Multi-channel is NOT omni-channel

As technology advances, our lives become perpetually more integrated with the digital world. Media, e-commerce platforms, and devices deliver a variety of user experiences that revolutionise our previous routines and behaviours. The modern customer’s purchasing journey encompasses multiple touch points across offline and online platforms. With this shift in customer behaviour, marketers and merchants should rethink their strategies to meet new expectations.

Multi-channel is NOT omni-channel

The multi-channel model aims to deliver a coherent brand message across all possible channels. The more channels to reach out to the customer, the better. Over the past decade, brands have scrambled to conquer the digital space and make use of novel platforms to maintain a strong presence.

Another principle of the multi-channel model is exemplifying a “coherent brand message”. Whether the customer is looking through the catalogue of items on the brand’s website or browsing items in the brand’s retail store, the ambiance, the look and feel should be the same.

Under the multi-channel model, brands would segment their target audiences based on their interaction levels with each channel. From a management’s perspective, channels are viewed individually. Each channel is appointed with channel specific goals and structured to provide a rigid customer experience.

The omni-channel model perceives all channels as one social experience for the customer. Brands need to understand that not all customers would follow the designated user journey. This means that a paradigm shift should occur to adhere to this change in behaviour. Omni-channel is essentially a “customer centric strategy” that facilitate the purchasing model around the behavioural patterns of the customer.

Customers are more tech savvy nowadays. They are demanding personalisation and the brand to present them with a range of product/service options. Personalisation formulas should be accurate in predicting what the customer wants and display the right options in a timely yet non-intrusive way. The modern shopping experiences should feel seamless and effortless. Customers can conduct their research through forums, proceed to an offline store to learn more and end their journey with a purchase via the brand’s website.

Omni-channel example

Creating a seamless retail experience is often confused with simply creating more channels. Marketers and merchants should think from the customer’s perspective and determine what is effective and what isn’t. Brands should analyse customer’s digital footprint and integrate the patterns with operational data to better predict customer’s needs. Brands should provide access to integrated data to all stakeholder to allow various business units from the brand to contribute in enhancing the user’s journey.

An omni-channel store experience would begin prior to the customer arriving at the store. When a customer browses through the catalogue of the brand’s website, their digital footprint is being analysed in real-time, and the pre-programmed online ads will then lock-on the target and amplify their interest in purchasing. Upon arriving at the store, the sales representative could identify the customers and their unique needs since the collected data has been shared across business units. With the information on the customer’s past purchases, or the participation in previous brand campaigns, the sales representative can determine which items to cross-sell or up-sell to the customer. Upon checking out, the customer will also receive options to have it delivered to their home or pick up at another store if the item isn’t immediately available.

Future remarks for omni-channel

When brands shift their marketing operations to encompass an omni-channel model, a few fundamental changes need to be thoroughly examined.

Integrated platforms: To deliver a true omni-channel experience, the brand needs to be able to predict each customer’s purchasing journey and identify where they are in the sales funnel. Each channel’s database and supporting systems need to be centralised and effectively communicate with each other to provide on demand information. For example, when customers conduct a search from any channel they can access real-time information on the product’s availability and schedule convenient pickup locations.

Management philosophy: The customer will jump between channels in their purchasing journey. The channel that the customer began his/her research may not be the same channel that they end up making their purchase. Sales conversion may become difficult to trace if each channel’s performance is viewed individually. Instead, brand managers can consider constructing their sales predictions on the conversions among channels.

Staff training: While an omni-channel model is a customer centric strategy, the brand’s staff are the ones who are involved delivering its execution. An organisation should provide adequate training and preparation for staff across business units to adapt the omni-channel mindset. Sales representatives should learn to think from the customer’s perspective. Instead of directing the customer down a specific channel, the sales rep should advise channels that are convenient and have potential opportunities for cross/up-selling.

Having more channels to engage the customer is important, but ensuring that the customer’s experience is seamless will be the next revolution. By taking a customer-centric strategy approach, marketers can begin crafting user journeys that enables the customers to create their own purchasing paths. From a managerial perspective, brands should begin collaborating with their internal business units to establish shared data access systems, and to ensure their staff is on board as companies move forward with an omni-channel strategy.

This article is sponsored by PRIZM Group.