There's broad agreement that technology has shifted the balance of power to buyers. Providing a quality product or service for a fair price is insufficient in today's marketplace. That's because buyers don't simply buy. They experience. They expect to experience – and they expect a good one.
Gartner Group found that 89% of marketers expect customer experience to be their main differentiator by 2017. That's right now. The value and quality of customer experience you can provide depends entirely on meeting your customers where they are, or where they're about to be, which makes providing them a seamless omnichannel experience critical. Here are seven tips to follow to ensure your company gives customers the smooth omnichannel experience they demand.
- Your customers' experience is much broader than the exchange of goods or services for money. If you focus only the experience of the sale, you're missing the lion's share of consumers' interactions with your brand. Their experience with you starts well before they ever reveal themselves as potential buyers and it extends well beyond the sale. It includes what they hear and share about you in their own communities. It includes their experience with what they've purchased and how they decide whether to buy from you again. Omnichannel isn't just about connecting with consumers through a variety of digital channels. Those are merely the means of communication. True omnichannel means covering all the various types of interactions a consumer has involving your company in a way that forges a genuine relationship and builds customer loyalty.
- Map your customers' different journeys. Their initial buying journey for what you offer. And don't forget their fulfillment and customer service journeys. Identify which communication channels they use on different journeys, and at different points along the same journey. Are people using chat only for customer service, or while they're shopping as well? Where are they looking for reviews and competitor information? When and why do they transition between channels? Do they research on mobile and buy in-store? Or buy online and return in-store? Map out their behaviors, decision triggers, and preferred channels for all their various interactions to get a complete picture on how to integrate their experience.
- Don't overlook your brick and mortar channel. We tend to think of omnichannel as a description for all the digital touchpoints of communication between consumers and vendors, but the in-store experience remains vital. With most sales still occurring offline, a company can't provide a seamless omnichannel experience without integrating the in-store and digital experiences. At a minimum, this requires providing a stable, free wifi network within your store so consumers have access to their digital shopping tools and your associates have access to the data they need to serve customers best. People still crave the in-store experience. They just want it digitally enhanced.
- Personalize and customize. The charming irony of contemporary customers' expectations is that they're looking for the times-gone-by experience of the corner baker. The guy we only see in period movies, who knew his customers' name and which ones liked their biscuits a little brown around the edges. Customers don't want a series of disconnected purchases. A brand that provides valuable assistance, recommendations and offers at the right times, based on a consumer's specific buying and behavioral history, envelops that consumer in a complete experience.
Providing true personalization requires comprehensive data collection, integration, analysis, and distribution. Break down the data silos that keeps up barriers among the data collected through each channel. Online and in-store purchases should be one integrated order history. Their order history should connect with the data collected about which texted offers they respond to and which they ignore, which can be connected to what they're saying about your brand and their purchases online. Back-end analytics see what they've been looking at online or in-store, but haven't yet purchased.
Only by integrating the data collected from each channel, can it be analyzed to provide your sales associates and Operations the information they need to create that personalized customer experience.
- Integrate your front and back-end operations. A seamless omnichannel customer experience doesn't mean breaking down only data barriers. It also requires breaking down geographical barriers, whether the wall between the floor and back-store inventory, or the miles between warehouses. It means breaking down barriers delineating old ideas about responsibilities for different roles. A sales associate armed with a broad function native app can process a walk-in exchanging the shirt they bought online for a different color to be delivered to their home from a warehouse in another state.
- Develop processes and a culture that support your digital capabilities. Integrating your digital channels only impacts your customers' experience if your underlying company's culture and processes are designed to deliver a knockout experience as well. The customer is the sun around which all the channels in "omnichannel" rotate. Data integration is useless if it's not used to execute workflows and support attitudes with a customer-centric vision. Read our article on using mobile technology to leverage customer experiences here.
- Maintain a consistent brand visuals and voice. Whether a consumer is on your website, your mobile app, in-store or reading an email from your company – the visuals and message voice should be consistent and recognizable. Even though Marketing's emails and Customer Service's Twitter account are coming from different departments, they need to sound like they're coming from the same source. From the consumer's perspective, they are from a single source – your company. If the feel of the brand, the colors, styles, and tones used, aren't consistent, they can't be part of a unifying brand experience. All departments should work from the same brand guidelines to ensure the cohesive customer experience.
"Unified" is exactly what makes an omnichannel experience seamless to the customer. In contrast to a multi-channel experience, which just provides different channels of interaction, the omnichannel experience is completely transparent for the consumer. They don't see the multiple channels. Only a single brand they love to buy from. Let Decision Point help you harness the power of these trends and discover why your company needs an enterprise mobility solution. Start your retail transformation by calling Decision Point today.