I recently had the privilege to attend an NHL game. It was a magical experience watching the speed, power and precision of the world’s best hockey players.
But one aspect of the experience particularly struck me – the seamless, interactive and interconnected process of purchasing the tickets all the way to getting to my seat.
I bought the tickets online at the last minute, which were then instantly available in the ticket vendor’s app or my Apple wallet. When I arrived at the arena, all I had to do was scan my tickets using the app. I know this type of technology has existed for a while and is a favorite of airlines, but this was the first time I couldn’t print my tickets for an event - I had to use the app.
This is just one example of how brands are shifting towards bringing the offline and online experience closer together. Obviously, one of the main reasons that events are doing this is to eliminate scalping, but it is also to inextricably improve the Customer Experience (CX).
Technological advancements in the past few years have allowed brands to experiment with different channels as a way to improve the CX. This has spurred “multi-channel” and “omni-channel” to become two of the biggest buzzwords, while bringing discussions about the “omni-channel customer experience” to the forefront.
In this post, I will dig deeper into how to improve the omni-channel experience but first I will just clarify a couple of things:
What is the Omni-Channel Customer Experience?
First, it’s important to make the distinction between multi-channel and omni-channel.
Being multi-channel means that are you are operating many marketing and service channels, such as websites, mobile apps, email, in-store and so on.
Being omni-channel, on the other hand, means that you are intertwining these different channels in a way that makes it feel seamless for your customers to move through their customer journey in hopes of reaching your ultimate goal: a conversion.
As John Bowden, senior vice president of Customer Care at Time Warner Cable explains:
"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!"
Approaching your customer experience optimization efforts with an omni-channel mindset is key, especially when considering how getting consumers to interact with more channels across their journey can impact the bottom line.
But how do you achieve this in practice? What do brands need to know to create a superior omni-channel customer experience?
Start with removing the silos
Brands, especially ones in retail, are being pressured to have a presence on every channel. But as I alluded to above, channels must be fluid and blend together, not operate as their own separate and siloed entities.
In an article for Forbes, Scott Horn, CMO of 7, said that,
“Rather than adding more channels, companies will begin to orchestrate the customer experience by pairing channels to make a consumer’s experience easier. Companies will do a better job of choreographing a consumer’s experience within and across channel pairs.”
Not providing a consistent and continuous experience across channels could actually hurt your brand, with consumers potentially finding your efforts annoying rather than helpful. When done right, however, it’s a win-win for both you and your customers.
Cosmetics giant Sephora provides a great example of a consistent and continuous omni-channel experience done right, thanks to their mobile app that assists shoppers and gives them easy access to product ratings and reviews.
Bridget Dolan, vice president of digital media at Sephora elaborated during an interview with Think With Google:
"[One] of the biggest opportunities that we have in retail is for our customers to leverage their phones as a shopping assistant when they're standing in the store. Having access to this information is that perfect new moment for customers to find everything they're looking for and get advice from Sephora."
The elimination of silos between your different channels is key to a successful omni-channel customer experience strategy. Thankfully, customer-centric companies have been increasingly able to use emerging technology as a wrecking ball to take down these silos.
Leveraging emerging technologies
Consumers today have higher and higher expectations from their favorite brands, which can often only be met by staying on the cutting edge of technology. Tech is not only fundamental to create a fluid experience on (and between) channels, but it’s also counted on by brands and consumers alike to take the customer experience to the next level.
From virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), to chatbots and the Internet of Things (IoT), brands are investigating and implementing these emerging technologies to stay ahead of the game.
One example that can’t be ignored when mentioning emerging technologies and omni-channel is Amazon and their Amazon Go stores. These new stores take full advantage of new technology (what Amazon calls ‘Just Walk Out Technology’) to create a fluid online and offline experience. Amazon Go stores let shoppers take items from the shelves and leave the store without needing to go through a checkout line, instead of detecting the items the shoppers took with them and charging their credit card for these items instantly.
Make sure you are measuring the omni-channel experience
With all your different channels working together and leveraging emerging technologies, it is also essential to measure the omni-channel customer experience to make sure it remains a well-oiled machine. Only by measuring and creating an omni-channel customer view will you be able to see how each aspect of the experience is tracking and impacting different channels.
Measuring the omni-channel customer experience starts with installing listening posts across all the different touchpoints and throughout the entire customer journey.
What is a Listening Post?
A structured approach to collecting customer feedback on individual touchpoints from the website to the in-store experience to the call center. Each listening post includes a research map, an engagement method and the destination of where the feedback will be actioned such as in a report or integrating with other systems.
This customer feedback allows you to uncover customer needs, wants and expectations across the website, contact center, brick-and-mortar locations and other channels on which your brand is present. When gathered, organized and leveraged correctly, this data provides you with a roadmap to launch more targeted and effective campaigns, eliminating much of the guesswork in optimizing the customer experience.
At iperceptions, for example, we have generated tailored dashboards that have allowed our clients to evaluate the customer experience across their own customer journey. These dashboards have allowed them to easily compare CX ratings and evaluate customer feedback for individual channels, enabling them to quickly pinpoint the channels that are impacting the overall customer experience, to easily dig down to determine its causes and to determine how to fix it.
While every brand will bring a distinct omni-channel CX strategy to the table, they will have to continuously strive to meet consumer expectations. Only by having a complete view of the customer, offering consistent experiences and leveraging new technologies will brands have the edge.
Image source: Flickr