Having multiple channels to interact with customers is now the norm for businesses. In fact, customers who interact with your business through more than one touchpoint - e.g. social media, company website and physical store - are more likely to convert and become repeat customers.
Connecting all these touchpoints to create an omnichannel customer experience can improve a customer’s interaction with your organisation and increase sales, so let’s take a look at what an omnichannel experience is and how you can create one.
What is an omnichannel customer experience?
An omnichannel customer experience means a customer can interact with your business across multiple channels as part of one seamless customer journey. Marketing, sales, customer support and even in-store experiences are synced up so a customer can easily go from one customer channel to another to complete their purchase.
Let’s use a fashion retail store as an example. A potential customer is browsing Facebook when they see an advert for a pair of shoes that they love. They click the ad to be taken through to the store’s Facebook page, where they find out more about the shoes and read customer reviews.
From here, they click through to the store’s website to order the shoes. Unfortunately, they find that their size is not in stock, so they click the live chat widget to ask an agent when their size will be back on sale. The agent informs them that their size is actually in stock in the customer’s nearest store. The agent reserves the shoes for the customer in the store and, the next day, the customer goes to the store to purchase the shoes.
The customer had five different touchpoints with the company: Facebook ad; Facebook page; website; live chat; and in-store. Each touchpoint was connected to the next to give them a seamless journey through the sales funnel, from awareness right through to purchase. They had a perfect omnichannel customer experience.
What’s the difference between multichannel and omnichannel?
The difference between a multichannel and omnichannel customer experience is the level of connectivity between the different customer contact channels. In both, the customer can interact with your business across different digital and offline channels, but in a multichannel experience, these channels are not connected to each other.
Lots of businesses provide a multichannel experience, but that doesn’t equate to an omnichannel experience. Take the previous retail store as an example once again. The customer sees the Facebook ad for the shoes and clicks through to the Facebook page. Good start! However, there is no direct link from the Facebook page to the shoes on the website, so the customer has to search for them.
They manage to find the right web page and see that their size is not in stock. There is no way to contact the company from that page, so they have to search for the contact number to get in touch with an agent.
The agent tells the customer that their size is in stock at their local store, but they are not able to reserve the shoes for them. The next day the customer goes to the store and finds that the last pair in their size has been sold. The customer journey ends; they are left frustrated and without a new pair of shoes, and the store lost a sale.
As we can see, whilst the customer still interacted with the store through five different touchpoints, these touchpoints were not connected, giving more opportunities for the customer to abandon the sale.
Conversely, during an omnichannel customer experience, the different touchpoints are all connected. The customer moves seamlessly from one to the other, improving the customer experience and conversion rate for the business.
Why is an omnichannel experience important?
Giving your customers an omnichannel experience is important as it improves their encounter with your business and brand, which in itself increases sales.
A survey carried out by the Harvard Business Review found that omnichannel customers spend more than single-channel customers, on average spending 4% more in-store and 10% more online. In other words, customers who have an omnichannel experience are more valuable than those who don’t.
How does an omnichannel experience create more valuable customers?
- Personal experience - Not only can customers interact with your business through their favourite method (they can shop online or in-store, they can get in touch via phone or live chat), they can also use these methods simultaneously to meet their personal needs. For example, if a customer is shopping in-store for a product they have seen on your app, they can show an employee the product to help them find it. This personalisation improves the customer experience and increases the chance of a potential customer becoming a paying customer.
- Loyalty - the improved customer experience achieved through an omnichannel interaction also boosts brand loyalty. A study by ClickZ found that customers which connected with a brand through three or more channels were 90% more likely to buy from that brand again. Customers don’t like being frustrated - if they find a brand that gives them great customer service, they will stick with it, meaning one-time customers turn into repeat customers.
Examples of companies with great omnichannel journeys
Now we know what an omnichannel customer experience is and why it is important for your business, let’s see it in action!
Oasis is a British retailer that’s really mastered the connection between online and offline shopping. Their social media, website, mobile app and brick and mortar stores are all synced up to create a perfectly integrated shopping experience.
Their Instagram feed encourages customers to model their Oasis purchases, creating a great way for customers to interact and act as a further marketing tool. The app allows for easy on the go shopping, while the website integrates data from different stores to show customers what is selling where. Thanks to five different return options, including the ability to return an online purchase in store, Oasis ensures a continued omnichannel customer experience post-sale.
Physical stores are also seamlessly synced into the overall shopping experience. With in-store sales consultants armed with iPads, they can take payments so customers don’t have to queue at the till, provide instant product advice and information, and even order an item directly to a customer’s house if it is out of stock in the store.
How can you make planning a holiday an omnichannel experience? Disney has the answer.
As soon as customers book a trip to a Disney park, they can start planning every detail of their holiday with the My Disney Experience tool via the website or mobile app. From creating itineraries, to making restaurant bookings and even securing FastPass experiences, the entire holiday can be planned before the customer even steps on the plane.
Integrating the experience even more, this data is synced to the Disney Park MagicBand, which acts as guests’ park ticket, hotel room key, payment method while in the parks, and even stores their FastPass options. Change a FastPass choice or payment method on the app, and it automatically gets updated on the band.
Disney uses all the data from the MagicBand both for targeted remarketing and to improve the in-park experience. For example, if they notice a lot of people are in one area, they might adjust the appearance of a beloved Disney character to show up in the right place at the right time.
The worldwide coffeehouse company offers a perfect example of omnichannel customer experience with its Starbucks card.
The basis of the Starbucks loyalty programme isn’t unique: customers use the card to buy Starbucks items and get rewards. The difference is that the card is perfectly linked up to the mobile app, website and in-store experience. This means that when a customer makes a change to the card via one channel, it automatically and instantly updates across the other channels.
Reload the card on the mobile app, and it gets reloaded on a customer’s website profile and physical card for in-store use, letting customers reload whilst waiting in line. Reward points also get automatically updated across the various channels.
Amazon is the ultimate ecommerce website, but did you know it is working to extend its shopping experience into the offline world too? Brick and mortar stores are still very popular so even traditional ecommerce businesses shouldn’t rule them out for an extended omnichannel experience.
Starting with pop-up stores inside shopping centres and large retailers, Amazon created an offline shopping experience for customers to browse products and seek help from in-store advisors in real time. From stores dedicated to Kindle and Echo products, to fashion pop-ups and even an Amazon bar, the pop-up stores proved such a success that the company is aiming to grow its offline presence with more permanent stores.
To ensure continuity in the online and offline experience, Amazon stores will have a self-serve set up, but the ability to see the product before purchasing, and the presence of advisors, will make the shopping experience more tangible.
6 tips to create your own omnichannel customer experience
Read these top tips to get started on creating an omnichannel customer experience for your business.
1. Understand your audience
The most important thing to remember about creating an omnichannel customer experience is that it needs to deliver what your customer wants, when they want it, how they want it. The first thing to do before setting out on any strategy is to do some deep research on your customers to truly understand the people who make up your audience.
Depending on the demographic you’re looking to target, the balance to strike between online and offline channels will differ considerably.
Younger generations such as Gen Z and millennials, will almost always prefer to use online channels to interact with your brand, with social media and branded websites being the most popular channels to use. Conversely, older generations such as Gen X and baby boomers prefer to shop in physical stores and branded websites.
Depending on the type of service you offer, you might have a very niche audience all looking for the same thing, or you might have a mixed audience, so you’ll need to develop several customer personas to build your strategy around.
2. Map your customer journey
After identifying who your customers are and what channels they use to interact with you, you need to map out the journey they take to purchase a product. With this map, you can highlight areas where an omnichannel experience can be implemented or enhanced.
For example, when mapping a customer journey, you might notice that you lose a lot of customers between the ‘review basket’ stage and the ‘complete purchase’ stage on your website. Perhaps customers are struggling to edit their basket so end up abandoning the purchase?
A solution could be to install a live chat option on the ‘review basket’ page. This way, if customers encounter difficulties editing their basket, they can quickly contact an agent for assistance. The agent can help them modify their basket in real time and the customer can complete their purchase.
By mapping out customers’ journeys, it is easy to spot opportunities for an omnichannel experience and identify what resources you need to implement it.
3. Scale your content to fit different screens
It’s all well and good trying to create an omnichannel customer experience, but if content isn’t optimised properly for different screens, you can often fall down at the first hurdle.
The purpose of an omnichannel experience is to enable your customers to interact with your brand with ease and fluidity, switching across different channels as they choose.
Unfortunately, not all websites automatically optimise their content for different screen sizes, so not doing this can disrupt your customers online journey. In the worst cases, this can deter online customers from making a purchase or using your website in the future.
“This website is amazing on mobile! I love that I have to zoom in 500% to press a button!” - Said no one ever
4. Implement omnichannel support services
As customers interact with your brand across different channels, it is important that you provide an omnichannel customer support strategy to run alongside it.
To create an omnichannel customer experience, customers should be able to communicate directly with an agent on the channel they are currently interacting with. Live web chat, for example, is a popular contact channel for companies and customers to use, as it enables instant communication on any page of a website.
When implementing an omnichannel support strategy, you also need to ensure that your contact centre agents can easily offer the necessary omnichannel support. A system like Talkative ensures that an agent’s contact options, such as live chat, web call, video call and cobrowse are integrated into one screen so they can easily move between interactions when required.
These new channels will also be perfectly synced with existing phone and email channels, either through integration with your existing phone system, such as Mitel, or via Talkative’s own telephony capabilities. Integrating all possible contact channels in your contact centre in this way is the best way to support a seamless omnichannel customer experience.
5. Enable an omnichannel experience from start to finish (including post-sale)
Many companies can offer a seamless experience during the beginning stages of the customer journey, but what about later on? What about post-sale omnichannel customer experience?
For example, imagine the retail shoe example one last time. In this case, the online store has the customer’s size so they purchase the shoes online. When the shoes arrive, they are too big and the customer needs a smaller size. Rather than faffing around with posting the shoes back, they go to their local store to exchange them.
The customer arrives at the store to be told that because the shoes were not purchased in-store, they can not be exchanged in-store. The customer is left frustrated, has to repackage the shoes and pay for postage to send them back. They get a refund and choose not to purchase the shoes in a different size.
The pitfall in this scenario is that the omnichannel strategy was only applied to the beginning stages of the customer journey. When the customer needed to engage in a further exchange with the brand post-sale, the omnichannel experience didn’t extend as far as it needed to in order to keep the customer satisfied.
To deliver a fully omnichannel experience in this scenario, the assistant should have been able to process an exchange in-store for an online purchase, ending the customer journey and keeping the sale.
6. Don’t forget about your physical store
One thing to remember is that although digital channels account for an increasingly larger share of the market, physical stores are by no means defeated.
In 2019, the ecommerce share of global retail sales was just shy of 14%. Although this is a significant number which is growing year-on-year, it shows that physical stores still hold the lion’s share of the market.
For an effective omnichannel strategy to work, it’s important to understand that your customers are very rarely purely online or offline. It’s all well and good integrating your online channels with one another, but if the physical stores aren’t part of the strategy, the omnichannel customer experience is not complete.