3 best practices for an omnichannel strategy?
Bárbara Daroca. – “The Merriam-Webster dictionary translates ‘omni’ as ‘all, universal’, so when thinking about omnichannel a lot of business leaders think they have to be present in all channels. This approach is dangerous. Sure, in an omnichannel strategy you offer your customer a seamless journey through multiple channels – but it doesn’t mean you have to be in all the channels! Companies that are successfully executing their omnichannel initiatives understand they need to choose the right channels for their product or service and they need to allocate a clear role to each channel.
That would be best practice number one: you need data. You need good data to stay focused on the channels that are truly relevant for your business, for example where will your customers self-service and where will you provide personalised after-sale services? And you need to make that data work for you: great experiences rarely happen by chance, there is a lot of studying, testing and pivoting behind them. Remember that sometimes less is more! Collecting and processing data can become costly, so don’t try to do everything at once. If you’re thinking that this is also true for a multi-channel approach, you’re right; in order to go to the next step and deliver to your customers a seamless omnichannel experience, your (chosen) channels must work together in unison. And that’s only possible with good data.
Second, figure out what your customer wants or needs to buy your product or service. Is it a third-party site banner, followed by a landing page with an embedded form? Or should it all start with a personalised email? The key word is testing – ideally with real customers! Don’t make assumptions. Once you know what works for you, you will be able to build the best customer journey, choosing the right channels for the right step, so your customers experience a seamless journey, so easy that they’ll come back – and recommend you to others.
Third, omnichannel includes also your human channels! Your omnichannel strategy should be a coordinated approach to sales, marketing and customer service. Don’t get too lost in algorithms and instill this desire to deliver the best customer experience in your teams, especially those in the front line, but also teams that design the product and packaging, develop the systems, draft the paperwork and perform back-office duties. Everyone contributes to the differentiating client experience. Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is just for your marketing team; share customer experience data across the value chain and you will improve your customer journey in ways you hadn’t imagined.
Has the customer experience changed?
“Yes, it has. Before the internet customers relied on ads and news for information on their decision to buy. Switching brands was more difficult; for some products or services there weren’t that many to start with and gathering information on unknown brands and companies took time.
It’s not just the internet; the proliferation of smart devices has changed our lives dramatically and has put ‘mobile’ at the heart of most business strategies. Nowadays, with just a few taps while commuting or riding the elevator you have all the information you need – even from brands you have never heard of or seen in your home market – and not just from savvy marketers, but from actual consumers of that product or service. Switching brands is easier and customer expectations are constantly developing. A trendy quote of this last decade sums it up pretty well: the last best customer experience that anyone has anywhere becomes the minimum expectation for the experiences they want everywhere.
I don’t think that a few years back businesses thought about the customer ‘experience’ during the customer journey. Good customer service, which typically happens during and post-sale, was the focus. The shift to customer experience, which covers all the contacts that customers (and prospects!) have with the brand, has become center stage. Good customer service isn’t enough anymore; we all want easy, convenient and smart products and services – from the initial search. With the internet we now have a myriad of complex choices offered through many channels, so we all favor simple, integrated solutions; in other words, we will always go for the superior omnichannel experience rather than a fragmented customer journey. Businesses must provide customers with this differentiating customer experience to engender loyalty, which will ensure that customers come back and that they become ambassadors of the brand.
The omnichannel strategy is mainly talked about in retail: can it be applied to any type of business?
“I believe so. If your company sells B2B, your buyers are people exposed to omnichannel experiences in their B2C world – why would they expect any less in their professional environment? Research shows that an omnichannel marketing strategy will yield more sales and more loyal customers, who are more willing to share data which in turn will yield better results for the company. Whether B2C or B2B, omnichannel makes sense. The question is: where and how do we start?
I would even argue that having all your channels working seamlessly together (the core of an omnichannel strategy) is key in a B2B relationship. The customer journey in many cases is more complex than in B2C, so the ‘jump’ from one channel to the next (say, from a self-servicing platform to a contact center) probably happens more often and the problems encountered require a personalised solution. Imagine you are processing a large transaction, have been inputting data for a while when you encounter a roadblock of some kind, and when you call the customer service, the person on the other end of the line attempts to solve your problem starting with something like: ‘Are you already a client?’ That is a terrible experience for anyone, but when hundreds of thousands of euros are at risk in that instant, investing in an omnichannel approach suddenly makes a lot of sense.”