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What is an omnichannel customer experience?

Last updated

5 September 2023

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Dovetail Editorial Team

An omnichannel customer experience involves using multiple channels to market to and communicate with customers. These channels work together seamlessly.

Modern technology empowers businesses to conduct marketing activities and support customers in multiple ways. As individuals get used to the convenience these tools provide, they expect a streamlined experience free of repetition, delays, and bottlenecks. Companies can meet these expectations by integrating channels so that customers can leave one channel and pick up the same interaction through a different platform as needed.

You can better serve your customers by learning exactly what an omnichannel experience entails and how to build one.

Understanding the components of an omnichannel experience

An omnichannel experience allows your customers to interact with your brand via several channels. Customers can begin their experience with your brand in one channel and continue it on another without interruption. That’s the characteristic that sets this approach apart.

An omnichannel transformation can improve the customer experience and help companies save time and money by handling queries and concerns quickly and efficiently.

An omnichannel strategy includes the following components:

  • The use of multiple platforms, such as a website, e-commerce platform, social media page, mobile app, and customer portal

  • Integration that allows customers to seamlessly continue a single interaction across different channels

  • Adequate staff to prevent lags in communication when transitioning from one channel to another

  • Defined service journeys to establish clear digital migration points

What’s the difference between omnichannel and multichannel experiences?

The terms omnichannel and multichannel sound almost the same. They have similarities, but certain distinctions set them apart. While both approaches require businesses to use more than one channel, the difference lies in how the customer uses these channels.

Multichannel refers to the use of more than one channel to interact with customers. These interactions can include marketing, purchases, Q&A, customer support, and more.

Customers can choose to use any of the available channels, but they are not integrated in any way. Instead, customers use their preferred channel throughout the entire interaction. If they need to use another channel, the customer will have to restart the query on the new platform.

Omnichannel refers to the use of multiple platforms that seamlessly interact with one another to provide an improved customer journey. It encourages the same availability of channels, but it doesn’t lead to siloed communication. This vital distinction allows customers to begin any interaction on one channel and switch to another as needed to successfully complete the experience.

For example, a social media ad may lead directly to a business’s website. Or, a live chat may be converted to a video chat without requiring the customer to repeat information.

Providing consumers with a multichannel experience gives them more ways to engage with your brand. Omnichannel takes the process one step further by improving the overall customer experience with a consistent journey across all touchpoints.

What’s the difference between customer experience and omnichannel?

The customer experience (CX) and the omnichannel customer experience both consider every touchpoint throughout the customer journey. However, they don’t mean exactly the same thing.

Gartner defines customer experience as “the customer’s perceptions and related feelings caused by the one-off and cumulative effect of interactions with a supplier’s employees, systems, channels, or products.” It encompasses how a customer feels about every touchpoint in their journey.

The term omnichannel experience describes the integrated touchpoints across several channels that a customer uses to complete a transaction or other interaction with a company. Instead of defining how a customer feels, it illustrates the path they take.

Examples of omnichannel experience

An omnichannel experience can be employed when a customer purchases a product or service. Companies that excel at providing an omnichannel experience combine all touchpoints for real-time updates that provide customers with a seamless experience.

So, what does an omnichannel experience look like in the real world? These examples share how an exemplary omnichannel experience serves customers Starbucks

The Starbucks Rewards App is the hub for a top omnichannel experience. Customers get a free rewards card to use every time they make a purchase. It can be reloaded by phone, online, in-store, or on the app. Any change is updated across all channels immediately, allowing customers to accurately use rewards from any platform in real time.

Barnes & Noble

A combination of digital offerings and brick-and-mortar bookstores provides book enthusiasts with the best of both worlds. Customers get an identical experience through the Nook app, mobile website, desktop website, and physical store. Customers can access products on any platform and read at an in-store cafe.

Sweetwater

Customers can purchase musical instruments and pro audio equipment at Sweetwater’s Fort Wayne store as well as online. The company’s omnichannel strategy helps recreate the in-store experience with category pages that feature buying guides. Each page includes a reminder to ask for help by phone or email if needed.

The experience culminates with outstanding customer service during and after a purchase. Each customer is assigned a sales engineer who learns about the customer’s setup to help them choose the best option.

After buying from Sweetwater, customers receive a follow-up email, a phone call to answer questions about the order, and another call after the items arrive.

Sweetwater provides unparalleled customer service, even when customers don’t purchase in-store.

Why is an omnichannel customer experience important?

An omnichannel customer experience increases convenience, reduces frustration, and provides customers with a seamless experience across all platforms.

Perhaps more importantly, it’s what customers want. 70% of customers say connected processes are very important to win their business, and 80% are willing to give a company relevant personal information to bridge online and in-person experiences.

Here are some of the benefits of providing an omnichannel customer experience:

Eliminates repetition

While a multichannel approach offers choices, its disjointed nature hinders its efficacy. Customers are often compelled to repeat themselves when communicating with different platforms or personnel. Integrating channels ensures uniform, up-to-date information across all platforms, sparing customers the frustration of repetition.

Elevates customer satisfaction

The omnichannel experience captivates customers and renders each touchpoint in their journey more convenient. Through real-time and precise support, your company can not only meet but surpass customer expectations, making them more likely to return.

Fosters increased customer loyalty

The omnichannel experience not only provides customers with expanded choices but also amplifies satisfaction through swift resolutions.

By mitigating customer frustration, you fortify the foundation of customer loyalty, building lasting connections.

Boosts operational efficiency

An omnichannel strategy empowers customers to effortlessly navigate various platforms that retain their information. This facilitates self-help alternatives, reducing redundancy in journeys and minimizing interactions with sales and customer service teams.

Once the system is established, your teams can operate more resourcefully and spend less time on repetitive tasks.

Enriched data collection

Omnichannel journeys yield a wealth of data from virtually every channel. By collating insights from multiple touchpoints, you can understand the areas where your customers encounter challenges. This enables you to improve and enhance these areas.

How to build an omnichannel customer experience

While an omnichannel experience ultimately provides convenience for both customers and the companies they do business with, it can be a challenge to put a strategy in place.

You’ll need to produce consistent messaging and positioning statements across all channels, platforms, and devices. It’s also essential to ensure transfers from one platform to another are smooth and uninterrupted to create the seamless brand experience customers expect.

Your goal is to provide an engaging and convenient customer journey. These steps can help you keep your focus on the customer while you develop your omnichannel strategy.

Leverage customer data

Customer data is a key resource for defining and refining the entire customer journey.

Acquire insights through reviews, surveys, interviews, and analytics to understand customer preferences and interactions with your brand. Store the data in a centralized data hub. This will give you a single view of the customer across marketing, sales, customer support, product, and other areas.

This invaluable information is the foundation of an effective omnichannel strategy tailored to your customer’s needs.

Map the customer journey

You need to understand all touchpoints in the customer journey, from initial awareness to post-purchase satisfaction and beyond.

Develop a visual customer journey map with the data you collect regularly from each part of the customer journey. This will enable you to visualize the entire process, pinpoint potential pain points, and recognize areas for improvement.

You can use a template or tag board to help you identify your customers’ positive and negative experiences as they interact with your business.

Integrate appropriate technology

Seamless user journeys depend on digital platforms, so creating a successful omnichannel experience is impossible without the right technology.

Channels such as live chat, video and voice calls, mobile apps, e-commerce platforms, and social media play a crucial role. Integrate these platforms seamlessly to provide your teams with the customer information they need to help any customer pick up from where they left off.

Engage key stakeholders

Implementing an omnichannel approach requires meticulous planning and collaboration across departments. Coordinate with different teams to introduce new platforms and processes.

You’ll also need to cultivate a harmonious internal environment by securing buy-in from stakeholders and decision-makers. This will ensure the strategy is implemented successfully.

Empower customer-facing teams

Equip your customer-facing teams with the tools and knowledge they need to provide exceptional service. Ensure your in-store associates, call center agents, online chat representatives, and other team members have access to real-time customer information and historical data. This enables them to promptly and intelligently address customer inquiries, regardless of the channel.

The challenges of implementing an omnichannel customer experience

Successfully implementing an omnichannel strategy will provide customers with a better experience. You’ll be able to streamline internal services and increase your company’s revenue.

However, reaching the point of success can be demanding. Resolving the challenges below will be critical to achieving omnichannel success:

Failed data synchronization

Gathering data from multiple touchpoints and platforms can quickly become overwhelming. Without a data management strategy, you run the risk of misrepresenting data trends and failing to meet your customers’ needs.

Channel conflicts

For a true omnichannel experience, pricing and customer/company information must be updated in real time. If not, issues arise (like out-of-stock products, inconsistent pricing, and carts or accounts that fail to update).

Lack of inventory visibility

Your ability to provide customers with accurate information depends on your supply chain’s visibility. If you don’t know when your inventory will arrive, you can’t provide precise availability or shipping information to your customers.

Manual processes

Not using technology in any part of the process can lead to errors and bottlenecks throughout the customer journey. By automating as many aspects of your customer communication and supply chain as possible, you can improve accuracy and speed.

Do customers expect omnichannel?

With modern technology at their fingertips, consumers have more ways than ever to conveniently interact with businesses.

Over one-third of American consumers have made omnichannel features part of their regular shopping routine since the pandemic, and most plan to continue. Gen Z consumers expect an experience free from traditional boundaries and evaluate brands and retailers on the seamlessness of their experience.

While an omnichannel experience may feel like a new frontier for some, consumers are beginning to expect it across all industries.

Implementing an omnichannel experience can help you stay competitive in a changing digital world. By using relevant customer data and following in the footsteps of retail giants that are already using successful tactics, you can develop your own unique omnichannel strategy.

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