Channel Surfing: The Omnichannel Customer Experience
Without knowing what an omnichannel experience is, customers say they want it and, in many cases, have come to expect it. According to PwC’s June 2023 Global Consumer Insights Pulse Survey, 80 percent of consumers shopped across at least three channels in the first half of the year. If we ascribe to the common belief that it takes seven marketing touches before a customer will act on a call to action, the fact that consumers are shopping across at least three channels is significant.
It goes without saying, for as much channel surfing as customers are already doing, companies should have the right CX strategies in place to ensure customer satisfaction and retention. The brands that have the strongest loyalty and engagement and who see the strongest customer lifetime value all have a strong omnichannel strategy.
Distinguishing Between Omnichannel and Multichannel
But what is an omnichannel experience? First, I'll answer by explaining what it's not. An omnichannel experience is not simply multichannel. Multichannel implies you have a presence in multiple channels; however, they're not connected. This may mean you have a web presence, a mobile app, a SMS program, social channels and maybe even a point-of-sale app in a brick-and-mortar store. However, in a multichannel experience, the customer and customer experience are unique to each channel. While this is better than nothing, it's not providing the best possible experience to the end user — your customer.
An omnichannel experience, by comparison, is very customer centric. It takes a personalized approach to the customer and their interactions. Moving from channel to channel is seamless, as the entire experience is synched and often based on customer behavior. No matter how or where the customer is engaging with you, the customer feels known and seen. They're treated to an experience that deepens brand loyalty and encourages further engagement. The connected experience across all channels instills trust in the customer; they know what to expect in their brand experience. And this leads to higher satisfaction and retention rates. According to Omnisend, customer retention rates are 90 percent higher for omnichannel vs. single channel.
And if all that's not enough, an omnichannel customer experience strategy can help you understand your customer journey at a much more detailed level. With a seamless, consistent journey, you're able to create a laser-focused, data-driven customer journey map. You can better understand entry points or first engagements with your brand as well as better identify where you're losing people in the sales funnel.
How to Implement an Omnichannel Experience
While you can’t argue with the benefits of an omnichannel experience, you may be left wondering how you implement one — particularly if you have a single or multichannel strategy in place already. Here are some steps to get started:
- Take inventory: Start by taking inventory of all your channels. You likely have websites, point-of-sale apps, mobile apps, social engagement tools, SMS apps, email channels and more. Are these the right channels? Do you understand not only how your customers are engaging with your channels but how they interact with your competitors? And know you don’t have to be everywhere in order to deliver a strong omnichannel experience. It's far better to do a few channels incredibly well than try to be everywhere.
- Be consistent: You’ll then want to ensure the experience is consistent across the board. In many cases, you have different teams developing different experiences. Make sure each is compliant with your brand guidelines and provides a seamless look and feel.
- Be data-driven: The heart of a strong omnichannel experience is the data. Take stock where all the data you collect is stored and ask your technical teams if the data from various channels can be stored in one place. This will give you a more holistic view of each customer, their behavior and their journey. With that, you can personalize interactions. You can anticipate their needs, wants and behaviors.
- Be seamless: And finally, ask your development teams to ensure you're delivering a connected experience by making the channel transitions seamless. For example, if a customer starts an interaction on their phone, you’ll want to ensure when they come to your site they can pick up where they left off.
Your customer’s reliance on technology isn't going to go away. They will continue to surf the various channels in search of an epic experience. By executing on a connected, seamless, personalized and truly omnichannel strategy, you can deliver the ultimate ride that will result in strong loyalty.
Sara Faatz is director of the technology community relations team at Progress, a trusted provider of application development and infrastructure software.
Related story: 2022 Top 100 Omnichannel Retailers
Sara Faatz is director of the technology community relations team at Progress. She has spent the majority of her 20+ year career in the developer space, building community, producing events, creating marketing programs and more. With more than 20 years’ experience leading corporate and product marketing and community building for organizations that target primarily the developer audience, Sara has a proven track record of conceptualizing and orchestrating campaigns that evolve the brand and positively impact the company’s image and revenue. Over the years, she has run marketing departments (both large and small), built community programs from the ground up, created partner programs, and acted as a brand ambassador and spokesperson for various organizations. When she’s not working, she likes diving with sharks, running, and watching hockey. You can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.