By now you shouldn’t be a stranger to the term omnichannel. After ‘big data’ I find this as the next big buzzword in the world of business and, you guess it, of digital transformation.With that comes the abundance of various definition of omnichannel – from as simple-but- not-necessarily- correct as multi-channel, to cross-channel, to a lengthy one like “a multichannel approach to sales that seeks to provide the customer with a seamless shopping experience whether the customer is shopping online from a desktop or mobile device, by telephone or in a bricks and mortar store.”We get the idea. Despite the various definitions that are being offered, the more important thing to focus is the expectation your customers have when engaging your brand, and that it a frictionless experience.Omnichannel means frictionless customer experienceI recently visited Tokyo for a vacation with my family, and after three days or so, it dawned on me that we didn’t really have to ask around either for directions or how-to when purchasing metro tickets or other stuffs in stores. There was very little need for that. It’s almost like everything is thought through, because every experience we had, except when it required conversing in English, was frictionless.Don Peppers, best-selling business author and a founding partner of Peppers & Rogerts Group, shares that the secret to customer loyalty is a frictionless experience that removes obstacles. I couldn’t agree more and I believe that is why omnichannel is such a hot topic today. One cannot digitally transform their business without ensuring omnichannel is enabled. Because omnichannel is business and business is omnichannel.It’s simple, but not easyJust over a few weeks ago, SAP Hybris published a research paper with a focus on omnichannel at the back of insights received from over 900 key decision makers in sales, marketing, commerce, and customer service, at some of the world’s biggest brands, in eight global markets.From leadership and management perspective, 72% business leaders all know they have to close the technology gap. Yet, only 6% think they’re managing customer relationships in a truly sophisticated, joined-up way.I believe one reason behind this is because the road of digital transformation can be scary. But it can be a safe one. It takes knowing the rule and taking action: be everywhere… or go nowhere. The good old days where it’s used to be easy are gone. In those days, you pretty much just had to research a market, design the product, and then market the thing.Thanks (or no thanks) to technology and out-of- the-box business ideas, we have now arrived in a totally different world: the world where customer relationships are conducted across multiple channels, at any time, from every kind of device. In short, the world of omnichannel.In this world, a unified, single-view of customer intelligence is a must. Yet, the research findings show 56.6% businesses still can’t be contacted by social media, only 12.9% businesses offer a customer history and service record in mobile apps, and 76.3% businesses’ existing CRM systems can’t track customers’ social media interaction.How come you ask? It’s because marketing, sales, and service are broken in most organisations. A survey conducted by Loudhouse that surveyed 800 global sales executives revealed that only 18% sellers align sales process to customer journey. Another research by Forrester reported that 69% of service agents believe that it systems are lagging behind the company vision for them. Those findings only compliment what SAP Hybris’ research has found: only 10% marketers are confident in their company’s ability to leverage data into actionable intelligence.You need to tap into the power of omnichannelThere is really no other way. If you are not yet in the journey of enabling omnichannel experience for your customers, sooner or later you will have to. But take note, the time window of that decision can mean either the continuation or discontinuation of your business.Going back to my experience in Tokyo, while most of the experiences we had were friction-less, there was a moment of a missed opportunity that I experienced as a customer. We were commuting in a metro and I saw a print advertisement for a beer brand. It caught my attention first and foremost because it was in English, while the rests of ads were in Japanese.As I read the copy along, I became interested and convinced to find and buy this product. But, there was no information on where to get it. I assumed that any supermarket should carry this product, right? Wrong. Not only because they didn’t but also because I couldn’t remember the name of the brand, although I could have identified the packaging of the can if I saw one. Now, if the ads included a QR code that I could scan in my phone, and provided me with the stores information like locations, this story would end differently.Since you have read this far, I will now share the three fundamental steps on how you can tap into the power of omnichannel to get you started. First, you need to start at the core of the problem and that is to break down the great wall between customer and back office. Second, leverage data across product,customer, and order, to drive omnichannel. This is a crucial step to get a single source of truth. Third, start aligning against your customers’ expectations – knowing is not enough – and your customers today expect convenience, consistency, relevance, empowerment, and agility from your brand/organisation.It’s a mission and you’re the agentAs I said above, enabling omnichannel experience is not easy. But the good news is that, there are already proven road maps and best practices to guide you in this journey, just make sure you team up with the right partners, who are market leaders in this area, especially when sourcing and implementing the technology.As a closing, look at it as a mission and you are the agent. And if your job deals with customers, directly or indirectly, then you are an agent of omnichannel and you have a stake in this whole mission.The writer is Rita Marini, senior director, Audience Engagement Marketing, APJ & Greater China, SAP Hybris.
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