will always be looking for their opportunity to increase their market share. Instead of thinking of a desktop website experience, a mobile app or a traditional way of purchasing, we’ll need to pursue one seamlessly integrated approach; an omnichannel customer experience.
Which Brands Deliver a Great Omnichannel Experience?
Physical or in store purchases still account for the majority of overall purchases, and those brands that operate in both online and offline typically see more purchases via bricks and mortar stores. However, in 2018 it’s going to be increasingly risky to simply rely on a traditional bricks and mortar strategy.
The most successful omnichannel strategies today understand and adapt to the customer’s decision-making process by collecting relevant data, helping them to understand the tactics and messaging to use at the key points that trigger a purchase. Other successful strategies offer incentives to purchase – such as discounts via email or free gifts. However, in doing so, retailers need to make sure they deliver information on the specific products their customers are interested in.
A really good example of a brand delivering an innovative omnichannel experience is Starbucks. It is considered by many to be the top omnichannel experience of 2017.
Like many coffee shops, you get a free rewards card that you can use whenever you make a purchase within store. But unlike the traditional customer loyalty strategies, Starbucks has made it possible to check and reload your Starbucks reward card via your mobile, desktop website or in-store. Any changes made to your account will instantly be updated across all platforms in real time. So as a customer you could update your card balance whilst waiting to be served and that would come through in real time before you get to the till.
The Future of Omnichannel
With technology and customer behaviour developing at a faster rate each year it’s inevitable that true omnichannel experiences are going to become more and more important. Interestingly it will become more significant for certain brands and there will be varying omnichannel strategies depending on a brands goal.
Predominantly bricks and mortar stores losing market share to emerging online stores will look to develop omnichannel experiences to retain customers. On the other hand, start-ups will develop omnichannel experiences to increase their conversion and customer engagement.
Rewards and loyalty schemes will continue to develop into an online and offline experience, likely creating an end to the traditional (physical) loyalty card in favour of an always accessible app.
More brands will look to become early adopters of augmented reality as a means to enhance their customer experience, further bridging the online/offline disconnect of the customer journey. A great example of this is Converse.
Virtual reality is still in its infancy and remains niche due to the requirement of specific hardware, however, development strategies are on the horizon with big brands investing already.
AI, automation and machine learning is likely to play an increasingly important yet invisible role in the evolution of omnichannel experiences.