WHAT IS AN OMNICHANNEL CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE?

Customer expectations are changing swiftly and businesses need to adapt through digital transformation to understand the customers and their journey. Customer experience is now becoming the key differentiating factor in the customers’ decision-making process. The positive or negative experience customers receive across multiple touchpoints is what now defines the brand.

Omnichannel customer experience is no longer an aspiration. It’s fast becoming a must have for any modern business.

And that’s because consumers don’t have just one way to interact with your brand any more. There’s a whole range of different channels available at their fingertips to reach out and learn more about your products and services: Google searches, social media, videos, and mobile apps to name but a few. 

The reality is, if you want to cater to the modern consumer, you simply have to adopt an omnichannel approach. 

So, let’s take a look at exactly what omnichannel customer experience is and how you can create and improve it for your company.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

What is omnichannel customer experience? 

Omnichannel customer experience is when a business advertises to, sells, and supports prospects and customers across multiple channels, treating each interaction or touchpoint (e.g. social media, SMS, chatbots) as part of a single, frictionless whole. 

An omnichannel approach enables customers to begin their experience with your brand in one channel and continue it on another channel seamlessly.

Why is an omnichannel customer experience important?

Omnichannel customer experience allows you to reach the modern consumer in a contextually relevant way at every point in their journey, regardless of the channel they access from.

This positively impacts the quality of customer interactions and creates greater customer engagement.

Benefits of omnichannel customer experience

Adopting an omnichannel approach has a number of benefits for both your customers and your business. Some of the most important are:

  • More choice for customers. Modern customers expect a frictionless experience with your brand. Providing a variety of integrated channels allows them to interact with you however is most convenient for them while maintaining relevance.
  • Improved customer retention and revenue. According to ClickZ, shoppers who use three or more channels to interact with brands have a purchasing frequency rate 250 percent higher than single-channel users. Harvard Business Review also reports that customers who used more channels spend an average of 4 percent more in physical stores and 10 percent more online.
  • Cater to a broader audience. Certain consumers may favor certain ways of interacting with a brand. The greater the number of channels you have available, the greater the variety of potential customers you can attract. 
  • Collect better data. Omnichannel journeys provide a rich source of data. This data can be used to gain a deeper understanding of your customers and provide valuable insights into where customers encounter issues, allowing you to improve your offering.

Omnichannel vs multichannel customer experience 

Most businesses use multiple channels for sales and support. But having multiple channels doesn’t automatically equate to an omnichannel experience. 

A multichannel business may have a website, social media account, brick and mortar store, and so on. However, every channel operates independently in its own silo. There might be one goal and strategy for Facebook and a different one for a company’s website. 

An omnichannel approach also involves interacting with consumers through a variety of channels, but instead of having a unique strategy for each one, omnichannel focuses on creating an integrated experience in real time. All the channels are knitted tightly together.

How to build an omnichannel customer experience

Wondering how to get started with an omnichannel customer experience? Here are some tips you can use to integrate multiple channels.

Map the customer journey 

It stands to reason that if you want to create a seamless omnichannel customer experience, you need to fully understand your customer journey: where buyers begin, and all the touchpoints that lead to purchase and beyond. 

Mapping the customer journey also helps you identify where gaps and issues arise. Once these are out in the open, you can make tweaks to them and optimize the shopping experience across channels to increase sales and improve convenience.

Listen to feedback

Feedback from customers can give you the information you need to improve the customer journey and create a more cohesive customer experience. 

So, collect reviews and ask your customers for their opinions. Use the opportunity to find out how customers want to interact with your brand. That way you can build an omnichannel approach catered specifically to your customers needs.

Sending out surveys can be done through email or mobile apps, or you could even generate a popup on your site that lets customers rate their experience and give comments and suggestions.

Use the right technology 

Seamless user experiences are impossible without the right technology. Support agents should be able to contact customers through live chat, video and voice calls, mobile apps, and more depending on their preferred method of communication. 

But to create a true omnichannel customer experience, you need to bring all of this data together in a single customer view. That way, no matter what the channel a customer accesses from, your team has all their information available to pick up seamlessly from where they left off.

Websites should also use technology to offer personalized experiences in the form of product recommendations to encourage customers to make repeat purchases.

Identify the stakeholders 

Implementing an omnichannel experience doesn’t happen overnight. You’ll need to work closely with multiple departments, like your sales, marketing, customer service, and product teams. At the end of the day, a cohesive customer journey relies on a cohesive internal approach to get it done.

If it all seems too overwhelming, a good tip is to start small and then modify the customer journey across further platforms as you go. You can align experiences in your main channels first, then expand these experiences across multiple supporting platforms.

How to improve the omnichannel customer experience

Even with an omnichannel customer experience strategy in place, there’s still room to build on this and improve over time. Here are some ways you can go about it.

Better understand your customers

Even a well-planned omnichannel strategy will fail if it’s not directed at the right customer. To make sure that doesn’t happen, you must have an up-to-date understanding of consumer behavior. 

Use big data and surveys to gain insights into customer behavior, what they expect from your brand, and how this changes over time. Making business intelligence and analytics software part of your research process can provide you with valuable insights into who your ideal market is and what they need from you.

Follow the leaders

There are plenty of success stories to follow in the omnichannel world. While copying the steps taken by brands like Starbucks, Amazon, Disney, or Bank of America won’t likely catapult your business to the same level of success, paying attention to where they’re putting their resources can help you find your way. There are some examples of companies getting omnichannel right later in the post to give you some ideas.

Get the support you need

Maintaining a successful omnichannel customer experience isn’t a one-employee show. It takes an entire team to make sure things are on track. You’ll need managers, researchers, developers, freelancers, and, most importantly, support. If there is doubt surrounding the effectiveness of an omnichannel program, address it straight away before it becomes a problem. And as new employees join the business, make sure they understand the emphasis being placed on omnichannel at the organization.

Develop your mobile capabilities

Not all industries have mastered mobile-friendly platforms yet. And surprisingly, there are plenty of ecommerce businesses whose websites could use a facelift and a few upgrades. Not only does this create doubt in a client’s mind about your brand, but it hurts your SEO ranking, which affects how prominently your business’s website appears on search engine results pages. Consider using a mobile-friendly analyzer to see how your website is stacking up.

Conduct a content analysis

The appearance of your site, app, support articles, and social media should all be consistent. But no matter how great they look, they won’t get you far without great content. Some businesses tend to focus on writing keyword-heavy blogs and website pages, hoping to rank high in search engines. Or, their product writing is clunky or unclear. Conduct a content analysis of your website and other platforms to make sure you’re catering to your readers and users, no matter where they see you.

Improve your response times

What’s your average response time for social media inquiries? It may surprise you to know that close to half of consumers expect a social media response time of fewer than 60 minutes. And if you’re not responding to customer messages at all you’re doing your brand a great disservice. 

When it comes to your website, make sure you’re taking every opportunity to engage and address visitors. You can use communication channels like live chat software or chatbots to make every visitor feel heard and appreciated.

Take your omnichannel approach offline

There are plenty of offline omnichannel opportunities. Even though most client interactions are digital, there are still analog channels that might make sense for your industry and business. Radio, magazine ads, direct mail, event sponsorships, and branded merchandise are all examples of offline channels you can explore and integrate into your strategy.

Rethink in-store consumer experiences

Today’s consumers are often uncomfortable in brick-and-mortar stores compared to browsing online at home. Research shows that 87 percent of consumers research products online before purchasing. Help consumers transition easily from online to offline. This could be something as simple as providing live inventory for brick-and-mortar locations so customers can easily decide whether to make a trip to the store. And if it’s not in stock, your website could recommend other products that might fit the bill instead.

Choose your channels wisely

One mistake many companies make with omnichannel is thinking that they must be on every platform. Omnichannel marketing isn’t about being everywhere, but about being present, available, and consistent in the places your target consumers are and creating a positive user experience.

Learn where your customers are spending their time — whether it’s Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, or LinkedIn. Don’t forget about offline opportunities as well. Optimize your content for only the offline and digital channels that you need in your marketing approach. There’s no point overstretching and putting your message where it won’t be heard.

Keep it consistent

It may seem obvious, but whenever you doubt the direction your omnichannel strategy is going, remind yourself that consistency is key to developing loyal audiences and stronger customer relationships. From your website to your app, from your social media pages to your email, from your employee’s shirt logo to your receipts, strive for consistent branding throughout.

Familiarity breeds trust, trust builds repeat customers, and the easiest way to grow revenue is through repeat business.

Examples of omnichannel customer experience

Need some inspiration? Let’s take a look at a few top brands that have successfully integrated different digital channels. 

Starbucks 

Starbucks offers a premium user experience. 

Customers are rewarded with a free drink after they sign up for a customer loyalty program. When they make a purchase through the Starbucks card, they can reload through the app, website, in-store or by a mobile device — and their total rewards points are updated across all platforms.

Coffee enthusiasts can also make mobile orders, gift digital Starbucks cards, find stores near their location and tip their baristas without going out of their way. 

Neiman Marcus 

Neiman Marcus is a fashion brand that uses technological innovation to connect online and offline platforms. 

The Neiman Marcus app connects shoppers to sales associates through text messages, calls, emails, or FaceTime. Shoppers can also use it to check their points and view upcoming events or promotions.

The website delivers personalized product recommendations and remembers size preferences, too. One major differentiator between Neiman Marcus and other online stores? You can use geolocation to find items stocked in nearby stores. New arrivals that suit customers’ preferences are sent through email and direct mail. 

“Memory Mirror” is another distinct omnichannel feature. Have you ever wondered how your outfit looked from behind or from the side? The Memory Mirror can record and capture your try-ons from every angle. Hesitant shoppers who need a second opinion can also seek advice on their looks by sharing the outfits with their network. 

The Dufresne Group

The Dufresne Group used technology to take services online while keeping the kind of in-person experience so pivotal for selling in an industry like furniture. 

Previously, furniture repair required two on-site visits: one for assessment and the other for the repair work. Video chat allowed the team to reduce on-site inspections, providing the same high quality service instead remotely, increasing convenience.

Omni-channel marketing ensures that messaging and branding are consistent among channels. It acknowledges and addresses the customers across their preferred platforms to deliver a smoother buying experience at every stage of their journey. It also includes merging the different channels together (for example, social media, website) for promotional experiences.