Businesses in an Omnichannel World: All for One and One for All
The prefix "omni-" means all, so omnichannel retail would refer to all channels being potentially used in the purchase process. However, it should go further than that with the retailer adopting the concept that all of these touchpoints are NOT multiple, separate channels, but rather ONE CHANNEL. A customer's journey shouldn't be looked at through, let's say, three separate instances of laptop, then smartphone, then in-store. They should all be part of the same instance.
In the same light, omnichannel marketing would assume that the customer will consider all of these channels to be part of the same shopping experience. Therefore, present promotions to them accordingly, not multiple, separate promotions as if you're meeting the customer for the first time in each channel.
When considering that the all of omnichannel is a unified all, what are the factors that go into making omnichannel mean one experience?
Omni- Means SMOOTH
We should define the omnichannel retail shopping experience as the ability for consumers to effortlessly go from one channel (e.g., smartphone) to the next (e.g., retail store) without having to interrupt their buying journey. For example, they research the product at home on their tablet or desktop, then go to the store to see it in person, get additional information (from the store clerk or via additional smartphone research), be able to apply digital coupons in-store and complete the purchase in-store, on smartphone, tablet or desktop — all integrated and all effortless.
Retailers should be able to move along with the customer from one touchpoint to another, digital or physical, without losing their information and search and interaction history. Customers expect you to pick up where they left off, without them having to repeat themselves. Likewise, marketing efforts should be made according to where the customer is in their journey — i.e., the right content at the right time.
Omni- means NOW
Since an omnichannel experience is actually a ONE-channel thought, the people who live in an omnichannel world have an always-connected mentality. When you're always connected, you don't want to be disconnected. When you have the world at your fingertips, you don't want delayed assistance.
Today's consumers are on the go, very connected and don't have any patience for delayed response. They don't want to be queued and have to wait for a response (online, in-store or on the phone). They want the answer to their questions right now, right on the device they're using and right in their current physical space. Instant gratification rules, and because of that, consumers have no tolerance for repeating their information, name, phone number, account number, email, etc., when they're handed from one representative to another (independent on how the handoff is done — phone agent to live chat; live chat to phone agent; store clerk to online assistance; etc.). Real-time customer service — and real-time marketing — is a true differentiator in delivering better customer experiences, be it in the sale or a support situation.
Omni- means ME
Customers expects their journey with you to be a personal one. They're the only one on the device, so don't push promotions on items for which they have no interest. Marketing in an omnichannel world entails acting upon the customer's interests and weaving it across channels — in-store and online. Businesses should be aware of which device the customer is on, where they are, and what their specific objective is at the moment. If they're using their mobile device, promote offers or new items that would be most meaningful to them on the go. Mobile marketing opportunities can be placed within the store as well, with QR codes or SMS messages strategically placed where the customer might take advantage of deals they want.
Omni- means COLLABORATE
No longer must channels fight each other; instead, they can take advantage of a collaborative omnichannel strategy and work together towards the conversion of shoppers. For example, retailers can embrace showrooming by understanding that it's the nature of consumers to want the best deal they can find. Armed with this fact, brick-and-mortar stores can win these showrooming consumers by presenting in-store the best deal. How? By providing a true omnichannel experience and connecting online and offline worlds; supplementing store personnel with online live chat agents capable of picking up where the store sales person left off; providing more detailed product information; sharing promotions; making inventory transparent; delivering rich content such as product videos, specs, even product reviews; and extending digital offers (i.e., coupons) that can be redeemed in-store.
All for One and One for All
By incorporating all possible engagement touchpoints into your marketing and customer experience programs, you ensure that you're reaching your customers wherever they are, with each touchpoint supporting the previous one. By viewing all channels as ONE experience, you guarantee that you're making that experience a meaningful one for each customer. A meaningful customer experience leads to a satisfied, loyal customer.
Bernard Louvat is the president and CEO of TouchCommerce, a provider of omnichannel engagement solutions.