To stay competitive and meet rising customer expectations, businesses need to take a holistic approach to customer experience. This means treating all marketing, sales, and customer support channels as stops on one customer journey. Instead of creating a mobile experience, a website experience, and a social media experience, businesses need to consider all interactions together as part of an omnichannel experience.
But what are omnichannel experiences, and why are companies interested in creating them? Let’s explore.
An omnichannel experience is when a business advertises to, sells, and supports prospects and customers across multiple channels, treating each interaction or touchpoint as part of a single, frictionless customer experience.
Online shoppers expect both consistency and personalization whether they’re browsing products from a brand they’ve been loyal to for years or exploring what a new company has to offer. To create an omnichannel experience for customers, you need to align your marketing, sales, and customer support strategies.
The hurdle most companies face when developing a harmonious customer experience is learning how to extend their reach. For some inspiration, take a look at companies doing omnichannel right.
Whether you’re depositing a check, paying your credit card bill, or scheduling an appointment to meet with a mortgage loan officer, everything can be handled either in-person at a Bank of America bank branch, through their website, or in their mobile app. While users might have a preference, every available account management option is seamless and effective.
The Starbucks rewards app is a free rewards program that customers can pay with, helping them earn rewards in the process. But what makes their rewards program one of the best examples of an omnichannel customer experience is that whether customers are reloading their cards on their phone, the app, over the phone, or in-store, all changes to their card or profile are updated in real-time across all channels. A customer standing in line can add more cash to their card from their smartphone and immediately use it to pay for their drink.
Do customers really notice the difference a consistent experience across channels can make?
Omnichannel marketing statistics suggest that not only do they notice, but they respond to and expect such experiences.
The term “omnichannel” has grown in search popularity over the last five years, according to Google Trends.
Omnichannel strategies drove an 80% higher rate of incremental store visits, according to a 2017 study by Think With Google. Zendesk reports that 87 percent of customers think brands need to put more effort into providing a seamless experience and 64 percent of customers expect real-time assistance regardless of the customer service channel they use. A survey conducted by Aspect Software found that businesses that adopt omnichannel marketing strategies achieve 91 percent greater year-over-year customer retention rates compared to businesses that don’t.
But despite the demand and expectations of omnichannel experiences, more than half of all companies have no cross-channel strategy in place. If you’re one of them, it’s time to put your planning and development into overdrive if you want to avoid being left behind by the omnichannel movement.
There’s no single path to creating an omnichannel customer experience. Every business’s journey is unique. But to help you start putting together an omnichannel plan, or enhance your current strategy, here are some tips:
Even a well-planned omnichannel plan will fail if it’s not directed at the right customer. You must have a deep understanding of consumer behavior. Take advantage of big data and surveys to gain insights into customer behavior and what they expect from your brand. Making business intelligence and analytics software part of your research process can provide you with customer data and valuable insights into who your ideal market is and what they need from you.
There are plenty of success stories to follow in the omnichannel world. While copying the steps taken by brands like Starbucks, Amazon, Disney, or Bank of America won’t likely catapult your business to the same level of success, paying attention to where they’re putting their resources can help you find your way. For example, look at successful rewards programs or app features within your industry to see what customers respond best to.
Creating a successful omnichannel customer experience isn’t a one-employee show. It takes an entire team to strategize, develop, and implement a system that provides results. You’ll need managers, researchers, developers, freelancers, and, most importantly, support. If there is doubt surrounding the need or effectiveness of an omnichannel program address it before putting wheels in motion.
Not all industries have mastered mobile-friendly platforms yet. And surprisingly, there are plenty of ecommerce businesses whose websites could use a facelift and a few upgrades. Not only does this create doubt in a client’s mind about your brand, but it hurts your SEO ranking, which affects how prominently your business’s website appears on search engine results pages. Consider using a mobile-friendly analyzer to see how your website stacks up.
The appearance of your site, app, support articles, and social media should all be consistent. But no matter how great they look, they won’t get you far without great content. Some businesses tend to focus on writing keyword-heavy blogs and website pages, hoping to rank high in search engines. Or, their product writing is clunky or unclear. Conduct a content analysis of your website and other platforms to make sure you’re catering to your readers and users, no matter where they see you.
What’s your average response time for social media inquiries? It may surprise you to know that close to half of consumers expect a social media response time of fewer than 60 minutes. And if you’re not responding to customer messages at all you’re doing your brand a great disservice. When it comes to your website, make sure you’re taking every opportunity to engage and address visitors. You can use communication channels like live chat software or chatbots to make every visitor feel heard and appreciated.
There are plenty of offline omnichannel opportunities. Even though most client interactions are digital, there are still analog channels that might make sense for your industry and business. Radio, magazine ads, direct mail, event sponsorships, and branded merchandise are all examples of offline channels you can explore and integrate into your strategy.
Today’s consumers are often uncomfortable in brick-and-mortar stores compared to browsing online at home. Research shows that 87 percent of consumers research products online before purchasing. Help consumers transition easily from online to offline. Warby Parker does this well. While Warby Parker has brick-and-mortar locations in major cities, the ecommerce glasses retailer makes it easy to try on frames for free from the comfort of your home. And, if you forget to check out, Warby Parker sends you an email reminder.
One mistake many companies make with omnichannel marketing is thinking that they must be on every platform. Omnichannel marketing isn’t about being everywhere, but about being present, available, and consistent in the places your target consumers are and creating a positive user experience.
Learn where your customers prefer to spend their time—whether it’s Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, or LinkedIn. Don’t forget about offline opportunities as well. Do your consumers prefer to read emails or direct mail?
Optimize your content for only the offline and digital channels that should be part of your marketing approach. There’s no need to overstretch and put your message where it won’t be heard.
It may seem obvious, but whenever you doubt the direction your omnichannel strategy is going, remind yourself that consistency is key to developing loyal audiences and stronger customer relationships. From your website to your app, from your social media pages to your email, from your employee’s shirt logo to your receipts, strive for consistent branding throughout.
Familiarity breeds trust, trust builds repeat customers, and the easiest way to grow revenue is through repeat business.
Omnichannel marketing, sales, and customer support are here to stay. If you want your business to experience a boost in brand recognition, consumer loyalty, and revenue, prioritize creating an omnichannel experience. Though overwhelming at first, a little progress each day will add up over time. As consumers notice the differences, you’ll see firsthand what the omnichannel experience can create.
Which improvement to omnichannel experience are you going to implement next? Let us know in the comments.
Nikoletta is a Content Specialist at Acquire. She's a writer and editor with an avid interest in data, tech, communication, and the customer journey.