What Is an Omnichannel Strategy?
An omnichannel marketing strategy gives your customers a consistent and cohesive experience on every channel, both online and offline. It's designed with the customer experience (CX) in mind, and it provides a convenient interaction at every touchpoint — whether that's social media, text messaging, voice, chat, or another medium.
Because omnichannel solutions are integrated with one another, they retain crucial context that enables a smooth CX. An omnichannel solution allows a customer to switch channels — for example, from voice to text as they are running out the door to an appointment — so the customer can continue their conversation without having to recap it from the beginning for a different agent. This approach enhances customer satisfaction and accelerates first-call resolution.
In fact, companies with strong omnichannel customer engagement retain an average of 89% of their customers compared with just 33% for companies without.
How Does Omnichannel Differ From Multichannel?
Omnichannel and multichannel sound like the same thing, but there are important differences. A multichannel strategy uses multiple channels to engage customers like an omnichannel strategy does, but it does not integrate those channels or provide a consistent experience across them. Customers may find that they have a very different interaction on social media than they do on a voice channel, and that can result in brand confusion. The multichannel approach also doesn't allow customers to switch channels and keep crucial context about their conversation, so they may have to start over with a new agent if they go from one channel to another.
Why Is It Important to Use an Omnichannel Strategy?
According to McKinsey & Company, companies that adopted a compelling omnichannel retail strategy were considered at the edge of innovation not long ago. Today, a compelling omnichannel experience is simply necessary for survival. More than one-third of Americans regularly use omnichannel features — such as buying online for store pickup — and nearly two-thirds of them plan to continue doing so for the foreseeable future. To keep and win customers at a time when they have more choices than ever, companies will need to embrace an omnichannel marketing strategy.
An omnichannel approach is more effective because it elevates CX instead of leaving it to be driven by the company's own organizational processes. A business may need to make distinctions between specific channels for its internal operations purposes, but its customers — especially younger ones — do not. Rather than encountering what they perceive as artificial and unnecessary differences in experiences depending on the channel they happen to be using, these customers want and expect to receive consistently great interactions across all touchpoints. If they don't find what they're looking for, they may consider switching to a competitor.
What Are the Elements of a Successful Omnichannel Strategy?
When your business is looking to deliver a more complete CX, two questions come to mind:
What elements should you consider as you develop your omnichannel strategy?
What do you need to look for in your solution?
Chat, social media, mobile apps, and social media are all essential to modern customer service. But if you neglect voice in the channel mix, the contact center is at risk of becoming disconnected from your digital channels. Customers may struggle to find the human support they need, agents won't have a full picture of past transactions, and management won't have the full visibility needed to boost the customer experience.
A successful omnichannel strategy must address the needs of each of those three main stakeholders in a CX relationship: customers, agents, and managers.
There will always be make-or-break moments in the business-customer relationship that require the skills of a human agent. With digital channels set to handle common and easy-to-solve service problems, agents increasingly will be left to deal with more complex and emotionally charged issues. Consequently, omnichannel solutions must provide a seamless CX across digital channels and include clear escalation paths to voice.
Every omnichannel solution should consider the agent experience, enabling the same consistency provided to customers. Agents managing digital and voice channels should have complete visibility of the cross-channel interaction history. They should also be able to use a single interface for all operations and not need to switch between platforms to handle the different channels.
Ensuring your omnichannel solution employs a single routing engine for all digital and voice channels is essential for sales and service managers. Ideally, the solution should tightly integrate with your customer relationship management (CRM) system, providing a solitary source of truth for all interactions and data. This will allow managers to implement overarching key performance indicators (KPIs) while accessing timely insights for applying training, forecasting, and scheduling that boosts CX.
Employed correctly, a single routing engine will allow managers to use a common intelligent routing system. With this governing all channels, you can control and prioritize which agents receive which interactions.
How to Develop a Successful Omnichannel Strategy
When pursuing omnichannel initiatives for the first time, it can be difficult to know where to begin or how to prioritize your resources. A clear omnichannel strategy can help you focus your efforts and maximize your impact. Here are a few key steps to get you started.
1. Understand Your Customers
Because an omnichannel strategy centers on CX, it's important to first understand who your customers are and how they currently interact with you. You can collect this data in a variety of ways — via a customer survey, website or ecommerce platform analytics, or even in-store tracking. The goal is to identify the channels where customers are already interacting with you and spot where those channels overlap with one another. Once you have this insight, you can make smarter decisions about where to invest.
2. Streamline Experiences Across Channels
You might discover that some of the channels where your customers spend most of their time create very different experiences from one another. This inconsistency can lead to brand confusion and introduce unnecessary points of friction in the shopping experience. With this in mind, take a close look at how the customer journey plays out across these channels and take steps to close any gaps. For example, you may want to make it easier for customers to make purchases with a minimum number of clicks. Or you can streamline branding across all your channels so customers will be confident they’re in the right place when they’re ready to make a purchase.
3. Integrate Online and Offline Channels
Don't overlook opportunities to integrate your offline channels into your omnichannel strategy. That way, you will give your customers a truly cohesive experience everywhere they encounter your brand. You can also increase opportunities for selling by doing so. For example, businesses that enabled curbside pickup early in the pandemic enjoyed a competitive advantage over those that did not. And remember, today’s savvy customers like to engage over social or chat. Whether on their smart device or in front of a computer, they are a captive audience — so capture the moment (and possibly the sale) through conversational commerce.
4. Leverage Your Unique Expertise
Take a moment to identify what specialized expertise you bring to the table. Particularly in the business-to-business space, consider sharing your knowledge with current and prospective customers via regular live chats or video chats on select channels.
What Are Some Tips for Implementing This Strategy?
Once you have an omnichannel strategy in place, it's time to consider how best to implement it. These tips will help you increase your chances of a successful implementation.
Select the Right Omnichannel Solutions
For example, an omnichannel contact center can give your agents exactly the capabilities they need to deliver a satisfying experience at each and every touchpoint, including text, voice, video chat, social media, and much more. Communications APIs allow you to add additional channels and innovate the omnichannel experience even further, surprising and delighting customers in the process.
You can further maximize the value of your omnichannel investment by integrating your cloud phone system with key applications like your CRM and business productivity software, enabling your employees to more efficiently collaborate with one another and elevate the CX even further.
Engage an Experienced Partner
Especially if you are pursuing an omnichannel strategy for the first time, you may benefit from working with an experienced partner that has implemented omnichannel solutions for companies similar to yours. Not every omnichannel solutions provider has the depth of expertise or full spectrum of integrations necessary to support a true omnichannel strategy. Look for a provider that offers best-of-breed solutions, gets positive reviews from customers and industry analysts alike, and has a proven track record of successful omnichannel implementations.
Define Metrics for Success
It’s important to define metrics that will help you evaluate your progress toward achieving your goals. These KPIs will enable you, your employees, and your solutions partner to be on the same page and on track before, during, and after implementation. Depending on the solutions you select, you should be able to configure these KPIs in analytics dashboards for regular monitoring and evaluation.
How Can the Strategy's Effectiveness Be Optimized?
Dedicate as much time and focus as possible toward crafting a strong omnichannel marketing strategy well before you proceed to the next step of selecting solutions and implementing them. Also give careful attention to the metrics you will use to determine whether you have succeeded, and give your employees and managers the tools they need — in the form of technology as well as training — to excel in their roles. With everyone on board and invested in the project, you will have a much greater chance of implementing an effective omnichannel solution.
What Are Some Examples of Omnichannel Strategies That Work?
Many companies have applied effective omnichannel strategies to improve CX, particularly since the pandemic began. For example, Disney famously offers an app that spans multiple customer touch points, both online and offline — an essential for a brand with such a strong physical presence. Starbucks also uses omnichannel features in its flagship app, allowing customers to place custom orders before arriving at their stores for a seamless service experience. Like many financial institutions, Bank of America deploys an omnichannel strategy to let customers perform regular tasks, like paying bills or depositing checks, so they don't have to venture into a branch office.
The contact center stands at the forefront of managing customer relationships. As self-service and digital channels are used increasingly for simple requests, agents will be needed to handle the more complex, make-or-break service scenarios. In this shifting context, voice remains a crucial channel and a fundamental part of any omnichannel solution. When picking a provider, the channels supported, the CRM, routing, and data visibility are subsequently crucial to ensuring the needs of customers, agents, and managers are catered for.