24 Jun Turning Omnichannel, A Customer Perspective
“In the eyes of the consumer, e-commerce and retail are now one. It’s just shopping, right?” - John Donahoe, CEO of eBay
Just as organizations were getting accustomed to being multi-channel companies, along comes omnichannel and a whole new set of related challenges. But marketers tend to use “multichannel” and “omnichannel” interchangeably and I see most people confused as they come across these two terms while trying to adopt best practices for customer interactions across different touch-points. Let’s start defining the terms:
- Multi-channel: Refers to companies using two or more channels to engage their customers. These might include social media, email, a website and other traditional means of marketing. However, they are not necessarily focused on delivering a consistent message across multiple touch-points. Neither are they on optimizing the customer experience based on the different devices (e.g. smartphones, tablets and laptops) clients use to interact with the business. And this approach tends to be based on a corporate / brand perspective, using channels to spread a message rather than improving the shopping experience.
- Omni-channel: While companies using this approach also use multiple channels to engage their customers, they rely on two additional factors; consistency and focus on devices involved within client interactions. Giving up the brand perspective and giving more consideration to the customer perspective. These businesses focus on ensuring that their customers receive the same experience and message through different channels and devices involved within their interactions with the brand. For example, they enable customers to engage through a mobile app, social media portal and website whose look and feel and messages received across each touch-point are seamless. They have a holistic view of the customer. No matter how many times a customer may switch from one channel to another for one task or during an entire journey: Omnichannel interactions are not siloed but integrated, providing for richer customer experiences that are connected (digital), continuous (consistent across devices, channels, and time) and contextual (relevant and personalized communication).
Omni-channel, omnichannel or omni channel? In marketing and in the tech industry, you know that something is new when you can’t find one single and unanimous way to spell it. And, as with most things that are new, there are still emerging theories. Omni comes from the word Omnis, meaning all or universal. The word “multichannel”, from comes from Multus, meaning multiple or many. And cross channel from Crux, which means to go across.
The way that many are explaining omnichannel today is: ‘cross channel being done well’. Examples are often that the mobile app should match the responsive design of the website, which should thematically reflect the look and feel inside the store – Design consistency basically. But doing cross channel well keeping the user in mind is not worthy enough to deserve a new marketing concept. Thus Omnichannel is much more than just a marginal evolution of existing thinking. It is about true continuity of the experience. It puts the customer, not corporate silos, at the center of the strategy and it acknowledges that mobile and social enable customers to not only switch between channels, but also use channels simultaneously.
Let’s say I’m shopping for shoes. I’m at home, surf online, save items I like in my shopping cart. Then I leave the website. A couple of minutes later I check out product reviews on my mobile phone while evaluating a product on a physical retail store shelf. Then I end up going to this new shoe shop where I start fresh looking at what is in front of me in the moment.
Consumers have multiple options to satisfy their shopping needs. They can either choose to shop in-store, or to shop via a desktop, laptop, smartphone or any connected device (smart TV). They might learn of a new product in an email or through a social media post, visit the website on their laptop to learn more, talk with some friends about their experiences with that product, and ultimately use their smartphone to make the purchase-or any number of possible combinations of these.
In the process of shopping, the investment of time in research offline and online is a fragmented experience with some tools to make it more coordinated, but only within the bounds of a single brand. Which would be fine if I only shopped for shoes my entire life at the same Company. But most of us like to browse and compare to see what else is out there and once that happens, the ease and functionality of my omnichannel experience falls apart. And this is why when brands worry about customer experience they need to think OMNIchannel. Its not about your customers or their customers, it is about all customers. There is a need of making the customer experience continuous and universal.
Being omniscient is perceiving all things. And the best way to make a customer perceive everything is to give him the ability to use his own data and experience in order to guide creation and context of every future shopping experience. Because customers behave differently according to the channel in term of buying strategy, fitting this new reality also demands to adapt content and personalize the experience into a multi-channel communication framework. The ability to maintain a continuous experience across brands, across format and across devices that is completely bespoke – that is the promise of a new way of thinking and marketing. More options mean more opportunities for marketers to connect with and engage their audience. But it also means more complexity. Keeping interactions consistent across multiple channels and ensuring a seamless experience for consumers is the new challenge.
If the first phase in the evolution of the customer relationship was messaging and media, the future is product research, selection and payment. With personal prefence data that can be used universally on devices, brand can jump at the opportunities made real by omnichannel. The brands who can best interpret omnichannel data and understand all customers are the winners.
This is why a lot of the latest conversations around Big Data have been focussed on making use of data from different sources and different channels – offline and online. But a Big Data project requires to have a clear vision of what we’re looking to achieve by bringing together data from different channels: Working across those channels more effectively and enable commerce to happen effectively and measurably – independent of the channel itself – is a good start.
If you’re still thinking that ensuring design and content consistency across devices is omnichannel, I would encourage you to reconsider. If you are ready to lead in the next phase of social business and get the most out of the promise that our new identity as customers is truly omniscient, then let’s get in touch. This way of thinking is the ground we built Hudson Mind on.
Here are a few key principles while building an omnichannel strategy:
- While exploring and discovering products in your brand industry, data should be transferable and its collect and use should be universal.
- In exchange for this data, customers will give you access to other data they have collected that will far outweigh the value of the single data strictly related to your brand.
- Any offline or online experience should allow a consumer to get identified and, as a result, give the brand the opportunity to access its preferences.
Last but not least, turning omnichannel impacts much more than your marketing strategy. The whole organization of your company will be impacted too.
Companies operating a multichannel strategy focus on maximizing the performance of each channel (physical, phone, web, mobile). Those companies likely structure their organization into ‘swim lanes’ focused on each channel, each with their own reporting structure and revenue goals. The consequence is competition between Divisions of the organization -which sometimes serves the greater good and other times generates friction and misaligned incentives. Deprecating the global business performance.
Contrary to an omnichannel approach: by aligning incentives of the different Divisions, turning omnichannel will make Divisions work across channels more effectively in order to reach shared goals and boost global performance and results, independently of the channel itself. Some would argue that Divisions may loose their autonomy and will be subject to a lack of ownership, which may depreciate their productivity and results.
Whether there is no doubt customers should be at the heart of the communication and shopping experience today, let’s keep in mind that the journey to turn omnichannel efficiently is a long way. And goes over a simple semantic or marketing debate, introducing new challenges within organizations: from data to team management, companies will have to embrace Change management and adapt their information systems and corporate culture.
Omnichannel? A revolution, in and out.