Omnichannel Retail, as a buzz word has already passed through a number of iterations and it's barely a few years old. While different companies defined it slightly differently, And iTristan Media Group we prefer to think it from a brand as an operation lens – "The consumer should be able to fully engage with your brand and business for any part of their buying and customer service experience regardless of where they are or when they are."
How businesses go omnichannel, however, is something that continues to be defined and redefined as this paradigm for retail business becomes the norm. One of the biggest challenges retailers have right now, is executing on all parts of omnichannels strategy and not be ready to put everything on the table. As a result entire customer experience and selling opportunities often get left by the wayside and entire channels of revenue opportunities ignored.
To some degree this transition has already started. This is great but as long way to go for businesses to fully wrap their heads around how the customer experiences their brand. The challenge is that many businesses still think of themselves in a bricks and mortar context and about the 24/7 expectation of their would-be customers. The second challenge is that so many businesses don't think of themselves as being candidates to be a full omnichannel business – they're too small that they can't think of scale that they can't compete on a national or global level.
Buyers have now, quite organically grown to expect not only a sales process online on the phone 24/7, but also the same sort of interaction at a customer service level. The feeling, and it is a feeling – is it if I, as a consumer had be able to purchase my item online, should I not be able to expect customer service to support this product also online? If I had been able to purchase my item online, should I not be able to phone customer service and have a rep tell me about my purchase and order history in a similar way, also online? In real-time.
Being greeted with disconnect messages such as: "our system hasn't synced up yet", "we don't have that information at this office", "we don't know if that store has this inventory available" and so on and so on. This is simply unacceptable at the consumer level. Everybody and everything happens everywhere it's that simple.
Device Level Buying Experience : Can they buy anything from you right now? Wherever they are? Whenever?
Research and Content Depth : Is your content and offering information as deep, up to date and rich as possible? All the time? Including right-now availability?
Buying Options : Can customers buy from you right now? Using credit card, PayPal, phone call, gift cards, loyalty points, other options? Right now?
Service interaction : If customers have questions or issues, is it clear an obvious how to interact with your staff to make their experience better, or to resolve confusion or problems? HINT : this one is BIG.
Multi-Platform Deployment and Product Availability : Your product, business information, and customer interaction can and should be happening through a number of channels. Your product may be sold and syndicated through 3rd party systems, this will help you reach customers that don't know you even exist, but do want what you're offering. Your inventory needs to be complete and available fully online regaardless of how many stores you have or time of day. Even your financial account information needs to be real time and ready for customer service logins and calls enquiring about their account status. Phone, computer, laptop, it's all the same to your customers.
Real Time : It's all happening right now. Are you feeling overworked or stressed by competition and workload? This is because you're systems are trying to compete in a "right-now" digital world, but cannot.
The consumer should be able to fully engage with your brand and business for any part of their buying and customer service experience regardless of where they are or when they are.
Yes. Yes I am.
Do you have customers or clients, patients and subscribers, users or buyers? Somewhere in there are all the new truths about digital life and customer service that binds them all.
Our customers need to find us, interact with us, pay us, and ask us for our wisdom from time to time. It doesn't matter whether you're a horse breeder, junk removal service, doctor, franchise, or financial lender this all still holds true at a fundamental level. Embracing this truth doesn't have to be complicated or expensive – but it still the reality your customers expect regardless of whether it's simpler or deeper.
We've already long since passed threshold of omnichannel potentially being worth it, to being an absolute necessity. Consumers and businesses alike have stepped up their desire to speed up their shopping experience whether it is for customer service material acquisition or business services. Digital platforms are increasingly providing quality integration with aggregated services like Amazon and eBay – and developers for these platforms need to be able to keep up or they'll be out of business as well.
There is also a new personalization of technology. Consumers and businesses are getting more and more comfortable with the personification of your business as a digital medium – a digital representation of yourself, and your staff, and your brand. In many cases the place that you bought the product from isn't even the place that is going to ship it to your door. And your customer doesn't even care. As long as you represent quality and providing value for money, your customer is going to be happy.
For businesses this represents a double opportunity. Your customers are expecting this level of availability and your partners are providing it. This kind of scale, when done well can mean only one thing. Profit. When ignored, likely means redundancy. Simply put, if you're not doing it, someone who is competitive with you somewhere on planet Earth, is.
Do your customers have a computer and/or phone? Guess what, you're a digital business, congratulations.
Choice of platform and execution level the choices are going to be endless and they're going to continue to evolve over time how much is obvious. At the same time there are a number of heavy hitters that come to mind immediately like Amazon and Google Shopping for example. The key is to carve out your model and customer service strategy and ensures that the platform you were using and the team that you are bringing to help understand your business model and that you are talking about the combination of sales and customer service strategy is essential to your next level of growth.
The world is beyond requiring heavy customization for everything now, it's now questioning bring technology together the right way of thinking about your business if you're just beginning, or evolving and growing your business.