Achieving Omnichannel Without Omnichaos

‘Omnichannel’. It’s a popular buzz word at the moment and don’t us geeks love a buzz word. Everyone wants to be omnichannel. But what is it? Equator recently presented its thoughts on how to achieve omnichannel without 'omnichaos' at the Figaro Digital conference in London and was asked to write an article on the subject for Figaro's magazine.

‘Omnichannel’.

It’s a popular buzz word at the moment and don’t us geeks love a buzz word. Everyone wants to be omnichannel. But what is it?

Equator recently presented its thoughts on how to achieve omnichannel without 'omnichaos' at the Figaro Digital conference in London and was asked to write an article on the subject for Figaro's magazine.

Omnichannel is a new concept which promises a lot. It’s a means for getting your customers truly immersed in your brand. In doing more than just shopping. It’s about creating a shopping experience that seamlessly combines on and offline. Consumers like omnichannel as it puts them in control, allowing them to choose the channel which best suits their goal and it is important for businesses because not only can it build more meaning into your brand in the minds of consumers, it increases the value of sales. According to IDC Retail Insights, omnichannel shoppers spend up to 30 per cent more than multi-channel shoppers.

But for many retailers, omnichannel remains merely an aspiration. Less than a third of retailers currently allow orders to be picked up in store, just one in five have mobile commerce and just 20 per cent are training staff to handle purchases from multiple channels.

Even where brands have tried to implement omnichannel, very few are truly successful. For some it has resulted in ‘omnichaos’ – in other words, broken customer journeys that can damage the brand and result in abandoned shopping baskets. But for every retailer, it has the potential to ensure a healthy future for the high street, create the ideal online experience, give them an edge against competitors and ultimately improve sales across the board.

So here are our top 10 ways to suck at omnichannel – what not to do if you want to avoid omnichaos:

1. Treat Your Customers Like Strangers

It may seem obvious, but your customers are at the heart of omnichannel. Before you start, you need to understand the full customer journey. How do they feel about your brand and why do they want to engage with it? Where do they start? Why would they visit your store or website? Why is it better than any other store? What would make them prefer it? What’s their inspiration? What do they want from the experience? What do they want to buy? Do they want to order online? Do they want home delivery or would they prefer to collect from a local branch.

Also, it’s important to know what your customer does when they are shopping. Do they like to compare products – not just within your store but in other stores too? Do they like to read reviews from experts – and also other shoppers?

Often, customers need help to make a choice, so consider the ways they might want to do that. Is there some exciting technology to help them do this? Or is there a way you can help your sales staff be more knowledgeable and helpful?

2. Bend customers around your CRM tech

Omnichannel is all about giving the customer freedom to choose their own route through your channels. But consumers don’t see channels, they seek solutions. To create the most powerful connections, channels have to perform in as many stages of the sales process as they can.

Omnichannel goes deeper than marketing. Supply chain strategies need to be rethought to match this paradigm shift. They need to be designed around real customer insights. To successfully become an omnichannel retailer you must examine and question your systems and processes with every variation of customer journey in mind e.g can we allow customers to return online purchases to any store? Are online and offline rewards and loyalty programs integrated?

3. Change your beliefs for each conversation

Consistency is key. Being consistent with your brand message and being consistent with your use of technology will make the experience seamless on both sides. That’s why you need to plan the experience around your consumer, product range and brand in equal measure. To inspire brand loyalty you must create memorable, shareworthy experiences and your messages must be consistent across all channels. Your staff must be empowered to share the brand at all touchpoints and brand advocates should be inspired to spread your values in the social sphere.

4. Never talk to your customers

Omnichannel is inherently social and should create a seamless journey between pre-sales experiences, sales and post-sales journeys. Successful omnichannel relies on personalisation so you need to find new ways of connecting with them whether that is through the social sphere, your website, apps or in person. You need to give the customer an incentive to connect with the brand such as great content, helpful features or more traditional incentives such as helping them skip the queue or giving them an exclusive offer. Only then will you successfully engage them in conversation.

5. Never listen to your customers

The conversation isn't just about brand building and sales. It’s about creating a two-way, always on communication stream between you and your customers to help you continually refine your strategy to meet changing customer needs.

6. Implement tech because it’s cool

One of the most common causes of omnichaos is the use tech for tech’s sake. Bad digital can often be worse than no digital at all. Being a successful omnichannel business is about principles and customer services, not about machines. It starts with deep customers insights which will help you determine the steps to improve customer value. Technology should merely be a tool to help you get there.

7. Leave staff to their own devices

Most businesses need to get a heck of a lot smarter. The customer is connected 24/7 and business needs to be too. Building omnichannel initiatives requires a deep understanding of every part of your business, working towards an agile, collaborative structure, the creation of cross-disciplinary project teams. Only then will you successfully join the dots and play to the strengths of each channel. Staff engagement is a vital part of successful implementation. It’s not just a case of bringing your staff and systems up to speed with the process – they need to be on board with it and help to support it.

8. Partner with loads of specialists

In the same way that omnichannel demands a cross-functional team structure, finding partners that think in a joined-up way is important. Agencies and suppliers have traditionally been organised by competencies and channels but finding partners that work openly and collaboratively together is vital to creating a successful omnichannel experience for your customers.

9. Aim for perfection before launching anything

Omnichannel will never be a quick fix for any business. It will take time to test and refine the strategy. Start with a plan that works on consumer insight and then put in the most appropriate uses of technology based on that. Make sure it links up with your IT systems and enhances the customer journey rather than distracting customers away from it and confusing them or leading them into dead ends. Once you get the basics right you can quickly test and adopt new channels.

10. Avoid accountability at all costs

Every new initiative should be accountable. Set KPIs for performance and agree a process for performance review and enhancement. Quantitative measurement is possible through analytics across all platforms and attribution-based analysis. Qualitative methods include benchmarking, brand affinity and upgrading mystery shoppers to mystery brand experiencers.

This list is not exhaustive but getting these basics right can help you deliver richer, more effective experiences for customers and freedom for consumers to interact with your brand in ways that meet their needs. This will deliver deeper engagement, better results and, ultimately, higher returns.

This article is currently featured in Figaro Digital - http://www.figarodigital.co.uk/editorial-article/achieving-omnichannel-without-omnichaos.aspx