Try this three-step plan to organize an effective initiative.
A successful omni-channel approach delivers a seamless customer experience across every channel you embrace. No surprise, then, that implementing such an approach isn’t just the responsibility of marketing and IT, but must be an enterprise-wide undertaking. That’s not easy. But it is possible. And we’ll help you get the ball rolling with a logical three-step plan from Lane Ware, CCG’s senior vice president of consulting and account services.
We didn’t say it would be easy. But we’ll help you get the ball rolling with a logical three-step plan from Lane Ware, CCG’s senior vice president of consulting and account services.
1. Define the path to purchase.
“Path to purchase doesn’t just start when the customer is in your store or on your website,” says Ware. “It includes the time that customer spends researching and considering a potential purchase, all the way through her post-purchase actions.”
Today, mapping out the customer journey must include not only the steps along the way, but also the devices she uses to take action. It’s rare that a modern consumer interacts with a company via a single channel only.
Much more the norm are consumers who connect with your company through not only multiple channels (bricks-and-mortar stores, websites, mobile apps, print catalogs, social media), but also through multiple electronic devices, from desktops and laptops to smartphones and tablets, not to mention the telephone, television and in-person interactions. And customers will often start their journey with you via one channel or device, and then continue it in others.
“You need to map it all,” says Ware. “To get this kind of deep, broad knowledge you need to track your customers’ behavior and dig into your data.”
Learn your customer’s browsing habits, search habits and purchasing habits. Understand what influences her at each touchpoint, be it a friend’s comments when she posts a photo of your product on Instagram or the descriptions on your website catalog. And look for the ways she integrates and connects her behaviors across different channels and devices.
2. Identify gaps in the path.
“Throughout all the channels and interfaces, the customer’s experience with your brand must be consistent, integrated and uninterrupted,” says Ware. “Where you have ‘hand offs’ from one channel to another, it should be invisible to the customer.”
Most likely, that isn’t currently the case. So in this step, you look for those cracks and potholes in the path to purchase.
To discover the gaps in your pathway, take a walk in your customer’s shoes. Research, purchase and connect with your products and your company just as a customer would, testing across all channels. Watch for the gaps.
- If a customer places an item into her shopping cart while using your mobile app, will that item still be in her shopping cart when she later logs into your website?
- If a consumer searches your website for a specific product using her smartphone, can you deliver to her a targeted, real-time message with product information, price and the nearest location where she can see it in person?
- Do you have a simple way for customers to share a product they’re interested in with their social circle, so they can gather friends’ opinions?
- Can consumers connect to your customer service through every channel, including social?
Work with your business partners from across the company — including marketing, IT, digital/online, operations and customer service — to make sure you’re identifying potential pitfalls from every direction. Removing siloes and siloed behavior within your company’s ecosystem is critical to omni-channel success.
“Remember,” says Ware, “customers don’t think about you as a mobile store or an online store or a physical store. They just think of you as a store. Your internal processes need to reflect that same mentality.”
3. Bridge the gaps and smooth the path.
To fix the gaps you’ve found, create customer use cases and assign teams to develop solutions for each scenario.
How you’ll create solutions depends on your company and the specific gaps you find. Here are just a few examples of retailers who have found innovative ways to address their pitfalls on the way to omni-channel excellence:
- Target bridged the showrooming gap by bringing shoppers into stores, and then making it easy for them to purchase online.
- Walgreens uses its mobile app to identify customer locations and then deliver, in real-time, dynamic, personalized messaging driving them to nearby stores.
- Oasis makes iPads available for customers to use, so they can browse online, try on an item in the store, and then either purchase in store or opt to buy online and have the item delivered to their home.
- Waterstones has free in-store wi-fi, making it easy for customers to buy and download content to their e-readers while still taking advantage of the store’s on-site staff of book specialists.
4. Don’t Be Late
“There’s no question that implementing omni-channel effectively is a challenging and complex task,” says Ware. “But as a retailer today, you can’t afford to wait, or you risk losing customers through those potholes on your customer journey.”
So start with a small or narrow scope if you must. But have a plan and timeline to continue broadening your efforts until you are truly giving customers what they expect — a seamless, customer-centric experience no matter when, where or how they connect with you.
Overwhelmed by omni-channel? Seeking an objective review of your current efforts? Our strategic consultants can help, with 60 combined years of experience helping retailers build stronger, more profitable customer relationships. Call us at 800.525.0313 or send us an email today.
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