Omnichannel strategies are becoming increasingly popular when it comes to customer experience, as the deficiencies of multichannel marketing strategies become more apparent. Although the strategies are similar, it is the omnichannel experience that provides the best customer experience. Both omnichannel and multichannel strategies aim to provide the ultimate customer experience, but omnichannel strategies come closest to being able to provide it.
A recent study found that companies adopting a strong omnichannel strategy enjoy a 91% higher customer retention rate year on year. In addition, omnichannel strategies offer a more penetrative brand message, owing to their consistency across platforms.
How are multichannel and omnichannel strategies different?
Multichannel strategies were popular among marketers not long ago. This type of strategy involves using two or more channels to engage with customers. For example, one might use a website, Twitter, email and Facebook to interact with customers. However, multichannel experiences fail to consider the consistency of customer experience across channels and devices.
So, although multichannel approaches offer customers different places to engage with a brand, they do not offer a seamless experience. For example, a clothing retailer may be able to browse some shop mannequins for their shop display on their desktop fairly easily. They might enjoy their experience and find the website easy to use. But, if they try to revisit on their mobile later and find that the page isn’t mobile-optimised, making it frustrating and tough to navigate, all the progress your brand made earlier has come undone.
In contrast, an omnichannel strategy strives to fully integrate communications and provide customers with the easiest possible interactions with a brand. Essentially, omnichannel strategies strive towards allowing customers to connect with a brand in the way they want to, when they want to. A shop owner would be able to browse for their shop mannequins on the desktop and come back on their mobile to find the same products with the same ease. The customer should be able to enjoy the same, simple service on their mobile as well as their desktop.
But even more than that, omnichannel strategies take things a step further. For example, companies like Zingle are providing a service that allows customers to text their food order through to a restaurant or hotel.
The challenge for an omnichannel strategy is to facilitate customer access to a company’s services and goods across offline and online mediums, as well as offering it throughout the day (and night). For example, 74% of customers expect a response from social media customer support within an hour. 57% expect this whether it is a weekday, a weekend, day or night. For many businesses, this isn’t achievable, due to not having enough staffing power, but by offering customers easy ways to leave messages, find extremely helpful information and have confidence that you will help them shortly, you’re taking a step in the right direction.
Ways to work towards an omnichannel strategy
1) Make sure you’re accessible through all devices
If you’re not sure, try it out! If possible, you should even go to the extent of trying out your website on Android phones as well as iOS, because something from your site might not gel with a particular processor. When I was working for a market research company, we used to test all of our surveys by sending an email around the office and asking colleagues to try and break it. You should adopt the same idea with your website. If needs be, ask friends and family to try things out for you.
Beyond your website, check that your emails are mobile-optimised and that they cope with being on a tablet, which falls somewhere between desktop and mobile and sometimes causes trouble. After all, 70% of consumers delete emails that don’t work on mobile. Ensure things like your Twitter banners, images and Facebook images are still readable on mobile — and if they’re not, change them fast.
2) Make it clear
If your offering and brand isn’t immediately clear, no matter where or how someone is looking at it, they’re more than likely to move onto the next search result. Remember: the goal is to make it as easy as possible for your customers to find what they’re looking for. So, however your customers are aiming to reach you, make sure you are shouting about your key selling points. Don’t expect your customers to root around and find reasons to buy from you. Put the reasons in front of them, clear as day. Don’t give them the opportunity to think about wriggling away and looking somewhere else.
3) Match your messages to your audience
The appearance of your brand should be consistent, but it should also be tailored to the platform it is on. For example, many companies post the same content to multiple social media sites using a mass posting tool. Often, this is done with little consideration to the social platform’s ‘personality’. This often results in posts without images, or hashtags and memes in places they don’t belong.
Just like picking up on the tone of a conversation, the platform your customer has chosen to interact with you on should dictate how you continue the conversation. If you needed to tell a colleague that you were impressed by their work, you would deliver the same message, but change the wording slightly, depending on if it were in an appraisal or at the pub on a Friday night. Stay on brand with all your messages, but adjust to the environment in which the message is placed.
4) Let your platforms feed off each other
Your platforms shouldn’t live out lives of their own; they should feed into each other. If you have managed to get a prospective customer to follow you on Twitter, congratulations! But it doesn’t stop there. They might spend twenty minutes on Twitter twice a week, but what if your posts aren’t the ones that fall into those windows? Better make sure that you catch them on Facebook, LinkedIn, email and wherever else they’ll let you.
To make this easier on yourself, make sure that the content you’re offering is so good, you should be charging for it. This will make customers think of your company as helpful, useful and interesting. Once you have done this, they’ll want to find you in other places. Then all you have to do is cross-post and encourage customers to move between platforms. Hey presto! You now have customers engaging with you on multiple channels and the opportunity to engage with them more often.
5) Now make it even easier
Things might seem easy enough to you, but put yourself in the customer’s shoes. If you’re still making customers sit through hold music and press the right number to get through to the right pre-recorded message, why? Everyone hates it. Try to think of a way that you can remove this barrier. For example, if you employ staff that sit in your office all day, think about adding a chat function like Zendesk to your website. Chat facilities are becoming increasingly popular. Recently, 44% of online consumers said that having questions answered with an online chat while making a web purchase was one of the most important things a website could offer.
What other things can you implement to make life easier for your customers? Can you get them to a product or service more efficiently? Are your social accounts manned? If someone tweets you a question, will there be someone to answer it? Can they text you? Can you text them?! Not all platforms are equal within different companies, but it’s worth an extra thought.
Don’t expect to get everything right overnight, but anything you can do to make it easier for your customers to buy from you is going to benefit you (and your customers!) in the end.
Ali Newton is the Marketing Executive for The Display Centre, where a team of creative experts provide store display equipment, including adult and child mannequins and bespoke items. Ali combines her fine art and fashion qualifications with her market research experience and psychology degree to help retailers drive their sales.