Since customers are able to purchase from different channels, from offline as well as from online, it has been necessary for brands to adapt their communication to each channel without compromising on the consistency of their messages and their services.
Building an omni-channel journey for your customer is the best way to keep control of your brand and ensure the best customer experience all along the way, from day 1 - the day they get to know you, to the day 2 - when they start purchasing from you and so on (when they contact your after your sales service for example).
The main challenge is to connect and coordinate with all your departments and select suitable solution and technics to build an interactive customer journey.
What Does Omni-Channel Mean?
Omni-channel refers to a sales approach method to create a seamless shopping experience, whether the client is shopping online from a laptop, mobile device, phone, or at the physical store. Moreover, the omni-channel approach integrates and facilitates communications with the clients to make the shopping experience even more personal and satisfying.(at each stage of the customer journey)
Omni-Channel vs Multi-channel
Omni-channel differs significantly from the multi-channel approach even though the two methodologies are often confused. Multi-channel commerce is typical of a company that, for instance, offers an online shop beside a physical store, and the two channels work separately and independently.
On the other hand, omni-channel makes all the different sales channels and customer support communications work together simultaneously with the intention of closing the sale and guaranteeing maximum customer satisfaction.
For instance, when shopping at a store that uses the omni-channel approach, the customer can check the company’s inventory on his computer and finalize the purchase later with their smartphone. Then, they can decide to pick up the goods at the physical store. Moreover, it doesn’t matter if the customer talks to a customer care representative at the store, on a live chat session, via email, or on the phone since all of them have instant access to his previous preferences and purchases. Thus, offering the best assistance to the customer.
How to Build an Omni-channel Strategy
Even though the benefits of the omni-channel approach are apparent, implementing the methodology may not be straightforward. To bring home the best results, your company needs to develop a solid omni-channel strategy. You must focus on a few key points.
Study Your Customers
A good understanding of your customers is the starting point for your omni-channel strategy. It will make the difference between success and failure. You need to collect some critical information about their backgrounds, goals, needs, challenges, digital habits, and anything else that may give you critical insights on the omni-channel experience which will truly resonate with them.
Choose the Right Channels
Since there are so many ways to reach your customers, choose the ones that will bring more leads and conversions. For instance, it doesn’t make any sense to invest on Instagram if your users mainly interact through Facebook or WeChat. If you have studied your customers accurately, you will know where to focus your efforts.
Your goal is to provide the right information at the right time, which means that you need to differentiate between new and old customers. For instance, a new customer will be interested in offers and discounts but not so much on your company’s achievements. You should save this information for existing customers to increase their loyalty.
Ensure Communication Between Departments
An omni-channel approach will work only if your business's front-end and back-end can interact effectively and be agile. Make sure that each team clearly understands its role inside the organization, and they communicate effectively with each other to make your customer’s experience as smooth as possible.
Make Good Use of Technology
Technology plays a crucial role in implementing an omni-channel approach. For instance, an excellent Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool must be at the core of your omni-channel strategy. Without a CRM tool, you cannot track and record the customers’ interaction with your brand. Therefore, you cannot implement an omni-channel strategy.
However, in addition to the CRM tool, there is plenty of other technology that will also serve your purposes and make the process as efficient as possible. Therefore, create a technology stack combining a series of tools that suit your company’s preferences and goals. For instance, you may choose between various marketing automation platforms, email service providers, CMS, conferencing tools, and analytics solutions.
Invest in your Web Platforms
Your website, app, or social accounts are like your business card to your customers. The UI and UX you provide will play a critical role in converting your visitors into customers. Investing in making your website look more professional and reliable will attract more customers and, most likely, result in a higher ROI.
Top 5 Must-Have Solutions for the Perfect Omni-Channel Journey
In the following, we will illustrate five essential solutions that you need to implement to create an omni-channel experience.
Appealing and Easy to Use Online Store (UX/UI)
Your online store should be well organized and be comfortable enough to navigate that it creates a seamless user experience. The concept of seamlessness doesn’t refer solely to how you organize your content and the different steps to close a sale on the website.
Your customers must have the option to move from one channel to the other without encountering any roadblocks. For instance, if the customer is in the process of buying a product while sitting at his computer and suddenly has to leave, he should be able to switch to his mobile device and resume the process exactly from where he left off. Or suppose he desires to switch from a live chat session and wants to talk to an operator on the phone. In that case, he should be able to do so without needing to provide all his details again.
Therefore, you need to study your typical customer's shopping journey, identify the roadblocks he might encounter, and provide a solution. Your job is to anticipate every possible next step of your customer and facilitate the transition, especially when this requires a channel change. For example, think of a customer who buys a product online but decides to pick it up at the store. If he chooses this option, the next step is to automatically provide detailed instructions for the pickup location, available parking, procedures to follow, and anything else that can make your customer's life easier.
You must streamline your customer journey by implementing all the solutions that facilitate his experience. It should be effortless for him to resume any activities from where he left off. Suppose he experiences some hiccup along the way. In that case, a solution, or an alternative to getting around the roadblock must be available to him.
Integration (online coupons to redeem offline): Integrate your offline store with your online presence
The concept of considering online and offline retail as two different realities is now outdated. People switch from online to offline without thinking about it. Therefore, you must ensure that your customer can move between channels easily and without being confused.
A practical way to combine the two channels is, for instance, the practice of offering online coupons that your customer can redeem at the physical store. Or, vice versa, use the store to promote special deals available only online.
This integration concept has been fully embraced, for instance, by Nike. At the physical stores, shop attendants are equipped with portable POS (point of Sales) devices and promote online-exclusive items. Moreover, during the payment process, the customers can even decide if they want to collect the items immediately or have them delivered to their home.
24/7 Live online service/AI chatbot
An indispensable part of an omni-channel strategy is the integration of 24/7 customer support. In the past, only a few companies could afford such a service due to the costs and resources involved. Now though, AI chatbots allow any business to communicate and interact with customers around the clock.
There are several scenarios in which a chatbot can make your user experience more memorable and increase your revenues. Imagine how you can use this technology to bring your visitor's attention to ongoing promotions or offers. Or how a chatbot can assist a customer that, for some reason, finds it difficult to finalize a purchase or needs to ask for further information before making his final decision. An AI chatbot can make the difference between acquiring and retaining a client or losing one.
To integrate an effective AI chatbot, you need to study your customers' behavior, their typical shopping journey, and set the chatbot to answer the most frequently asked questions and solve the most common problems. If there is a need for further assistance beyond the chatbot’s capability, the system should transfer the customer to a human operator who can seamlessly take over the conversation.
An integrated CRM and analytic back-end
We mentioned before that omni-channel commerce cannot exist without a Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and this is for good reasons.
The CRM enables your business to monitor your real-time operations and how each channel contributes to it. The CRM returns with insights that you can transform into business intelligence that optimizes your internal processes and interactions with your customers.
For instance, the CRM is where you track individual consumer behavior and general trends that allow you to create personal and to-the-point interactions with your customers. You can use the CRM to monitor social media interactions and use these to prepare more effective marketing campaigns or address your customers' complaints.
Besides that, a good CRM gives you precious insights into your sales process. You can use it to monitor how each department contributes to sales, at which point a customer has encountered problems, and how these problems have been addressed. These are precious insights to discover dips in your retail activity, lack of communication between departments, and other problem areas that can negatively impact your business. The data that the CRM returns to you is vital as you optimize your customers' relationship and continually improve their shopping experience.
Social shopping features
In the past few years, social media channels have become powerful tools not merely to spread marketing messages but even to sell products or services. Social commerce is helping businesses to acquire more customers and increase revenues. Therefore, you must make good use of social commerce features so that your customers can quickly complete a purchase on the social platform they are using, or if they want, they can transfer to the online shop effortlessly.
There are several tools for this purpose. One of the most popular and obvious is to add to your posts “Buy Now” buttons that usually will lead to the checkout page on your online shopping site.
Recently, tagging products within posts or stories on Instagram or Snapchat has become increasingly popular. The public appreciates that they do not have to open a new app or interrupt their activities since the shopping experience stays within the social media platform they are currently using.
For businesses targeting the Chinese market, a viable solution is to implement a WeChat Mini Program. The Mini Program is integrated into the WeChat system and is a powerful tool for marketing purposes and closing sales. For instance, the French company MaFrance found that the solution to increasing sales in the Chinese market was a WeChat Mini Program.
Today, an omni-channel approach to E-commerce is a must to meet the demands of your customers. However, building an omni-channel strategy requires careful planning and a measure of technical support. If you want to create an enticing shopping experience for your customers and integrate all your channels seamlessly, then professional assistance is most likely needed. There are many steps to take and variables to consider, and that may seem daunting for many businesses. However, this what the future calls for, and if you take immediate action for your business, you will benefit from a crucial market advantage.