The Omni-Channel Experience

Monday 14th, March 2016

The Omni-Channel experience in a Multi-Channel world

There used to be a time when there was a brick and mortar structure called a store. And customers went to that store to buy something. And that was it.

But now we live in an Omni-Channel world. Customers engage with a business through multiple channels – he can walk into a physical store. He can pick the phone and call. He can go online and check out his website. Or he can tap into his mobile app. Browse through a catalogue. Or he can engage with a business on a social media platform. All of this, in a single purchase cycle.

The customer expects a seamless transition from one channel to another.  He expects the same feel and experience, regardless of the channel he uses. He expects the same brand experience to be consistent across any channel that the business has, or what he uses to engage with the business. And he expects to be able to pick up where he left off – each time.

There may be multiple channels. In fact most businesses today have them – they have an office, a brick and mortar store, they have a website, and they have a presence on Facebook and Twitter. These are multi- channels until they all work together to represent one entity and offer the same consistent experience across channels. A business moves from a multi-channel approach to an Omni-Channel one, when every platform or device that a customer would use to engage with it, is tracked and accounted for. The data that is gathered from these is offer the customer a completely integrated and consistent experience. So as you can see, while many might have multi-channels, not all of them offer the Omni-Channel experience.

Take Starbucks for example. They offer one the finest Omni-Channel experiences ever to their customers. Starbucks has a loyalty card – a free rewards card that you can use to accumulate points each time you buy something. You can check the status of the rewards on your card through an app or through the phone, or through the Starbucks website or in an actual store. Not only can you check your account, you can load your card as well – through any of those channels. Any change you make either on the card or your account, is updated across all the channels instantly. So if you are waiting in line to pick up a Caramel Macchiato, and realize you don’t have enough cash loaded on your card, you can load it while waiting and by the time you swipe your card, it would have been updated across all channels.

Now that’s a stellar Omni-Channel experience.

And it is not patented Starbucks – anyone can do this.

How – you ask.

By thinking from a customer’s point of view. If you think from the business’s angle, you think of Multiple Channels. But when you see things through a customer’s eyes, you will see how you can bring it all together to form an Omni-Channel experience.  Times have changed. And with it, the way businesses and their customers engage with each other. So forget the old way of doing things – don’t think of customers as a bunch of leads but as individuals. Try to find different ways to personalize each of their interactions with the brand.

It is very important to get a single view of your customers. This might be a challenging thing to do, but it is very important. A customer may interact with your brand through many channels and the data from all these touchpoints must be consolidated in order to get a single view of a customer and understand him well. You can also sensitively ask the right questions and use the information along with all the data that you pick up from the touchpoints to understand each person and his personality. Engage with your customers in the channel that they prefer – not the way you would want it.

Keep all the channels open and work towards providing the same consistent experience on all of them.

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