Omnichannel: 5 elements that encapsulate the experience of simultaneous engagement

Omnichannel experience is one of the big buzzwords in the business world for good reason. Offering an omnichannel experience to customers goes above and beyond a multichannel experience. The two are very similar, but there are some key differences.

Instead of simply offering customers multiple channels to make their experience more personalized, businesses are bringing these multiple channels together to work simultaneously. Here, we’re going to break down why this practice is important for your business and what elements encapsulate the omnichannel experience.

What is omnichannel?

The omnichannel experience brings multiple channels together for customers to use simultaneously. While it is mostly a marketing tool, it can easily and effectively trickle down to other aspects of business, especially customer experience. The simplest example of this might occur when a customer walks into a retail store looking for an item. They want to be in and out quickly, and there are no employees around. Instead of walking around the store looking for an employee to direct them to the item they need, they pull out their phone and go to the website to see a) if the item is at the store; b) if the item is in stock; c) how much the item costs; and d) what aisle the item is located in.

Rather than having to choose between ordering an item online or going to the store to buy the item yourself, you can do both simultaneously for a better experience. This could also apply to the experience of customer service. In an ideal omnichannel world, a shopper can speak to someone behind the desk while pulling up the item on their phone if, for example, there’s a price discrepancy at that particular location, or if the customer has a question about the return policy.

Omnichannel experiences help improve many aspects of customer experience. Sales, marketing, and customer service teams can all take advantage of what omnichannel brings to the table to drive ROI and increase brand loyalty.  

Elements of the omnichannel experience

Now that we’ve defined an omnichannel experience, we can talk about what actually goes into it, and why it differs from a multichannel experience.

Multiple channels

Offering an omnichannel experience requires multiple channels for customers to use. These channels are simply different ways for people to interact with your business. They could come in the form of a website, a brick-and-mortar store, an app, or a phone service. There are other ways businesses and customers can interact with each other, but the key to separating a multichannel experience from an omnichannel experience is that customers can use multiple channels simultaneously.

Channels Are used and updated regularly

One major problem with multichannel experiences is that, although they offer customers different ways of interacting with businesses, what often happens is that one channel isn’t as strong as the other and gets ignored. This can affect the efficiency of your ROI. If we go back to our original example of a person walking into a store and relying on the app to improve the experience, but the app doesn’t work, then the omnichannel experience becomes pointless and can even have detrimental effects.

Scalability

It’s not enough to update and use certain channels regularly. If you’re offering an app that lets users go back and forth between their computer, phone, and even a tablet, the website and app have to work together seamlessly — meaning there’s no loss of information, the channel easy to navigate, and buttons and menus actually work. Multichannel solutions are often not fit for purpose because some channels are better than others. Omnichannel solutions look to take the best from each channel to provide an all-round positive experience.

Combining online and offline channels

This is especially important for retail stores and e-commerce websites who either spend all day face-to-face with customers or never see who they actually are. Let’s say you’re looking for an item and can’t find it on the shelves. You look to the app and see that they have it in stock. You go find an employee to ask if they have any more of the items in the back, and they immediately tell you no because they checked before. Instead of leaving the store defeated, you can show them the app and correct their mistake. Disney provides a prime example of this with its omnichannel guest experience.

If you’re an ecommerce business, and customers have a problem with their order, it’s important to offer omnichannel customer support so they can reach you via email, phone, via a form on your website – or even on social channels like Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp. If a customer has a negative experience and they have no one to engage with to rectify their issue, they’re going to think your only concern is taking their money. This kind of experience can drastically hamper your brand’s reputation – and ultimately your bottom line.

What about social media?

Social media plays an important role in the omnichannel experiencesbecause social media itself is an omnichannel experience. Let me explain. If you’re marketing on social media, that usually includes incorporating more than one platform. Think of platforms as channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. If your business uses Instagram primarily, change the settings so posts also go live on Facebook and Twitter. That way, you’re more likely to reach customers earlier. Plus, you’ll expand your reach to audiences that only use one platform over the other. When social media is one of the channels you use in your omnichannel experience, you achieve omnichannel inception. Who doesn’t want that?

Final thoughts

Omnichannel experiences are an absolute essential for businesses. In fact, 73 percent of consumers are already using more than one channel for shopping. The key is to bring these channels together into one 360 degree marketing strategy. The best part about the omnichannel experience is that it’s adaptable to multiple departments; customer support, sales, and marketing can all take advantage of the channels they’re already offering customers. Sophisticated, personalized customer experiences are the new standard going forward; if you haven’t taken advantage of this yet, it’s time you start.

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