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Omni-Channel: From Buzzword to Brass Tacks

Mike Mangi, Director of Digital Strategy
#Digital Strategy | Posted

By now it’s likely you’ve heard the term “omni-channel,” and you may have thought to yourself, “Great, another digital buzzword based on theory without substance.”

Omni-channel promises to give your target audiences a personalized, frictionless, and continuous experience with a brand regardless of the channel, format, location, or device – online or offline.

Imagine trying on a shirt in a brick-and-mortar store, and posting a selfie to your Instagram with a tag for the store’s handle. Later, after receiving positive feedback from your online friends, you log into the store’s website. There you see a personalized promotion for the shirt with your size selected and an enticing offer for a discount and free shipping if you buy it now. Then a few weeks later, as you’re walking past the store, your watch buzzes with a sale offer for pants that match the shirt you bought.

Pure fantasy? No. Brands like Dominos now famously allow you to set up a pizza profile and then order your favorite pie with just an emoji.

Dominoes Pizza App with Pizza in background

You may be thinking, “There’s no way my company would / could / should embrace omni-channel.” Wrong again. You will gain tremendous insights into your customers’ (or users’) needs and behaviors, and your customers will benefit greatly from improved efficiency, resulting in increased brand loyalty. What’s more, if you don’t embrace omni-channel, your competitors will. This level of proactive attentiveness to users’ needs is going to become the expected norm over the next few years.

“Ok, ok,” you say. “How do I get started?”

1. Take Stock

Start with an inventory audit of all of your customer touchpoints. How and where do your customers interact with your brand? Do you have…

  • Point-of-Sale (POS) systems in brick-and-mortar stores?
  • An e-commerce website? Social media channels?
  • A native Android and iOS app?
  • Regional or multi-lingual sites?

Make a list of all of your touchpoints and identify the business stakeholders and content editors. Then start asking questions. Who manages each channel? Does each channel follow your established brand guidelines? Are you using a consistent voice and tone across all of your channels?

Determine what kinds of data you can pull from each channel. Then see if you can normalize that data across touchpoints. This may include peak times of day for interaction with each channel, level of engagement, repeat visits, and drop-off points (or bounce-rates).

Re-examine your target audience personas. Who are your customers? What are their media, device, and purchase habits? Do their preferences match the touchpoints you provide? Look at your customer journey maps across touchpoints. Are any of your channels creating bottlenecks or unnecessary detours?

Next, take a look at what your competitors are doing. What touchpoints do they have? Is there messaging, tone, and voice consistent? Are their touchpoints accessible, usable, and connected? Analysis of your competitors’ successful omni-channel implementations can help you win over internal decision makers.

2. Making Connections

You’ve done your research. You’ve determined the critical touchpoints for your customers. Perhaps you were even able to prune a few channels to streamline the journey for your customers. Now it’s time to look for ways to connect your channels.

Connected channels are one of the critical differences between omni-channel and multi-channel. Multi-channel can have brand-consistent content optimized for each unique touchpoint, but omni-channel goes a step further by connecting those touchpoints for a seamless user experience. The key distinction is the emphasis on a continuous user experience with the brand, as opposed to simple brand consistency siloed in disparate channels.

Check to see if your channels provide Application Program Interfaces (APIs). APIs can be used to share data across systems. Determine if it’s possible to collect all of your analytics data into a measurement dashboard.

3. Test and Learn

You don’t have to tackle everything at once. And it’s likely you’ll need to be flexible and adaptive in your approach to omni-channel. Start by connecting a few touchpoints, perhaps your website and social media channels.

Make sure the changes you make align with your established goals. Do you need to streamline your purchase process? Increase repeat orders? Foster a more engaged customer base?

Do some multivariate (or A/B) testing to determine what works and what doesn’t, and adjust as appropriate. Adopting an agile development methodology will help you test discrete functionality and feature sets without having to completely overhaul your systems.

Brass Tacks

Omni-channel is not just a buzzword. Your customers are expecting consistent and seamless interactions with your brand across touchpoints. You can get started by taking stock of your channels, connecting available data sources, and testing and adapting to optimize the experience for your users.

Of course, you don’t have to do this on your own. If you’re ready to call in the experts, contact Phase2 to get started.

Up Next

We’ve officially published our white paper on Omni-Channel Digital Experiences! In addition, learn how Drupal 8 supports omni-channel and the elements of an omni-channel digital experience.

Mike Mangi

Mike Mangi

Director of Digital Strategy