Omnichannel is nothing – Experience should be channel specific

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I have been studying, working and creating in the space of Digital for a while now. One of the interesting concepts that I kept coming across often is “Omnichannel”. Omnichannel Commerce, Omnichannel Retailing, Omnichannel Analytics, Omnichannel Experience – you name it, prefix it with Omnichannel and you will find someone doing it.

Slowly I am beginning to realize that this term is actually quite a farce… there is nothing Omnichannel. (Kudos to the person who coined it for having blind-sighted so many of us)

In the world of Digital (as in physical), every new device, every new gadget, every new channel which becomes popular becomes so because it brings a certain value to the consumer which every other channel or gadget before it could not. So for example, desktop/laptops are great for data-heavy processes like form-filling (buying international flight tickets, insurance, health-records, long emails, blog writing, etc), smart-phones are fantastic for thumb-driven processes like swipe/slide/click/share. Try writing an email with Google glass or reading “War & Peace” on your BlackBerry (perfect for push email) and you will begin to see the picture.

So there is really no such thing as Omnichannel (my apologies if I offended any HTML5 developers or companies). Omnichannel is extremely limited in its scope and applicability. Read this fantastic Forrester report for deeper insights about channel specific technology needs.

So how do you balance the complexity of managing multiple channels – from physical brick-and-mortar stores to online website to social pages to mobile apps – while ensuring consistency and predictability in customer interactions, service, transactions and commerce.

This is where the 4-tier architecture (also covered by Forrester) comes into action. Most consumer-centric organisations have to split services aggregation and delivery layer in their IT ecosystem. These layers would detect the channel being used by the consumer and deliver the services optimized for that specific channel.

So if I am standing around in a retail store, I can scan a QR code and check online prices for a mobile phone that I really like, while the in-store assistant helps me understand the various plans available with that phone (think guided selling). And if I really like the phone and the plan and I purchase it, I am given access to an online self-care portal where I can chat with an online agent in case I have servicing issues. And I can allow the service provider to share posts on my Facebook page as long as they do not spam my mailbox.

The future is not about omni-channel, it is about optimized channel – yes offer everything on every channel but first have a plan for extracting maximum bang for your buck from each channel. An app for instant transactions but a website for secure communication. An in-store presence for shopping experience while a social media channel for digital marketing. A call center for complex problem resolution while a virtual agent for simple self-help tasks.

Map the consumer journey and optimize the experience because one who tries to cover all bases at once, ends up covering none at all…. And those who can hit home runs, don’t need to cover any base at all, anyway….

Abhishek Singh
Currently, Abhishek holds the responsibility for conceptualizing, implementing and managing the IT product strategies for Infosys subsidiary, EdgeVerve, in the Digital space. Prior to this, several years at Singapore Airlines as well as his years of entrepreneurship ingrained in him the importance of customer experience.

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