What omni-channel means
An omni-channel experience approaches customer service, marketing and customer experience in a cohesive, connected manner, wherever and whenever a customer reaches out.
This means connecting multiple communication channels, tools and platforms to create a seamless shopping experience.
What differs omni-channel to multi-channel is that everything is connected. Multi-channel experiences are what most businesses offer today. There will be a website, a Facebook page, perhaps Twitter and more, but all of these channels are separate with differing strategies, aims, and even brading.
With omni-channel, visiting any of these platforms feels no different from another. It recognises each platform and device a customer could use to interact with a company. From there, the company designs a slick omni-channel customer experience, which means a customer is always in touch with the brand - rather than different teams in different channels.
Perhaps the leaders in this are Starbucks who, thanks to a seamless app-website-store relationship, boast almost 30% of sales through their app.
Customers use the app to see their nearest Starbucks, to order their beverage, and even to join the membership programme. And when they come to collect their drink, all of this information is synced.
Why omni-channel matters
Let’s put it simply: customers spend more with omni-channel retailers. According to Deloitte, they spend 208% more.
And as we established earlier, there are a bunch of ways to reach out to you today. An Internet Retailing study found almost half (45%) of UK shoppers browse online in their free time, and 22% of UK shoppers bought an item after seeing something on social media.
So you’ve got:
- a captive audience searching for you
- and not just through the traditional means of your website or a search engine
Imagine then that a prospective customer sees a cool product on your Facebook page. But when they click it, it takes them to your general webshop.
If you’re adapted to omni-channel, this wouldn’t happen. The customer would go directly to the product on offer.
Similarly with customer feedback: let’s say a customer reaches out to you through Facebook to complain about your service. You might have a dedicated customer service tool to deal with this, and in an omni-channel world the feedback is linked across your software and Facebook. It is answerable in either tool, but the same team, with the same expertise.
It’s all about creating as few barriers as possible across channels and devices, so a customer never notices a difference in their experience with you whether they hop from their phone to the computer, or from your social media to your website.
Do it right, and Aberdeen Group reckon you’ll retain 89% of your customers, opposed to a dismal 33% retention rate for companies with a weak omni-channel focus.
What you can do today to see the benefits
A true in-depth omni-channel strategy takes some work, but there are small things you can start doing today definitely in time for Christmas.
1. Align your branding
Make sure your channels are fed into one another. No more edgy Facebook branding but then dull webshop marketing.
Walk in your customers’ shoes and take a tour of your own brand. See where things perhaps don’t make sense any more, and iron out those imperfections to create something coherent and strong.
2. Bring digital in-store
With iPads or similar technology, being digital in your brick-and-mortar store has never been cheaper or easier.
Take a look at UK fashion retailer Oasis. Staff in their stores are available to check stock levels and pricing at any time, all thanks to their trusty iPads.
Customers simply approach staff, ask about a product, and all the information is there. And if it’s out of stock, the staff member can order the missing product then and there.
Oh - and once the product is ordered, it’s easily trackable in the Oasis app. Pretty slick customer service, right?
3. Develop content that really speaks to customer behaviour
This is especially important on the run up to Christmas where you might be retargeting old customers, or pushing promotions to new ones.
Refer back to previous buying behaviour. Entice new customers with offers unique to them. Reward loyal customers with incentives to buy from you again, but perhaps through a different channel this time.
And, most importantly, make sure this curated content functions well across all devices. It’s all part of making sure your marketing is aligned.
4. Adapt for most-used devices
Customers increasingly use a range of devices to research and make a purchase. Make sure you are catering for the devices people reach you on.
For example, if a customer adds an item to their cart on their mobile, but then later switches to their cart on a laptop, the cart status should still remain the same.
Brands like Topshop are especially good at this. Also at Topshop, their Topshop On the Go app goes one step further - equipped with a barcode scanner, customers can look at stock levels and alternative items. Anything that’s interesting can then be saved for a later date, or bought on the spot.
5. Gather customer feedback wherever you can
Online reviews increase customer confidence in you. But how can you collect reviews in the omni-channel space?
Email and social media are a given, but try an iPad in store next time. Or a link on the receipt of a purchased product which asks for feedback. Wherever you can be open to feedback, do it. And when you get the feedback, sprinkle it across your multiple channels to keep customers trusting you no matter how they find you.
Ready to make the change?
Sure, rethinking yourself for an audience that’s also rethinking itself is not easy. What’s key though is being attentive to your customers and their behaviour. Start making small changes today to become more intuitive and agile, and I guarantee you’ll reap big rewards in 2019.