Our lives are growing ever more intertwined with an increasing number of devices, such as smartphones, computers, smartwatches, smart home devices, etc. This constant interaction and ever-expanding abundance of content has shaped our purchasing behavior irreversibly.
Consumers have grown adept at making informed decisions by seeking out and evaluating trustworthy content from multiple sources. Additionally, external stimuli constantly prompt us to make buying choices.
In many cases, even substantial purchasing decisions are made through a handful of emails or phone conversations, bypassing the need for physical meetings. In the post-pandemic era, video calls serve as effective substitutes for face-to-face meetings.
This environment of vast possibilities has allowed businesses to flourish. However, it has also complicated the customer journey, resulting in the emergence of omnichannel journeys.
Table of contents
- Omnichannel definition
- Omnichannel vs. multichannel
- Types of omnichannel journey
- Omnichannel journey example
- The importance of multiple touchpoints
- How to create a seamless omnichannel journey
An omnichannel journey represents a customer’s interactions with a product across multiple touchpoints during the buying process, the sales process, and post-sales customer support, extending throughout the customer’s lifecycle.
Omnichannel journeys allows customers to interact with a company in the way that is most convenient for them, creating a more personalized and engaging experience.
Omnichannel vs. multichannel
Understanding the difference between omnichannel and multichannel strategies is crucial in today’s dynamic business environment. The choice between omnichannel vs. multichannel is more than a debate about buzzwords; it reflects fundamental differences in how businesses engage with their customers.
What is multichannel?
Multichannel refers to the approach of interacting with customers through various channels, both direct and indirect. These channels may include a company’s website, retail stores, mail order catalogs, email marketing, and social media.
The goal of a multichannel strategy is to enable customers to interact with a brand in the channel of their choice.
What is omnichannel?
The omnichannel approach, while involving multiple channels like the multichannel approach, focuses on delivering a consistent, unified, and seamless customer experience across all channels.
An omnichannel strategy recognizes that customers engage with brands on various platforms and touchpoints and endeavors to provide an integrated customer experience that’s both consistent and complementary across these touchpoints.
Key differences between omnichannel and multichannel
The key difference between omnichannel and multichannel lies in the customer experience.
Multichannel strategies can result in disjointed and potentially inconsistent customer experiences, as each channel may function in a silo. In contrast, an omnichannel strategy ensures that customers have a unified and consistent experience across all channels, enhancing customer loyalty and satisfaction.
Additionally, an omnichannel approach leverages data from various touchpoints to provide a more personalized and responsive customer experience.
The table below summarizes the advantages of adopting an omnichannel approach over a multichannel approach:
|Customer experience||Potentially disjointed and inconsistent due to siloed channels||Unified and consistent across all channels|
|Data utilization||Typically limited because data may not be shared across channels||Advanced; data from all touchpoints is utilized for personalized customer experiences|
|Customer journey||Customers can interact via different channels, but these are often not interconnected||All touchpoints along the customer journey are connected and integrated|
In summary, while multichannel strategies offer multiple avenues for customer interaction, they can result in disjointed customer experiences due to the potential lack of integration among channels. In contrast, an omnichannel strategy ensures that customers have a unified and consistent experience across all channels, enhancing customer loyalty and satisfaction.
Types of omnichannel journey
Depending on the product or services, customer interactions can vary based on the user’s needs and preferences. For instance, some customers may favor a completely digital experience when shopping for clothes, while others prefer shopping in a physical store.
Regardless of their preference, customers will still interact with the brand through multiple touchpoints, creating various omnichannel journeys. Therefore, even if your business involves selling clothes, it’s important to understand your positioning, customer preference, and presence to craft a positive customer experience and retain customers over time.
Fully digital (multiple digital touchpoints; no human interaction)
This type of journey occurs when a potential customer becomes aware of a brand’s offerings via a target medium, navigates to the website, and completes a sale without personal interaction. The customer relationship continues post-sale, maintained through interactions on the app or website.
An example includes buying clothes online, managing returns or complaints digitally, and leveraging loyalty points for future purchases to sustain a relationship with the brand.
Combination of digital and physical
This journey involves multiple interactions with the brand, both digitally and in person, creating a composite omnichannel experience.
Buying a car is a typical example of this type of journey. The customer researches the vehicle online, proceeds with the purchase via a physical or digital medium, and requires a blend of after-sales services.
Combination of digital and virtual assistant
This type of omnichannel journey proliferated in the post-pandemic era when customers began seeking assistance via a helpline, video call, or phone call to make purchasing decisions.
For example, when applying for a loan from a bank, a customer might call to negotiate terms, sign paperwork digitally, provide all necessary information online, and finalize the loan via a virtual call. In this journey, the customer interacts with the company virtually and completes tasks online rather than in person.
Omnichannel journey example
Let’s illustrate the concept of the omnichannel journey with an example that we will expand upon throughout the article to provide context. We’ll create a persona and a scenario, and follow that persona through their omnichannel journey.
Ana, a 34-year-old working mother living in a major city with her husband and daughter, decides to buy a car to streamline her commute to her daughter’s school and her own workplace. She represents a growing segment of consumers who are comfortable with online research and shopping, yet still appreciate human interaction and physical touchpoints in the buying process.
Let’s follow her journey:
Ana begins her journey by conducting online research about the best family cars within her budget. She visits various car manufacturer websites, reads blogs and reviews, and checks out user ratings on independent websites. She also watches video reviews on YouTube and participates in online forums for additional insights.
Each of these digital touchpoints plays a significant role in Ana’s decision-making process.
After her extensive research, Ana shortlists a few car models that fit her requirements. She signs up for newsletters from the manufacturers of these cars to get updates on discounts or promotional offers. She also engages with the brands on social media to get a sense of their community and customer service responsiveness.
Furthermore, Ana uses an augmented reality app provided by one of the car companies to see how the car would look in her garage. These digital touchpoints contribute to her final decision.
Ana decides to visit a dealership to test-drive the car model she has chosen. She appreciates the tangible experience of touching and driving the car before making a purchase.
The sales representative at the dealership provides her with additional information about financing options, warranty, and after-sales service. This physical touchpoint solidifies her decision to purchase the car.
After purchasing the car, Ana receives follow-up emails from the dealership thanking her for the purchase and providing her with useful information about car maintenance. She also receives a survey asking about her buying experience. A few weeks later, she gets a phone call from the dealership asking about her satisfaction with the car and offering assistance if needed.
The importance of multiple touchpoints
Having multiple and varied digital and human touchpoints helps ensure a good customer relationship post-purchase.
In the previous example, Ana had several touchpoints with the bank before deciding to make a purchase. These touchpoints included:
- Ads on third-party websites
- Google searches for reviews
- The bank’s website for additional information
- Virtual interactions with bank employees for clarification
- Using the bank’s app for after-sales services and for virtual exchanges when preferred
For Ana, these touchpoints were part of a seamless customer journey because she interacted with the bank through multiple channels. However, for the bank, creating such an omnichannel experience required a consistent presence across all channels, real-time updates across all platforms, maintaining the same brand tone in all messaging, and ensuring knowledge is shared across the organization.
According to Forbes, customers typically interact with an average of six touchpoints at the start of their journey with a brand, and continue to engage with about four throughout their lifecycle. As a result, brands are expected to provide a seamless experience across all channels. With 98 percent of users switching between devices during these interactions, a brand’s failure to offer a seamless experience can drive customers to the competition.
While establishing an omnichannel presence can be challenging, it has proven more effective in achieving higher conversion rates and customer lifetime value. Customers who encounter a brand’s presence on multiple channels are 50 percent more likely to convert than if they only saw the brand on one channel.
How to create a seamless omnichannel journey
The first step in creating a seamless omnichannel journey is to identify where customers interact with your brand. This involves pinpointing the points of convenience, sale, and post-sale interactions for the customer.
In a market with varying customer preferences — some favor the convenience and speed of the internet, while others prefer physical interactions — ensuring a seamless customer experience requires brands to maintain a presence across all relevant channels. It is crucial to provide a consistent experience across these channels and empower customers to choose their preferred touchpoints.
If you choose to exclude certain touchpoints, you should guide customers through this process to prevent any confusion or disappointment that may arise from a lack of presence on specific channels.
Let’s dive deeper into some of the most important factors that contribute to a seamless omnichannel journey:
- Presence across all channels
- Synergy across all channels
- Real-time updates
- Data and analytics
- Knowledge spread across the organization
Presence across all channels
New platforms are constantly emerging. Recognizing these new channels and establishing your brand’s presence across all relevant platforms where your customers are found is the first step in creating an omnichannel journey.
In our previous example, the bank maintains a digital presence with a comprehensive website and a useful app, and also offers virtual and physical touchpoints.
By identifying your customer’s preferences and establishing a presence across all pertinent channels, you can build trust and loyalty with your customers.
Synergy across all channels
When you consistently present your company’s messaging, look, and feel across all platforms, it is easier for customers to recognize and connect with the brand.
For instance, if a customer sees an ad on social media and clicks on it but struggles to find the same campaign on the company’s website, their trust in the brand may diminish. While the customer may initially have the intent to purchase the company’s service, a lack of synergy across channels could push them toward the competition.
It’s crucial to maintain consistency across all touchpoints before launching any marketing campaign.
Customers often switch between devices and platforms when interacting with a product. If they encounter inconsistencies or outdated information across various channels, this can quickly breed mistrust in the brand, potentially pushing customers towards competitors. Thus, having an infrastructure that supports real-time updates is crucial for a successful omnichannel journey.
Data and analytics
Analyzing customer behavior and preferences across multiple channels allows you to gain valuable insights into the customer journey that you can use to tailor your approach, thereby improving the overall customer experience and boosting satisfaction. Data and analytics can also help you identify gaps in your omnichannel strategy and make any necessary adjustments.
By leveraging these insights, businesses can make informed decisions and enhance their omnichannel journey to better meet their customers’ needs.
Knowledge spread across the organization
In large organizations, there can be gaps in information dissemination. For instance, when a marketing team initiates a campaign, front office staff should be informed. If a post-sales representative needs data or information about a service agreement made by a pre-sales executive, it should be readily available.
To achieve a seamless omnichannel experience, strategies and systems must be in place to facilitate the flow of information, minimizing the risk of gaps due to human error.
In today’s world, where consumers interact with brands through a multitude of channels, creating a seamless omnichannel journey has become vital for businesses. It involves not only maintaining a presence across all channels but also ensuring synergy, providing real-time updates, leveraging data for insights, and spreading knowledge about the customer journey across the organization. By doing so, brands can provide an integrated and cohesive customer experience, leading to higher customer satisfaction and retention.
Featured image source: IconScout
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