The digital era, among the many consequences that it has brought in terms of both strategic and practical shifts, has obliged companies to start adopting and reinventing new solutions, technologies, tools, and models, as they obtain more and more evidence that customers are demanding digitalization as a must-have during their buying routes. The path to their purchases, which can be defined as their journey across your company, is constantly changing and rapidly adjusting to the context and to their needs and expectations. Nowadays, customers expect a considerable variety of options within their path to purchase, and they want to navigate easily, intuitively, and rapidly throughout their buyers’ journeys with the company they choose to interact with. Customers are engaging in more channels, therefore whether they start their journey online, in a physical store, or in a catalogue, they expect a cohesive experience that will ultimately satisfy their needs.
Although customers’ shift through digital channels has been extensive, their traditional channels experiences and expectations still have a considerable role to play and significant leverage in the customer’s’ journey. Hence, solely assuming and focusing on digital channels in order to meet your customer’s’ requirements for a positive experience with your company, would be an imprudent underestimation of your customer base. As a matter of fact, customers are thriving for digital channels and options through their journeys, not to the exclusion of other more traditional channels, though. On the other hand, it clearly appears that customers want to move freely from a channel to another, undergoing a consistent and relevant experience across their whole journey.
Drastically, the merge between offline and online channels has to be strategically managed, to cope with your customer-base expectations, and to strike the competition by providing high-quality experiences. Smaller adjustment and incremental changes concerning digital channels on the whole chain might not be sufficient, especially if those channels are implemented with little regards to the traditional ones. To address this challenge, businesses need to have rich, end-to-end, and well-sequenced channel integration, based on a wide understanding of their customers’ attitudes, needs, expectations and underlying experiences. Hence, companies are required to adopt a strategic solution to achieve positive results in such a challenging context: omnichannel approach.
Why omnichannel is relevant to your business?
The omnichannel approach in terms of strategy and more specifically of strategic marketing is a proven solution providing companies with cutting-edge assets and capabilities to combine and integrate several channel options, to improve their go-to-market strategy. Omnichannel grants the company to deliver a seamless customer experience, ultimately capturing and driving growth within a customer-centric context. This experience will result to be highly consistent, relevant, and significant for customers, regardless of the channels they select during their journeys.
Traditionally, companies have focused their marketing efforts over developing a multi-channel strategy, which focus was to optimize the variety of multiple channels used to reach out to customers, improving through each isolated touch point the interaction with them. Nevertheless, within today’s digital era, which is increasingly changing and rapidly evolving, adopting a multichannel strategy might be obsolete. Given that customers are demonstrated to be more and more demanding of a whole end-to-end high-quality experience, the most feasible and successful solution is provided by the omnichannel approach. Omnichannel encompasses and surpasses the multichannel approach, since it takes on your company’s available multiple channels and it requires a deep connection among them, integrating content, timing, and processes, ensuring a cohesive journey to your customers, constantly working in synchronous. Therefore, through omnichannel your company will be able to establish a co-dependency between each channel, aligning both online and offline efforts, based on customers’ experiences, from a highly customer-centric perspective, from end-to-end.
Assuming that every company has already undergone or it is undertaking a digital transformation, it results particularly profitable to consider how to integrate and drive value from both digital channels implementation and traditional channels management. The most convenient tactic, which also strategically yields better results, is the omnichannel approach.
Omnichannel implementation tasks and challenges
Undergoing an omnichannel transformation, which exceeds a common digital transition, might represent a challenging and highly sensitive process since it requires a wide spectrum of tasks involving your company as a whole. The main imperatives are sufficiently intuitive, such as integrate different channels, consider your customer’s’ perspective to orientate your efforts, and to rethink your organizational structure. Nevertheless, all initiatives need to be carried out meticulously, in order to avoid detrimental consequences.
First of all, to integrate digital and traditional channels and configure them as co-dependent in an omnichannel perspective, companies need to be highly dynamic, to re-think their strategic approaches towards customer-centricity, focusing on segmented customer-bases, and tailoring the whole processes and operations according to customer’s’ needs and expectations, aiming to build up a solid and high-quality experience for them during their customer journey. Higher degrees of integrations among channels implies a considerable reduction of barriers for customers, allowing them to undergo a smooth end-to-end journey when interacting with your business, whether they start their purchasing path online or in a physical store. This channel integration requires your business to override potential internal barriers, such as departments operating in an isolated node.
Secondly, in order to avoid disregarding diversities among your customers, it is recommended to start analyzing, through a pragmatic data-driven approach, your customer base. Addressing this challenge would also secure your business with the development and exploitation of sophisticated insights concerning your audience attitudes and expectations when they interact with all the different channels options. Mapping the customer journey is a mandatory step that would also grant your business the most effective opportunities for your channels to cooperate, and it also provides a list of improvements in priorities and initiatives. Unless a company gathers and access detailed information and data about its customers, it risks jeopardizing omnichannel efforts.
Furthermore, to successfully roll out and endure an omnichannel strategy, configured within today’s fast-changing environment, it is necessary to refine and reshape your organization internal governance, assets, and capabilities, in order to support an essential cultural change, granting your company to co-evolve with the market it operates in. By restructuring the governance approach, your business will be secured against the most immediate threat of an unsustainable long-lasting implementation. Thus, an omnichannel transition as to be conjugated with on organizational shift towards a cross-functional structure, establishing cross-function teams to focus on every single channel and to collaborate with each other when approaching channel intersections. These teams would also constantly reevaluate the omnichannel model’s health and performances, while identifying profitable improvements and opportunities, converting them into real-time actions, which will be highly responsive to customers’ needs.
In a nutshell, omnichannel is a necessity in today’s rapidly evolving market landscape, especially considering that your customers have unlimited access to digital technologies and channels, and that expect a consistent and complementary experience when embarking in the customer journey your company is providing them. The main consequence is that the purchasing path your customer tend to follow and prefer is driven by higher degrees of tailored and relevant contents, offerings, and solutions.
Omnichannel fully address this issue, since it originates from taking into account data and insights about your customers, identifying their unique activities and preferences across channels that hit the mark in delivering an above-expectation experience, which also is timely relevant to them. At the heart of omnichannel lies the essential element that would drive your customers to identify themselves in all your company’s touchpoints: a unified and consistent experience, that is constantly adjusting on their needs and expectations, hence highly personalized.
In the next issue, attention will be drawn to personalization, as it results to be a particularly beneficial approach that cannot be taken out of the equation towards a successful digital transition.