Hey, guess what? In case you hadn’t heard, “Omni- Channel” is the latest buzzword!
All kidding aside, the omni channel experience has become a much more relevant topic given the rise of social media, mobile devices, and new ways to shop and interact with our favourite brands.
So, what is it exactly? Well, the omni channel experience refers to the way a company uses a host of different marketing channels in concert with one another. Put another way, omni channel marketing aims to make the whole of a business’s communication greater than the sum of its parts.
Your objective should be an integrated shopping experience for the consumer, no matter where they encounter your brand and no matter which method they use to get there. Let’s break down this omni channel concept with a simple example.
The Retail Experience
Think back to the last time you were in a retail store. Do you remember if you used your smartphone at any point during the visit?
According to research from Oracle, 48 percent of consumers use their mobile devices to look up product ratings or search for promotions for a company while they’re in-store. By now, it’s probably a given that about half of customers will use their phones as part of the shopping experience, even if they end up buying in-person.
Are you starting to see the potential issue here? Imagine you went into a home furnishings store and saw a set of bedsheets that seemed promising. While still in the store, you pop into the store’s app on your phone to learn more about the product, and you discover that it’s not in the database. For some reason, the product information isn’t available for you to look up, even though the product is sitting right in front of your eyes.
A little annoyed, you switch to your phone’s mobile web browser and visit the store’s e-commerce site. This time, it does have the product listed there, but it says your current location is out of stock. This is ridiculous! From there, checking the Facebook page and talking to a customer service rep just get you even more confused…
You can see how this story ends. When you feel like the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, your instinct is to go somewhere that’s got it together — to a brand that inspires confidence and makes the process easy.
This is where the omni channel experience matters. Even if each individual channel is functional on its own, all the parts must work together in a cohesive manner, because you just don’t know which way — or ways — a customer is going to choose to interact with your brand.
Misaligned channels of communication are the kiss of death for a great, integrated customer experience.
3 Steps to an Omni Channel Experience
Now that it’s clear how important the omni channel experience is, here are 3 tips to consider as you implement it for your own business.
1) Make it All About the Customer.
One of the best things about modern technology is the way it can provide a personalized experience. One customer wants to go into the store; another customer wants to shop online. One customer wants to talk to a rep on the phone; another customer would rather get help by tweeting to your Twitter handle. Your job is to make the whole process seamless and highly personalized across every communication channel. And the ground rule of mastering this is to put the buyer up front and center. Don’t think about clearing stocks. Don’t think of how you can push the prices up a bit. Focus on delivering exactly what the consumer needs at the right time and everything else – including profits will fall right in place.
In fact as you get more sophisticated, you can take data you’ve gathered about a person to send them personalized offers. There are customer engagement solutions that can tell you when a customer is in the process of moving, for example, and you can send them promotions and offers that relate to their current needs: deals on items you need in your new home. With an omni channel experience, these highly relevant offers bring more value to them, while boosting the return on your marketing and advertising dollars.
Here are some key insights into what you can add to the Omni Channel mix and really seal the deal for your buyers.
2) Make Each Independent Channel Outstanding & Aligned
There are a lot of companies with social media pages that still treat these platforms like a bulletin board for announcements, rather than a dialogue. One of the benefits of so many communication channels is that you can engage with your customers wherever they happen to interact with your brand.
So don’t be afraid to pick up the thread of a conversation started on one platform through other channels. A customer discussed an issue with the support center? Ensure that they receive an email when their problem is solved and also direct message them on social with a survey to share their estimation of the help they received. You’re bound to make a better impression when you’re utilizing each communication channel to its fullest potential — especially when the various channels are coordinated, rather than competing with each other.
3) Accept that the Omni Channel Experience is the Future.
You might be closing your eyes and pinching yourself, hoping to go back to simpler days, but the growing demand for an omni channel experience is here to stay. Rather than fight it and lose precious headway, now is the time to embrace all of the new opportunities that come from more sophisticated customer engagement, location intelligence, and information management.
Think “unified.” Think “cohesive.” Think “integrated.”
Right now, the new frontiers continue to be social media and mobile, but who knows what the next addition might be? Brand specific Chat bots called up by virtual assistants like Siri are in the offings.
All you can do is get excited about the possibilities and keep your fingers on the pulse of users to gauge the next possible channel of interaction.