Customers in Control: Why Your Brand Must Deliver a Superior Omnichannel Experience
It’s official, and even Warren Buffett agrees: The death of retail is upon us. Within the next decade, as brick-and-mortar outlets shut their doors, the shopping experience will see drastic changes—changes that will spur the necessity for omnichannel retail strategies across the board.
As we approach 2020, the consumer is now firmly in control of the buyer’s journey. Customers are increasingly able to choose when and where they engage with brands. This means that, more than ever, brands must deliver a consistent message and superior service across channels.
A well-organized omnichannel experience has become more than a nice-to-have—it’s now imperative to growth for both product- and service-oriented companies.
Customer Service Is for Marketers
An effective omnichannel experience puts customers first. It allows them to seamlessly transition between channels to engage with a brand based on what’s most convenient for them.
For example, customers want the ability to research a product from their smartphones, talk about its benefits with a company representative on the phone, and order the product via the company’s website or an online retailer. Then, customers expect to have it shipped straight to their homes or to stores—where they can interact with representatives via phone, email, or chat if they have further questions.
Throughout each stage, brands must deliver quality and consistency. If there’s a lapse at any point along the journey, it will affect the customer’s perception of your brand, as well as that customer’s decision to purchase from you again in the future.
The only reason a customer journey might not be completely consistent is when there’s a valid business reason for deviating. For instance, certain industry regulations may not allow you to process a customer’s order via email. Communicating with your customer early and often—in fact, as soon as you know there’s an issue that may impact delivery or quality—can help you avoid a dissatisfied customer (and a bad review) and reinforce your reputation as a company focused on providing a high-quality customer experience.
A Matter of Perspective
As a marketer, in order to create the ideal omnichannel experience, you need to put yourself in your customers’ shoes.
Look at each stage of the typical buyer’s journey, asking yourself, “As a customer, what am I trying to achieve, and how do I feel when achieving it?”
Make no mistake: Customer expectations are higher than ever, regardless of where a customer is in his buying journey. An effective omnichannel experience should include a responsive, intuitive website; a strong social media presence; a seamless payment process; fast shipping; and easy returns.
Nothing frustrates a customer more than having to go through multiple channels to accomplish something, only to find out it could have been achieved more easily through a single channel.
As a brand, here are three things to keep in mind when trying to craft the type of experience that will turn prospects into customers and customers into repeat buyers and brand evangelists:
Assess each stage for convenience. When you’re examining each part of the buyer’s journey, ask, “Does this part of my process make it easier for customers to achieve their goals?” If the answer is “no,” you need to rethink why that stage exists in the first place.
Likewise, ask, “Are there barriers at this stage that prevent customers from moving closer to purchase?” If there are, figure out how to get customers past those.
Personalize engagement. Inevitably, automating parts of the buyer’s journey will be convenient for both you and your customers. But customers still want to be treated like people. Greeting a customer by name—even when she’s never previously contacted you through a particular channel—lends consistency to the experience and creates trust for your brand.
Moreover, ensuring that a customer never has to repeat herself over the course of the journey will make her more likely to keep moving forward.
Invest in the right technology. To achieve personalization, provide product visibility, and ensure efficiency when it comes to shipping and returns, you must invest. Work with your IT department or vendor support teams to make sure your CRM, POS, order management systems, and e-commerce platforms are seamlessly integrated into each stage of the buyer’s journey.
The benefits of the perfect omnichannel experience are plentiful indeed. Not only will such an experience increase efficiency for your company and provide consistency for customers, but it will also allow you to differentiate yourself from your competitors, reduce churn, and speed up market penetration.
It’s true: Crafting the perfect omnichannel experience is a difficult feat, which is why so many companies still struggle with it. But companies that are able to deliver this type of experience will be best positioned to take advantage of the shopping habits of the next generation of consumers and capture those consumers’ loyalty. That alone should be enough incentive to begin developing an omnichannel initiative today.
Jaspar Weir is cofounder and president of TaskUs, the leading provider of customer care and back-office outsourcing to evolving businesses around the world. With 8,000 full-time employees around the globe, TaskUs is revolutionizing the customer experience. It powers the world’s most notable brands and disruptive companies through a unique focus on transformational growth and a belief in putting its teammates first. In 2016, Jaspar appeared on Inc.’s 30 Under 30 list.