Optimizing the Omni-channel experience is not an easy task. Examples galore where major companies fail to provide the level of omni-channel experience many digitally savvy customers expect. A globalized economy pushes competition to new heights. While this is often good for consumers, it forces major businesses to face new challenges every day. Consider this real customer experience:
“Last summer, my bank, we’ll call them Bank A to be nice, decided to upgrade my debit card to use a chip that is supposedly more secure. The problem is, they never told me, so one day I tried to buy some groceries and my card was declined. When I ordered a new card at the local branch, they ended up opening a line of credit that I didn’t ask for and sent me a new credit card instead of the debit I needed. I wracked a huge interest bill because most of my purchases with the mislabeled card were considered cash advances and charged large interest from day one. Needless to say, I have a new bank. The new bank is much more meticulous with their security, so when I try to use the mobile app and have to enter two pins and a passphrase for every function, I nearly explode with rage, berating my current bank for a minor inconvenience despite how wonderful their overall service is. The point is, a previous failure set my expectations and made me less patient with omni channel inefficiencies.”
This customer is judging their new bank by the expectations they developed at a competitor. This lesson can prove valuable in any industry: customer experience optimization drives success. Today, the largest opportunity for all brands to push customer experience is through omni-channel presentation.
Here is a playbook to Optimizing the Omni-Channel Experience:
The first step in truly grasping the potential of an omni-channel strategy is to differentiate from multi-channel practices. In a multi-channel operation, a business will separate each channel into distinct management branches and analyze their metrics independently. Stacey Schwartz, a business instructor at Rutgers, explains it as, “[separating] structure organization into swim lanes.” Transitioning from this mentality and organization into a true omni-channel operation is more than just boosting communication and collaboration. For a completely seamless experience, departments need to share their metrics and fully understand how they impact each other. So how much is an omni-channel approach really worth?
Quantifying the Value
Stacey Schwartz and her associates at Rutgers ascertained an important statistic. More than 43 percent of shoppers use mobile apps while at a brick and mortar store. More specifically, that 43 percent attempted to use mobile apps for the very stores where they were shopping. The word attempt is a key takeaway because many major retailers
Stacey Schwartz, a business instructor at Rutgers, explains multi channels as, “[separating] structure of a channel into a swim lanes.”
do not have seamless integration between mobile apps and in-store shopping. Those that do are often lagging in social media marketing. More complete research on the topic is still being attained, but the investigations that have happened so far all point in the same direction. The companies that have the best crossover experiences between their existing channels have the highest satisfaction ratings.
Across almost any large company, the major divisions that will contribute to the omni channel experience are executives, IT, marketing, customer service and primary staff. The common ineffective approach is to increase interdepartmental meetings in an attempt to force the different groups to work together and smooth their interactivity. In reality, very few businesses have truly mastered omni-channel marketing without having a single head who focuses solely on the customer experience. In some cases this is a single person, but more often it is a small department that is responsible for tying the others together.
Building a “master of experience” group will require talent in three key areas. First, a quality analysis expert will need to be able to find and present reliable measurements of the whole experience across your combined channels. Second, a
Understanding how your existing infrastructure will need to collaborate with the new omni-channel is a good first step, but it’s also important to break down the major channels.
personnel expert will be necessary to keep the various departments organized and on target. Finally, and often most importantly, an experienced systems engineer is the best bet for combining departments into a single, holistic unit. Systems engineers in practice are responsible for getting different design groups to successfully contribute to larger projects, and this is precisely the skillset that can make omni-channel approaches superior to multi-channel organizations.
The Five Pillars
Understanding how your existing infrastructure will need to collaborate is a good first step, but it’s also important to break down the major channels. Some niche channels will vary with the industry, but in general there are five universal channels: in store, mobile app, social media, website and direct contact. Some businesses will rely more on sales representatives than a location for shopping, but the concepts translate.
Most businesses have refined their approach to face-to-face sales and customer service. The other pillars are usually the biggest areas of opportunity. The major goal for an omni-channel presentation is a seamless transition. If a customer fills out their contact information in any one channel, that information needs to be shared by the other channels with no effort on the part of the customer. To really grasp the concept, picture this:
A customer sees a liked Facebook post on their feed. By following the link on their phone, they find a sale that appeals to them. In order to access the sale, they are prompted to download an app that, with permission, automatically accesses their contact information and location. They can make their purchases right then and there, and the app even highlights the closest available storefronts in case they would like to see the products before buying or would prefer delivery to a store.
Now imagine that the same experience exists on a laptop or PC, and that at any point the experience can handoff between the channels with no loading time. This is example still falls short of the ultimate experience, because it doesn’t cover phone, chat, email or other forms of direct contact that, when seamlessly integrated, elevate the experience even farther. That is an omni-channel experience, and it is the pinnacle of convenience. More important to the bottom line, customers connected to a business through this experience are always “at the store,” and they are always available to receive advertising and promotions. Additionally, they will customize their view to make sure the companies they like are even more visible in their daily lives, and through that they will socially advertise those businesses to their circles. Omni-channel is undoubtedly the future. It is difficult to master but well worth the investment.