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Customer behavior: how to create a cohesive omnichannel experience in the buying process
The term 'omnichannel' has long surpassed its initial buzzword status to become a cornerstone of modern retail strategy. The consumer landscape has changed dramatically, driven by technological advancements and evolving consumer preferences.
Today's consumers are channel-agnostic and incredibly discerning, often interacting with brands across multiple touchpoints before making a purchase.
Last updated5 Oct 2023
Reading time6 min
The need for consistency in brand messaging across these diverse channels is not just a luxury but a business imperative. It's not about being present on multiple channels; it's about offering a seamless, integrated experience across them.
This article aims to go beyond simple discussion and equip you with actionable, proven strategies to create a cohesive omnichannel experience throughout the customer's buying process.
Utilize integrated data systems
Before we delve into the specifics, it's crucial to understand that integrated data systems are the backbone of any successful omnichannel strategy. These systems are not just repositories of customer data; they are dynamic platforms that enable real-time decision-making and personalized customer interactions.
The systems and their roles, at the most basic level, include:
Ecommerce platforms: these are not just transactional endpoints but valuable sources of customer behavior and preference data. When integrated with customer relationship management (CRM) and point-of-sale (POS) systems, they can offer a 360-degree view of the customer.
CRM systems: far from being just databases of customer information, modern CRM systems can trigger highly personalized marketing campaigns based on real-time customer behavior and historical data.
POS systems: these systems have evolved to do more than just process in-store sales. Modern POS systems can sync with online customer profiles, providing invaluable data for personalized in-store experiences.
The integration of these systems offers benefits that go beyond operational efficiency. It enables brands to deliver personalized, context-aware messages and offers to customers, irrespective of the channel they choose for interaction. These integrated systems are the foundation for delivering personalized customer experiences and creating a marketplace of the future.
Deliver personalized customer experiences
Data analytics tools sift through vast amounts of data to provide actionable insights into customer behavior. They analyze both historical data and real-time interactions to offer a comprehensive understanding of customer preferences and pain points.
AI uses the insights from data analytics to predict future customer behavior. It can automate many aspects of customer interaction, from chatbots that handle routine queries to algorithms that personalize website content in real time.
Machine learning algorithms go a step further by continuously learning from new data. This enables them to refine their predictions and recommendations, making them more accurate over time.
The key here is to integrate data analytics, AI, and machine learning to create a predictive and responsive customer experience framework. This will allow you to not just respond to customer needs but to anticipate them, thereby elevating the entire customer journey.
Integrate customer support across channels
Since customers interact with your brand through various channels—social media, email, phone, and in-store—a disjointed support experience can be a deal-breaker, making a unified support experience a business imperative.
The crucial step is to implement a centralized customer support system capable of handling queries from all channels. A centralized support system is the cornerstone of a unified customer support strategy, often called an Omnichannel Customer Service Platform.
This platform serves as a single point of contact for customer interactions across all channels. It should be integrated with your CRM to provide support agents with real-time customer data.
The advantages of this approach are numerous. Firstly, it significantly reduces the customer's effort in navigating your support ecosystem, as they get a consistent experience irrespective of the channel they choose.
Secondly, it increases the chances of resolving issues during the first contact, as agents have all the necessary information readily available. Finally, the system allows for real-time analytics, providing valuable insights for continuous improvement.
Provide flexible ecommerce fulfillment options
Today's competitive landscape practically mandates offering multiple delivery options like next-day delivery, click-and-collect, and even same-day delivery. Customers now expect a range of choices. Offering time slots for delivery, locker pick-ups, and even the option to change delivery details on the fly can set you apart from the competition.
Returns and exchanges often serve as the litmus test for your fulfillment process. A cumbersome, confusing ecommerce returns process can sour the customer experience and deter future interactions with your brand. It's crucial to offer a seamless returns process, complete with pre-printed return labels, easy-to-follow instructions, and quick refunds or exchanges.
The flexibility in your fulfillment options does more than just solve immediate logistical challenges; it has a long-term impact on how customers perceive your brand. A smooth, hassle-free fulfillment process can turn a one-time buyer into a repeat customer. Moreover, the convenience offered by flexible fulfillment options can also lead to positive word-of-mouth, amplifying your brand's reputation.
Use advanced inventory management systems
Advanced inventory management systems are about more than just tracking stock levels. They are complex platforms that integrate with other systems to optimize the entire supply chain. They can automate reordering, predict stock-outs, and even integrate with your ecommerce platform to provide real-time stock levels to customers.
The benefits of such systems are enormous. They prevent stock-outs and overstocking and enable dynamic pricing strategies based on inventory levels. This ensures that customers always find what they are looking for, thereby significantly improving their shopping experience.
Maintain a consistent brand experience across devices
Brand consistency is the practice of uniformly presenting your brand across all customer touchpoints, both online and offline. This uniformity extends beyond visual elements like logos and color schemes to include the tone of voice in customer communications, the user interface on your website or app, and even the overall customer journey.
To maintain brand consistency across various devices, consider the following practical steps:
Mobile-first web design: given the increasing use of smartphones for online shopping, start your design process with mobile devices in mind and then scale up to larger screens
Content scaling: ensure that your content scales appropriately across devices. Text should be readable without zooming, and images should resize to fit the screen.
Navigation consistency: the navigation menu should offer a consistent experience across devices. Dropdowns and menu items should be easily accessible regardless of the device being used.
Adaptive content: use device detection techniques to serve content tailored to the user's device, location, or even time of day. For example, a restaurant might show its breakfast menu in the morning and switch to the dinner menu in the evening.
Paying attention to these practical considerations ensures that your brand offers a consistent and high-quality experience across all devices. This improves user satisfaction and builds trust, which is crucial for customer retention and loyalty.
Understanding your competition is crucial for differentiating your brand. A comprehensive competitor analysis should include the following:
SWOT analysis: to identify Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats
Customer journey mapping: to understand how customers interact with your competitors
Channel analysis: to determine which channels your competitors are using effectively
Identifying gaps in the market or weaknesses in competitors' strategies allows you to position your brand as the solution to problems that others need to be adequately addressing.
Understanding your competitors' strengths can also be enlightening. It can guide you on industry standards and what customers are likely to expect as a baseline. This can help you make informed decisions about where to match competitors and where to surpass them, allowing you to allocate resources more effectively.
Case study: Burberry's omnichannel strategy
Burberry's strategy is a masterclass in omnichannel retailing. They pioneered numerous strategies, including partnering with Instagram for Instagram Checkout and launching their entire catalog on WeChat. Most intriguing was their 'B Series' campaign, a social-native product line available only during a 24-hour window on the 17th of each month.
This strategy created hype and deepened relationships with customers, particularly among younger demographics. The success of the 'B Series' has paved the way for other activities across multiple channels, allowing for even deeper interaction with their community.
Creating a cohesive omnichannel experience is not a project but an ongoing strategy that requires commitment from every part of the organization. The strategies outlined here are not just theoretical but actionable steps that have been proven to deliver results.
The takeaway is clear: implement these strategies to create a seamless, efficient, and effective omnichannel customer experience.
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