A truly omni-channel customer experience

Monday 31st, October 2016

man with mobile phone photoPicture this – a man wakes up. He quickly checks for messages on Social Media on his phone. He glances at the headlines on his tablet as he sits down to breakfast – reads a bit more on his commute to work. On his way, he also checks out a couple of possible gifts for Mother’s Day, stopping at a retail outlet to pick them up. And once he gets to work, he might sit down with his laptop or desktop computer to read any article in depth.

Apart from the gift buying, this might well be a typical day for many people – throw in some fitness bands and smart watches and you will quickly see that the number of devices that a person uses has grown.

The reality is that today’s consumer has a different set of expectations – he expects superlative experiences spread over a gamut of seamlessly integrated channels.

On the other side is the marketer who is trying to keep up with the evolved consumer – he holds in his hand, the amazing ability to be able to deliver and modify offers and messages in real time. He is able now, to target his consumers correctly – and is also able to measure the effectiveness of each campaign.

Everyone talks about Unilever’s Axe brand – for their re-launch in Brazil they created a bunch of short films called “Romeo Reboot”. These could be personalized based on various parameters for which they created over 100.000 variants. Talk about precision-targeting!

The truth is that data and digital technology have changed the rules of the game.

  • A consumer could be using any channel at a particular point in time. A marketer needs to be able to engage with him right there. Right then. He needs to be agile and creative while being powered by analytics and technology. He needs to be “always on” – constantly creating new and exciting experiences for the consumer across channels.
  • In order to truly understand a consumer, he needs to be able to make sense of the data about him. There needs to be analytics and automation – and the right people who can ask the right questions to pull out the right kind of data about each consumer.

But the reality is an entirely different matter.

All businesses communicate with their customers – they pull out all the stops and do whatever it is that they can to sell their products or services. What ends up happening is that customers get a ton of messages about irrelevant products and services that they are quite happy to do without. To make matters worse, they automate these processes!

On the other hand, the number of Channels is growing and with it, customer touch points – there is the physical store, the web, mobile, catalogue, phone orders, partner sales (such as in flight duty free shopping) and vending machines.

The result is utter chaos. Or an incredible opportunity.

Despite all the data and the technology, for a business, each time a customer switches channels, it feels like a single view of the customer has to be built from scratch! Most businesses today have more than one channel – they will remain multi-channels unless they all work in tandem to represent one entity to a consumer and the same consistent experience across channels. Any 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. All the data that is collected from each of these channels, is processed and understood, to offer the customer a completely integrated and consistent experience.

So while many businesses might have multi-channels, not all of them offer the Omni-Channel experience.

How can you do this?

By thinking Omni-channel and not Multi-Channel.

With an Omnichannel strategy that is powered by data.

Businesses should start thinking of all its channels as under one umbrella – and not as separate entities. When everything is connected – the marketing strategy covers all channels from one point. They are all not individual channels with separate strategies – but one strategy covers all channels. Then multi-channel becomes Omnichannel – and customers can hop from one channel to another, pick up where they left off and not feel like they have switched touchpoints. It doesn’t work to create strategies for various touch points – on the other hand, Omnichannel works when you cover all touchpoints under one strategic plan.

By thinking from a customer’s point of view. If you think from the business’s angle, you might think of Multiple Channels. But when you see things through a customer’s eyes, you will see it as one entity. That is the Omni-Channel experience businesses should seek to offer.

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 and processed. Apart from this data, businesses need to also sensitively ask the right questions and get more information. When that is used along with the data from touchpoints, it is possible to understand each person and his personality. Then offers and messages can be personalized according to the preferences of each consumer. And the business can engage with its customers in the channels that they prefer.

At the end of the day, it is all about using the data that you have!

You don’t have to tear your hair out trying to figure your customers out. Or know who they are. You have data! At every touch point – and all you need to do is get it all together and draw insights about each of your customers from this. You can understand their online behavior – you can tell what they would like and what they wouldn’t – and so what messages will work with him and what wouldn’t. That way you can send him the right messages at the right time through the right channel.

What you can do

  • Plan, manage and control all messages from the perspective of the business as a whole – and not as a collection of disparate departments, systems and channels for starters.
  • Remove all communication bottlenecks from the various points of customer engagement
  • Capitalize on the amazing opportunities that are available.
  • Show your customers that you deliver on your brand promise. Build trust – only then can you build customer experiences that will result in lifetime relationships.

Apart from these there are a few important aspects that you can do –

Build accurate customer profiles

Each interaction with a customer produces data which can be used to build profiles. Comprehensive information about each customer makes it possible to combine predictive analytics with a business-wide communication engine. This makes it possible to deliver relevant messages to customers

Present a Consistent Brand Image across Channels

A consistent brand image across channels is possible when there are processes and systems in place. There must be standards that govern content and design across all channels. Then you can portray a consistent brand image and manage customer communications across print and digital media anytime, anywhere. The same content – needs to be customized for print, web and mobile interfaces. Same message on different channels.

Then the customer will feel comfortable to get in touch with a business through a channel of their choice – even switch to another channel midway and engage with a business. And get seamless highly personalised offers from the company.

Invest in a Customer Communication Management System

This gives the decision makers and the business as a whole, control over all the communication that goes out. All decisions about content are made based only on accurate and timely customer insights, which goes a long way in turning each encounter into a relationship-building experience which truly engages with the customer.

What happens in most businesses is that they use as many as 10 or more communication systems where each one handles only one specific document, channel or product, which only produces a totally fragmented and disjointed customer experience. But with the right customer management tools which use multi-purpose communication engines it is now possible to handle batch, interactive and on-demand environments. You can now have a centralized platform which can empower different individual departments to initiate new programs with limited IT support. You can have a full control over the entire set-up, keep an eye on the larger scheme of things. And most importantly, this gives the business the opportunity to develop a strategic vision and roadmap for the future.

These customer relationship management systems can talk to customers in the channel of their choice. They are flexible and are able to deliver content in all formats and for all channels from the same data. The content is automatically re-formatted to appear optimally in all channels – be it web, email or mobile.

You can make product suggestions based on transactional, demographic, location-based and behaviour-based data of customers to make product suggestions. The overall efficiency will improve.

That is how one can present a truly omnichannel experience to one’s customers.

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