Omnichannel Strategy: The Art of Turning your Channels Into Sales Channels
Omnichannel is something that we’ve heard a lot about, and it’s certainly nothing new. So the question you might be asking yourself is, “is this something still worth talking about?”
The answer is an unequivocal “yes.”
If you’re still uncertain about this concept, know that industry giants like Disney, Starbucks, and Spotify are using omnichannel strategies to great effect. If you intend on competing with the best, you can’t really count yourself among them if you aren’t investing in what they’re investing in.
Say what you will about this strategy on paper, but the ROI of omnichannel strategies is irrefutable in terms of customer retention, loyalty, sales, and exponential growth.
Read on to understand how this strategy works and how you can implement it within your organization.
First things first, what is an Omnichannel strategy?
An Omnichannel strategy requires all of a company’s touchpoints to be integrated and connected. That means that no matter where a customer might interact with your brand, they are provided with a homogeneous experience that allows them to swap over from channel to channel with ease.
Let’s take you through an example of what an omnichannel experience might look like:
- You want to know more about a product you just saw on a company’s Instagram page;
- You send a message to their Instagram account, and they tell you the price and nearby stores where the product is available;
- You select a store, and the company sends you a text message from the store in question, asking you if you’d rather pick up the product yourself or have it delivered to your address;
- You decide to pick it up in person and pay online;
- The store texts you a link that you then use on your laptop to pay for the product;
- You receive an email with a purchase confirmation and a date and time for when your product will be ready for pick up;
- You head over to the nearby brick-and-mortar store and finally pick up your product.
Throughout this interaction, the customer went through a series of channels, from social media to SMS, to the website, and finally received an email before going to a physical store.
All of the transitions between these environments were seamless, as if there was a single person behind every interaction. This is how an omnichannel experience functions in practice.
What are the differences: Omni x Multi x Cross
You can think of Omnichannel and Multichannel in the same way you do squares and rectangles. An omnichannel experience is a multichannel experience, but a multichannel experience isn’t an omnichannel experience.
A Multichannel strategy allows customers to access multiple different communication channels that aren’t necessarily synchronized or integrated. For example, a restaurant with a phone number and a website counts as having a multichannel strategy.
Only when another channel to these two is added and seamlessly integrated can it be considered an omnichannel experience.
*For those of you who aren’t geometry teachers:
A rectangle is a four-sided shape with four 90-degree angles on the inside. A square is defined as a special rectangle, where all four sides have the same length. So a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle isn’t necessarily a square.
You can think of a crosschannel strategy as the evolutionary midpoint between multi and omnichannel. If multichannel strategies have several disconnected channels, omnichannel strategies have several interconnected channels, and crosschannel is simply connected.
This means that while these different touchpoints do share information about users and their data, they aren’t doing so in real-time, and they can’t hop customers from one to the other.
Why are Omnichannel Experiences still so Important?
While statistics might be moving towards a single preference for interaction channels, the truth is that most customer bases are incredibly diverse.
Users don’t even stick with a single communication channel throughout their lives. So to appeal to a large audience and retain current clients, every possible touchpoint needs to provide an excellent customer experience.
Omnichannel is something that captures not only prospective clients from all possible avenues, but also provides different channels with the ability to support one another by allowing them to lean on one another.
What Omnichannel Strategies are all about: The Goals & Benefits
The benefits of an omnichannel strategy go beyond simply increased retention, but we’ll have to go down a long list in order to name them all. The goals, on the other hand, are simple:
Omnichannel strategies aim to make it so that each different channel simply feels like an extra limb of the same organism. You might be shaking one hand but who you’re actually interacting with is the company itself.
As for the benefits, let’s go down that list, shall we?
Better customer and user experiences
This is a no-brainer when it comes to omnichannel strategies. The experience lends itself to a more streamlined yet customizable approach. Something that modern consumers value highly among brands.
Being able to complete your purchase from start to finish on any channel is very different from starting your purchase on one channel and finishing it on another. Some people like being able to talk to a physical person, but can’t stand inputting their credit card information over the phone.
Others enjoy doing their research online before going into a physical store to complete their journey. In either case, an Omnichannel approach ensures you never miss a potential purchase.
Better use of customer data
While crosschannel strategies allow you to share user data between channels, the real-time data application of Omnichannel strategies enables companies to put user data to good use immediately, rather than after they’ve already lost a sale.
Omnichannel strategies also give companies more avenues with which to gather data for profiling, segmentation, and, more importantly, the personalization of the user experience.
Future-proofing your marketing strategies
Hopping on the latest technological bandwagon has its benefits, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll always have your finger on the pulse.
When companies were forced to go digital in 2020, many thought that just having a strong online presence would be all you needed to stay relevant in the near future. Now that things are finally returning to a semblance of normalcy, people are beginning to miss the physical store experience.
Adopting an omnichannel strategy means that you’re already there no matter what channel customers migrate to.
How To Start Building an Omnichannel Strategy
The first thing you need to know about having an omnichannel strategy is that it requires constant vigilance and upkeep. Simply having a uniform experience on each communication channel isn’t enough to reach the omni level.
It’s also important to remember that even if your channels are interconnected, it isn’t truly an omnichannel strategy if you’ve left out a critical touchpoint here or there. You need to have every base covered, which means:
- Social media (usually more than one)
- Online (website, eCommerce, & email)
- Mobile (App stores, SMS, & call center)
- Physical (Brick and mortar & direct mail)
Define your channels & measure the impact
Defining where you’re going to set up your channels and what their role is going to be in the overall customer experience should be your first step.
Start by identifying which channels you already have in place and how they’re doing. Maybe direct mail is way too costly with zero upsides, maybe your brick-and-mortar stores might do better as kiosks, or perhaps you need a more substantial presence on Instagram or TikTok.
These are the kind of questions you should be asking yourself. Find what’s working and what isn’t, and figure out why. Once you have that, it’s time to think about how these channels (or new ones) can help each other.
Adapt communication, but maintain a unique voice
Once you’ve decided which channels you want to run with and what their role will be, once they’re interconnected, you should focus on the individual and overall customer experience.
By that, we mean that some customers will prefer to start their journey on one platform and finish it on another, but others will prefer to complete their entire journey on a single platform.
This doesn’t mean that they all necessarily need to be able to complete a purchase, and it’s not like you’re going to mail a company a check nowadays. But each platform should provide customers with a unique and complete experience (even if you have to send them to another platform just to complete their purchase).
Have a Big Data strategy
There’s no point in adopting an omnichannel strategy if you’re not going to take advantage of its interconnectedness to extract data from each of your platforms.
When it comes to data, the good thing about omni, as opposed to crosschannel, is that your platforms will automatically link data together. So the data gathered from three separate channels won’t appear as three different information streams.
Your eCommerce website knows that this is the same user that just accessed the app and called customer service. This allows you to construct an incredibly well-organized and reliable repository for your Big Data strategy.
Examples of Successful Omnichannel Experiences
When executed properly, a successful omnichannel experience should feel easy and intuitive. No figuring out where to go for what you need, but getting what you need wherever you go.
Disneyland’s never-ending story
When it comes to seamless omnichannel experiences, look no further than Disneyland. For starters, their online and trip-planning websites both work incredibly well on mobile. Once you have your tickets, Disney directs you to download their My Disney Experience tool to plan your entire stay.
This tool can be used to secure restaurant reservations and hotel rooms, find Disney characters at the park in real-time, check on wait times for lines, and so much more. Disneyland truly has one of the most integrated physical/digital experiences on the market today.
Starbucks rewards app
The Starbucks rewards app is an incredibly efficient omnichannel experience. It provides access from your phone, website, in-store, or in the app itself. Any change made to your rewards app immediately updates the content on all platforms in real-time.
It also offers customers a “pay online, pick-up in-store” option that allows them to simply skip the line and snag their drink on their way to work.
Spotify’s seamless transitions
Spotify’s success has much to do with the way that its different channels all connect to one another seamlessly and instantly. If you have Spotify open up on your phone, laptop, and google home, you can switch where the music is playing from with a single button. Transferring over any songs already on a queue can even be done remotely, from another continent, if you’re so inclined.
Missing the mark
Omnichannel is so omnipresent that it’s relatively simple to show you a bunch of success cases in a row where “industry giant gets it right once again!” But what is equally important is showcasing a few examples where companies have missed the mark on omnichannel experiences.
- The ever-present chatbot:
Many companies try to unify their experiences by slapping the same content on different channels. This is often done with an army of chatbots. A chatbot on their website that doesn’t help, an SMS chatbot that doesn’t help, and a phone chatbot that hasn’t worked since the Bush administration.
- Neglected social media:
Many companies have an active social media presence, but only in so much as they post very often. This means that sending a direct message to these business accounts will get you nothing but silence, or even worse, another chatbot.
Is Omnichannel for Me?
It all comes down to what kind of company you work with, but a B2C or D2C could take advantage of an omnichannel strategy to offer their users more personalized and unique experiences. In comparison, a B2B chemical raw material manufacturer might have less to gain.
But that doesn’t mean that interconnecting your channels isn’t a good idea that can positively impact your bottom line at the end of the month.
It might be difficult to define exactly how or where to start when developing your omnichannel strategy, but the good news is: you don’t have to go it alone. Why not reach out to one of our consultants to find out what MJV can do for you?