Omnichannel vs Multichannel: A Customer Service Revolution

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While it used to be cutting-edge to use two or more marketing channels to engage with customers, it is now no longer enough to satisfy customers. Find out more about the latest marketing strategy that’s helping businesses succeed.

For businesses with an online presence, multichannel strategies used to be enough. But now, omnichannel strategies lead the way in creating a top customer experience. But that’s not all: strategies like these also have a positive influence on the bottom line. Companies with strong omnichannel engagement experience an average increase of 9.5% of year-on-year annual revenue, whereas those with weak omnichannel strategies only experience an average of 3.4%.

How Are Omnichannel and Multichannel Strategies Different?

There are many similarities between multichannel and omnichannel strategies; they can almost be seen as different parts of a scale. Multichannel strategies allow customers to choose how to interact with a brand on a channel level — offering the choice between contacting them via email or over the phone, for example. But an omnichannel strategy takes it even further.

An omnichannel strategy offers its customers different channels to contact the company from, but it also combines several other factors, including choice of device and greater time flexibility. In addition, omnichannel strategies also seek to offer the same level of service, regardless of how the customer decides to interact with the company. Omnichannel strategies integrate all of the channels together, offering customers a seamless customer service experience.

Key Focuses For An Omnichannel Strategy

1) Accessibility

Accessibility is the key focus of an omnichannel strategy, giving customers greater access regardless of platform, device or time. The goal is increasing the ease of access. Simply put, an omnichannel strategy should make it incredibly easy for customers to interact with a brand, however they want to, whenever they want to.

Time is becoming an increasingly important factor for consumers. 32% of customers expect a response from a social media query within 30 minutes and 57% of customers expect the same response time, whether it is during normal business hours or not. As omnichannel strategies begin to take hold, customers are expecting 24/7 service from brands more and more.

Device is a key consideration, too. In 2016, mobile web browsing overtook desktop for the first time ever. To ensure that customers receive the best experience possible, it is necessary to allow customers access to a brand, regardless of how they are browsing. While the vast majority of websites are now mobile-optimised, many are still falling behind. As well as being key to the user experience, not mobile-optimising your site means it will receive a rather negative view from Google.

2) Consistency

Omnichannel strategies seek to offer the same experience and message across different channels and devices. The idea is that however a customer approaches a brand, they will experience the same level of interaction. For example, if a customer sends a message via Twitter, they should receive the same level of service as they would have experienced over the phone or on the website. In addition, the various platforms should have the same feel to them.

Marketers often speak of “brand voices”. This is a good example of how platforms should feel consistent. While a brand should change its messages very slightly to suit a social trope, care should be taken to avoid projecting a different brand image as a result. In addition, the visual theme and feel of a website should be consistent across devices and a similar look and feel should be cultivated across email, social and other online platforms.

3) In-Store Match-Up

Modern consumers are big on their research; they often ‘showroom’ or ‘webroom’ before making purchases. Showrooming is when customers browse around a shop before buying online, while webrooming describes when customers look online before visiting shops to buy what they need.

There is often talk of linking online and offline experiences — and there are many different approaches to doing this. Many websites allow you to view how many of an item are in stock in the physical shop location, while more and more retailers are using screens to help bring online content into their store. Furthermore, some retailers, like Oasis, provide their staff with iPads so they can process payments online anywhere in the store, giving them access to live information and the ability to order items for home delivery.

Some brands are taking it even further. Amazon’s physical stores allow customers to simply pick items up and leave. The store bills them on their Amazon account as they exit, based on the items they are carrying.

Some retailers prefer to encourage customers to visit them in-store, as they’re less likely to compare prices and more likely to buy on impulse. Businesses do this by holding events and offering in-store discounts.

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4) Getting Personal

Even small details can make a big impact on customer experience. 89% of customers report having been frustrated by needing to repeat their issues to multiple representatives in order to get closer to a resolution. This needn’t be something that frustrates customers. It would be very simple for a call handler to pass on a message to the next representative, or for them to store comments on a CRM system that the next person could refer to before trying to help this customer.

In many companies, the systems used are kept relatively separate; details of a customer who had previously purchased online may not be available on the shop floor. In many cases, shops cannot allow customers to return a product that they purchased through the website. This can be a real source of frustration that is often complained about in customer surveys.

On a deeper level, it is far easier to engage a customer when you know something about them. For example, companies like Paperchase ask for customers’ birthdays so that they can send out special treats, like £5 vouchers. This is a great way to make customers feel valued and give them a reason to engage with your brand.

Key Takeaways

  • Omnichannel is the new multichannel
  • Omnichannel strategies endeavour to integrate channels to present a consistent brand image and message
  • Omnichannel strategies facilitate customer-brand interaction across devices and allow 24/7 access
  • Omnichannel strategies seek to engage with customers on a personal level to provide an excellent customer experience

Ali Newton is the Marketing Executive for The Display Centre, where her team of creative experts provide shop fittings and display equipment, including bespoke items. Ali combines her fine art and fashion qualifications with her market research experience and psychology degree to help retailers drive their sales.

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