What Retail Marketers Need To Know About The Omni-Channel Customer Experience

| Jan 16, 2016 935 views No Comments

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Marketing has undergone a major transformation in the digital age, and today shoppers demand better, faster and more seamless experiences. This means that brands need to provide omni-channel experiences that allow customers to engage with a company wherever they are, be it in-store, using a mobile app or browsing a catalog.  

However, simply operating many marketing and service channels does not constitute an omni-channel strategy. As John Bowden, senior vice president of Customer Care at Time Warner Cable explained,

“Omni-channel anticipates that customers may start in one channel and move to another as they progress to a resolution. Making these complex ‘hand-offs’ between channels must be fluid for the customer. Simply put, omni-channel is multi-channel done right!” 

It’s not just a buzzword either – omni-channel strategies deliver results, according to a recent Aberdeen report. The study found that top-performing retailers were 30 percent more likely to optimize their customer care processes for omni-channel simplicity and the needs of consumers.

With omni-channel retail fast becoming the norm, what do retailers need to know to create a superior omni-channel customer experience that customers demand?

Omni-Channel Customer View

First off, customer analytics has always been a valuable resource for retailers, but now that the age of omni-channel has arrived, collecting this information is absolutely vital to developing a winning omni-channel customer experience.

When gathered, organized and leveraged correctly, this data provides a roadmap for retailers to launch more targeted and effective campaigns, eliminating much of the guesswork that goes into digital marketing and yielding major results. 

Julie Bernard, Group VP, Customer Centricity Direct Marketing & Loyalty speaking about the impact of data-driven marketing said that,

“We can now measure success in terms of the response of real people over time, in addition to measuring individual campaigns. We have enough data at the customer level to see how she interacts both online and in the store, so we can tailor messaging and offers to her appropriately by channel.”

Today, this not only includes web analytics data but Voice of the Customer data as well, which retailers can collect at each touch point along the omni-channel experience. By collecting customer needs, wants and expectations across the website, contact center and brick and mortar locations, the voice of the customer can be used to create tailored one-one experiences.

Offer consistent and continuous experiences

Now that consumers have immediate access to such a wide range of retail options online, they have nothing to lose by leaving a brand behind in search of a superior experience. Even if one channel in the experience is lagging – such as the mobile experience or post-purchase support – a retailer will likely see a drop in customer loyalty as shoppers take their business elsewhere. 

That’s why completeness and consistency are so critical. In an article penned for Entrepreneur, Jim Joseph the CMO for Cohn & Wolfe said that, “If the experience isn’t complete and consistent, the totality won’t be effective in creating customer loyalty.” Retailers must keep this in mind as they move forward. 

Leveraging emerging technologies

Consumers obviously have high expectations for retailers in this day and age, and brands that can stay on the cutting edge of technology such as beacons and geo-location software are likely to emerge victorious. 

According to a Forrester Report, Minding the Omni-Channel Commerce Gap, “Technology investment is critical to enabling exemplary omni-channel customer experience.”

Trends such as wearable tech and beacons will also pave the way for new and exciting methods to improve the customer experience. Brands are already utilizing data generated by mobile phones and tablets, and the next step is to harness the convenience of devices such as smart watches. Disney, for instance, recently introduced the MagicBand (See the image below for an example), an innovation that allows Disney park visitors to access attractions and events with just the wave of their hand. 

While every retailer will bring a distinct omni-channel customer experience strategy to the table, brands will have to strive to meet consumer expectations. Only having a complete view of the customer, offering consistent experiences and leveraging new technologies retailers have the edge.

Image source: Flickr

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