I might not be the first person to say this, but it’s a point hammering out again and again — multichannel customer experience is not the same as omnichannel customer experience (CX).
A lot of businesses mistake multichannel for omnichannel customer experience. And although they use it interchangeably, their intention is always clear, i.e., they want to offer a holistic experience to their customers.
It’s good to see more and more businesses waking up to the reality of prioritizing omnichannel customer experience in their CX strategy. This makes it even more important for CX experts and teams to demarcate the difference between the two.
So let’s get straight into defining how multichannel is different from omnichannel customer experience, which one is better for your business, and how to go about achieving the latter.
Omnichannel CX is More Wide-Ranging
While multichannel customer experience sounds nice and all-encompassing, it’s limited in its scope and impact.
You can create a multichannel customer experience when you make your brand available across all possible channels for customers to interact with. For example, if you are an e-commerce business, you can create a multichannel customer experience through your website storefront, your mobile app, or by opening limited physical outlets.
Multichannel customer experience checks all the boxes in terms of brand presence, but there is no guarantee that this strategy will deliver a consistent customer experience. And that’s exactly where omnichannel CX comes into play.
Omnichannel customer experience goes beyond the need to maintain a mere presence across all customer touchpoints and strives to offer a seamless, uniform experience. Omnichannel customer experience values context over content.
Experts in the field of design thinking say that the best features in any product are invisible. The product design is so well-made and contextual to the product experience that customers don’t even realize it’s there. A true-blue case of omnichannel CX feels the same way.
Brands that are good at creating an omnichannel CX strategy optimize their brand interfaces in such a way that the customers oftentimes don’t even realize they are interacting with the brand from different channels, devices, or platforms.
While a multichannel brand strategy focuses on being present across all touchpoints, an omnichannel customer experience offers a wholesome and rewarding experience. Another very important difference to note is that an omnichannel CX strategy is often multichannel, while the reverse is not true.
Let’s take a real-world example to understand this better.
Grab.com is a Singapore-based brand that offers ridesharing, delivery, and payment services. Its presence is ubiquitous with a high brand recall in the Southeast Asian region. Grab.com has nailed its omnichannel strategy by offering an adaptive, context-sensitive customer experience to each customer who comes in contact with them.
As a visitor in Singapore or Thailand, for example, you can order a cab, request a food delivery, and make online all within a few minutes and through the same app experience. It’s essentially a one-stop solution for customers to grab a cab, food, or any other products with a flick of their finger.
Grab.com’s presence is not limited to its website; they have iOS and Android mobile apps and they have set up self-service kiosks at major public locations such as airports and malls to improve service efficiency.
Grab.com offers an equally amazing experience to customers through their 24*7 contact centers, online chat, or offline delivery partners. No wonder Grab.com has become Southeast Asia’s first-ever "decacorn" — a startup valued at/over USD 10 billion.
North American brands such as Postmates and Doordash offer similar services and experiences. If you look closely, you will notice a pattern that is common across all brands that are good at omnichannel CX.
They are accessible to customers through all channels, but mostly through mobile because that’s where people go first to solve their problems. But regardless of what channel the customers use or for what use cases, they include the following four factors that make their customer experience seamless and frictionless:
It’s easy to guess — omnichannel as a customer experience strategy is way better than multichannel because while the latter is good at casting a wide net of channels, it lacks in providing a meaningful, contextual experience.
How to Create an Omnichannel Customer Experience Strategy
Honestly, it’s not that difficult. As a brand, you are probably already investing most of your brand’s capital in amplifying your digital presence. You just have to optimize your customer interaction points to make it more cohesive.
Let me break it down for you.
1. Responsive website and mobile app
Start with your online home base, which is a website in the case of most businesses. Make sure you have relevant information on your website that makes it easy for users to find what they are looking for. You can use relevant keywords or structure certain parts of your website content in bullet points.
If you are like the rest of the people online, you might spend most of your time looking up your queries on your smartphone. This is hardly surprising, given that Google’s research found 75% of mobile users expect mobile-friendly websites.
Here are a few things you can do to make your website responsive across all channels:
Create an easy-to-find content architecture (e.g., keep your web content to the point and make it easy to find).
Choose an out-of-the-box web development platform that offers multi-device website creation (e.g., WordPress, Wix, Squarespace).
Make your buttons, fonts, and navigation options large enough to work on mobile
Clean up your code, compress images, and optimize other web elements to improve your page loading time.
Keep testing the website responsiveness and reiterate the process until you have an optimal website.
If you are certain that the majority of your customers are desktop users, you should focus on optimizing that channel as a priority and vice versa.
2. Create an All-Encompassing Engagement Strategy
Have you ever gone inside a mall store, looked at a pair of shoes or a denim shirt, only to go back home and buy the same stuff from Amazon.com?
I am fairly positive that the answer is yes because this kind of window shopping has become a norm in retail buying.
Research shows that over 45% of consumers prefer a combination of online, mobile, and in-store shopping. Most consumers do this either to compare prices or validate the product’s dependability before making a purchase.
This buying behavior is not limited to just e-commerce customers. Consumers, in general, are attracted to brands that offer a harmonious customer experience that reinforces their trust in your brand.
To create a sublime omnichannel strategy, you have to make sure all your brand touchpoints deliver the same experience consistently. Make sure the content that you put across all channels, devices, and platforms has the same flavor, brand voice, and brand personality. This also means you have to have a captivating social media strategy in place to attract, engage, and delight your prospective customers.
Some customers are high-touch; they expect a faster response from your brand when they have a query. For such customer segments, you should have a highly responsive customer service team. Alternatively, you can automate a large part of your customer acquisition and engagement through services such as chatbots or interactive online forms.
For low-touch customers, create a range of self-service content such as video tutorials, product documentation, how-to guides, FAQs, etc. to help customers find solutions to their problems on their own.
If your brand faces a high customer churn, you should invest in ad retargeting via web cookies to remind them of the benefits of buying from your brand.
3. Offer a Personalized Customer Experience
I have never met a customer who wants to be treated as a nameless, faceless statistic. Every customer wants to feel important, special, and they crave personal attention — even from giant megacorps.
If statistics are something to go by, close to 40% of consumers buy more from businesses that personalize their shopping experience across channels. Leverage this insight to create a sticky customer experience. Ask your customers to volunteer their information, address them by their first names, and customize your offering to their locale.
In today’s age of digital intelligence, you have plenty of software solutions that can help you pull this off. For instance, Clearbit helps you gather marketing intelligence even before you engage with a customer.
You can integrate the Clearbit data with a lead generation software such as OptinMonster to run a hyper-personalized nurture campaign, addressing people by their name and their shopping history. When customers come back to your website or mobile site, use a chatbot to re-engage with the customer and retain their loyalty.
Brands such as Netflix, Amazon, and Sephora have nailed personalization because they offer a uniform and contextual customer experience across all devices and platforms consistently.
4. Provide Great Customer Service Via All Channels
Acquiring customers is one thing, but turning them into repeat buyers is where the real challenge is. To complement an all-around customer experience, you have to optimize all your brand interfaces to offer contextual customer service.
In an age of fleeting attention spans, it takes just one bad customer service experience for buyers to turn their back on a brand. Meanwhile, it takes about 6–7 touches for a brand to convert a prospect into a paying customer.
An all-encompassing customer service strategy not only offsets the chances of customer churn, but it helps you cement a smooth-sailing omnichannel customer experience. Here is an example: traditionally, brands used to perceive social media purely as a broadcast channel to distribute information to their customers.
But there has been a big paradigm shift in this perception with the soaring popularity of social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook among consumers.
Buyers nowadays don’t have the patience to call toll-free customer support or email brands to resolve their queries. These processes are painfully slow and oftentimes end up dying amongst the myriad of trail mails and ticket escalations.
Social-media savvy customers have learned to circumvent these evasive processes by venting out their rants where they will be heard most — social media. Tag and tweet a brand you are facing troubles with and they will respond to you within hours or minutes with a surgical triage. Since your gripe is in full public view, the ticket resolution time is also often shorter than the traditional means.
Social media is just one avenue; you should aim to leverage all other possible touchpoints such as your website, mobile app, in-app interactions, and physical storefronts to offer prompt and meaningful customer service.
Bandwidth can be a problem if you are growing at a breakneck speed. In such cases, you should hire more people, train your agents to be more efficient, or outsource your contact center to experts who are capable to do it for you round-the-clock.
5. Monitor And Adapt
Providing an omnichannel customer experience is not a one-time achievement. At best, it’s a moving target because of rising customer expectations and the change in the global business landscape. The tactics that look great today can seem obsolete within the next few years. Therefore, you should devise an agile and proactive omnichannel CX strategy.
Documenting the best practices of past customer experience instances either from your brand or other brands is a great way to do this. You can also use data analytics to your advantage to understand the existing roadblocks and identify opportunities to ace omnichannel CX.
Rigorously test which ad copy, product UI, and interface experience resonate most with your ideal customers. Replicate that to other aspects of your business touchpoints while simultaneously working on the lagging interaction points. While your product functionality may be great, you should not lose sight of creating customer delight at every possible opportunity.
Fire Up Your Omnichannel CX
There is immense power in embracing an omnichannel CX strategy. When your brand is able to create a truly holistic omnichannel customer experience, you effectively turn each of your touchpoints into a potential sales and conversion-ready interface. You will not only attract more customers to interact and buy from your brand but also keep customers for life.
Best of all, an omnichannel CX gives you a competitive edge over other players in your domain because you have to go the extra mile to give your customer a truly coherent, continuous, and frictionless customer experience.
Did any of the above points on creating an omnichannel strategy take you by surprise? Why or why not? Let us know on Twitter or LinkedIn by tagging our @ContactPoint360 handle.