As consumers use an increasing number of touchpoints to engage with brands, businesses around the world must adapt to the new customer journey or lose ground to more agile competitors.
For example, online purchase and in-store pickup options are offered by 66 percent of retailers. The COVID-19 pandemic provided a big push towards these already-growing options, and adoption of customer service engagement on digital channels has accelerated as well. In fact, according to a McKinsey report, 75% of people who have used digital channels for the first time during the pandemic plan to continue using those channels when the world returns to “normal.”
What’s more, today’s consumers expect a seamless experience across touchpoints, from email to phone, self-service, social media, live chat, and more. Customers don’t want to have to re-authenticate their identity when switching from one channel to another, and they don’t want to have to repeat information or make multiple attempts to have an issue resolved. If your business's customers are clamoring for more convenience, an omnichannel customer experience may be your best bet.
Definition of Omnichannel Customer Experience
As your business builds out a variety of touchpoints (spanning mediums, locations, etc.), it takes on an omnichannel approach. This omnichannel customer experience can vary drastically in quality depending on the touchpoints that individual customers choose for interaction with your brand.
An optimized omnichannel experience streamlines interactions between a brand and its customers across all touchpoints to create a seamless experience throughout the entire customer journey. Of course, this is often easier said than done. Each touchpoint your business builds its services around must be approached differently for it to be truly beneficial, all while keeping the customer journey consistent despite these necessary differences. Whether your business combines e-commerce with brick-and-mortar service or offers customer support over multiple mediums, planning out an omnichannel strategy is critical to its success.
Is Omnichannel Just Multichannel?
An omnichannel approach is fairly similar to a multichannel one in that the two both make use of different channels (in-person, text, phone, etc.) to communicate with customers. However, multichannel customer experience strategies ignore the interconnected nature of the chosen channels, focusing on each out of context.
An omnichannel customer experience bridges gaps between channels to adapt services to users as they move from one touchpoint to another. This makes service customization possible at a much deeper level.
Omnichannel Customer Experience Examples
Working with customers across multiple channels is more rewarding than ever for both businesses and the people they serve. Here are a few examples of successful omnichannel strategies other brands have already put to the test.
Comprehensive Rewards Systems
Customer loyalty programs benefit greatly from the adoption of omnichannel principles. The international coffee franchise, Starbucks, found great success with a special rewards program powered by an omnichannel strategy. Customers are encouraged to sign up for the program and use the app to purchase from Starbucks in exchange for stars which can later be redeemed for products of their choice.
This rewards program was integrated seamlessly across multiple touchpoints, allowing customers to interact with Starbucks from their mobile phones and in-person without losing track of their rewards. The Starbucks rewards system also incorporated use of the franchise's payment card, granting users special rewards for paying with it.
Merging Online and In-Store Shopping
Consumers around the world have shifted en masse to mobile for most of their daily communication habits. Businesses looking to stay on top of this sudden move to mobile and a widespread reliance on the internet to interact with others have sought to meet customers where they are. By offering people the option of completing a purchase online, many retailers have been able to bypass brick-and-mortar limitations. Others have slightly modified this approach to work the other way around.
Orvis, an American sporting goods retailer, made waves way back in 2017 by adopting an innovative omnichannel approach to sales. Using a unique point of sale system, Orvis expanded stock available for purchase at any of its brick-and-mortar locations. They called the concept an "endless aisle" and implemented it in such a way that sales staff could help customers find exactly what they were looking for and have it conveniently delivered to their homes.
Omnichannel Customer Experience Tips
While omnichannel customer experience is a must for today’s businesses, getting implementation is key. The following tips can help you avoid common missteps in making an omnichannel experience possible for your customers:
Ensure Connected Systems are Reliable
Your omnichannel solutions are only as powerful as your legacy systems allow them to be.
When major retailer Macy's tried out an omnichannel strategy, they ran into trouble – an inaccurate, legacy inventory solution was out of sync with their new system. This led to miscommunication with customers and lost revenue. Once the old inventory system was sorted out, their omnichannel strategy proved successful.
Focus on Connecting with Your Customers
Deepening the connection between your customers and your brand should be your top priority in implementing an omnichannel strategy.
Cosmetics brand Sephora proved the importance of concentrating on connection by building out a beauty hub for customers to use. The brand's mobile app gives users access to the latest news and trends in fashion, fueling their purchasing decisions with a mix of quality content, exclusive rewards and more. This approach paired perfectly with a hybrid shopping experience and produced actionable insights on customer needs in the process.
Implementing an omnichannel strategy for your organization is much easier to do today thanks to the availability of digital technology to support communications on a variety of channels, such as self-service and chatbots. Technology solutions such as conversation analytics are now accessible for businesses of all sizes, allowing companies to more effectively monitor interactions and make data-driven decisions to support the customer experience.