Marketers and customer experience professionals are no strangers to the term “omni-channel.” This concept has been talked and written about—ad nauseam, some would say—for the past few years. Interestingly enough, what we’re finding in conversation with organizations is that there is still some confusion about what “omni-channel” actually means. Our aim is to clarify the definitions of omni-channel and multi-channel and re-emphasize the importance of implementing an omni-channel strategy within your organization.
First off, the definitions:
• Multi-Channel: Etymologically, “multi” means many, so if customers can engage with your brand using multiple channels (email, contact center, website, social media), then you offer a multi-channel approach to the customer experience. Multi-channel engagement is vulnerable to the “silo effect,” whereby customers may encounter different experiences depending on which channel they are using.
• Omni-Channel: “Omni” is a combination form meaning “all.” When we discuss omni-channel, we are referring to a singular experience for customer engagement across all channels. Organizations that focus on an omni-channel strategy work to that ensure a seamless experience is had by customers across any and all channels, so that when customers migrate from one channel to the next, their journey is consistent and not siloed.
Creating strategies around multi- and omni-channel engagement isn’t being driven by marketing or sales departments so much as it is by customers. Nowadays, customers consult an average of 11 different pieces of content over multiple devices prior to committing to a purchase. Based on consumer’s behavior, it is clear to see why an omni-channel strategy is crucial to providing excellent customer experiences.
A comprehensive study of 7,000 consumers spread across seven countries discovered that a majority of surveyed participants felt that companies were more focused on seamless sales experiences, rather than customer service, across multiple channels. Because of the lack of coordination between channels, customers were forced to phone into contact centers for customer support. This lack of consistency across channels is driving customers away, according to an insight paper published by Aberdeen Group. It’s not that organizations aren’t offering customer service across different platforms—they simply aren’t offering consistent customer service across the various touchpoints, and this is what’s driving customers crazy. The author of the paper mentioned above demonstrated that businesses that adopted an omni-channel CEM strategy outpaced similar businesses without one. Year over year, those businesses that focused on an omni-channel experience enjoyed a 91 percent increase in customer retention rates (6.5 percent vs. 3.4 percent) over businesses without a coherent omni-channel strategy. Additionally, these companies also enjoyed better financial results in customer profitability and lifetime value.
Businesses can no longer afford to operate in siloes when it comes to customer care. Today’s customers are tethered to multiple devices and expect their journeys with a brand or product to seamlessly follow them no matter what device or platform they happen to be using.
We anticipate organizations will begin investing more resources into developing omni-channel strategies in the upcoming year, as it is evident that failing to do so will negatively impact the bottom line. Delivering exceptional customer experiences requires businesses to meet customers where they’re at, not where we’d like them to be. Today’s consumer relies on numerous devices and communication channels to make singular decisions and they expect a consistent experience across channels. In preparing budgets for the upcoming year, we hope that developing an omni-channel strategy is a priority. Your customers are waiting!