I was recently reading a post shared on twitter and it felt like Omni channel was being used for everything eCommerce.
Omni channel is considerably a popular buzzword in the retail & ecommerce game. But it gets thrown out too often than it should be. (Millennials! Another one, right!)
So, is Omni channel a system? Or is it a set of systems working together? Does Omni channel involve people? Process changes? Or is there a certain framework for what Omni channel can and should achieve.
Let us understand & simplify ‘Omni channel’:
Omni channel is nothing but unification of channels, process, and disparate experiences. What are channels? Channels are different mediums by which businesses reach and serve a customer, or customers reach a brand. Channels are classified in different shapes/sizes – like formats, form factors, direct, indirect, physical, virtual etc.
Earlier companies transacted mainly from stores or indirect method (calling, printed medium). A small division to run their website. A different department to run their customer care. Marketing and sales was different too. So, while each department had their job cut out, these departments functioned in silos, wiz nothing in common. Their view of their ‘target’ customer- the demographics, customers’ needs, etc. everything would be different. This means, that the customer experience was different based on where and who the customer transacted with.
But where was the problem? The issue was that over a period of time, these departments, systems got too far away from each other, carrying out ‘their’ jobs.
If you as a customer, went to a store, the price of that item was different than online but the store manager never wants you to go online even if they run out of stock. If you called customer care they didn’t know about your order which you placed online. If you bought a product online, you couldn’t dream of returning that product to the store. Basically, all channels acted like different companies. The problem was for a customer as he was still dealing with the same brand. Hence, in perspective:
The brand did not put valuable information about the customer to use
There existed redundancy and wastage of information/assets by the brand
For the customer, channel conflicts meant poor customer experience
So how has ‘Omni channel’ changed this?
Omni channel recognizes that the customer and his brand experience comes first. Different channels are not different companies but should be seen as different elements of the same brand who work together towards serving the customer. The benefit is that this behaviour is intuitive to customers – this is what they expect to happen.
Omni channel recognizes that the customer can be anywhere. The customer may be using an apple watch, ipad, iphone, work computer, personal computer and more devices and his profile can get shared. The customer may also visit in store, or call in, or interact with the chat agent. Hence any strategy that the retailer employs, should facilitate a seamless relationship of the brand to its customers.
Is there a certain qualification to be Omni channel?
Well, Yes and No.
Yes – because there are things which are at the rudimentary level which everyone most do.
No – because every business is different.
Hence, Omni channel doesn’t mean everyone building same rule set, scenarios or experiences. The experiences have to be based on your customers and your business model.
Here is how to go about figuring out a starting point for yourself. Draw a matrix to capture your strategy:
(Rows) Channels by which your customer connect, or you reach out to your customers – Stores, e-Commerce site, Marketing campaigns, Print catalogue, Customer Care.
(Column) Marketing which covers Content strategy- Articles, information, imagery
(Column) Product information & pricing
(Column) Channel Traverse [easy of buying products across channels, returns, experience]
This should help you get started. you can refine this further as you dive deeper
Step 1: For this matrix, you should be able to think about precisely what you are doing today. For example, when it comes to your Marketing across Stores, eCommerce and other channels, do you have centralized information? are you able to reuse assets? are you sending a unified message to your customers or are you confusing the customer?
Step 2: Pin this matrix to a white board and redraw to define what should you change to make it better? where is the most bang for buck? what are the low hanging fruits? email campaigns would be easier to deal with vs changing the store signage
Well, with this, it’s a wrap on this article. I hope you find this useful and get started with defining your strategy. If you have any thoughts, do not shy away from penning them in the comments section.
Director of Sales Commerce Solutions