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WunderLand
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September 11, 2019

Why Omnichannel Isn’t (Simply) a Marketing Initiative

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3 keys to unifying your teams around a new approach to customer experience


In 2012, Forbes said it was high-time for a revolution. Just as businesses were finally wrapping their arms around answering emails while running an e-commerce website, Facebook page and a Twitter handle, multichannel marketing became so yesterday. And omnichannel became everything. 

Omnichannel is a cross-channel experience that meets customers where they are. From a UX perspective, omnichannel delivers a consistent experience, optimizing how users complete tasks and interact with your brand across devices and every communication channel.

But there's more to it than brand colors and button sizes. Omnichannel is a coordinated effort across a business to never miss a beat with customers. 

It's not enough to simply exist across channels; you must interconnect them.  

Whether your customer does research on a mobile device, visits your website on a laptop, calls an 800-number to ask you a question, sees a post on your Instagram profile or hears about your brand from a friend, the experience needs to feel seamless. No matter at what point in their customer journey nor what channel they're interacting with your brand, the customer experience should feel like it's part of the same continuum. 

Wunder No More: The Importance of User Research For Your App or Website. 

The experience of your brand message, voice and visuals — not to mention what you know about the customer — needs to feel like it's consistent and keeping up with the customer, every step of the way.

The difference between multichannel and omnichannel: experience.  

Multichannel marketing has been around as long as there have been brick-and-mortar shops, phones and print ads. It's about using multiple platforms to spread the word and interact with your audience when and where you can. 

Now, brands lean on digital touchpoints, like social media posts and email, to hit prospective customers (hard!) wherever they can reach them. 

Even with loads of intent data and segmentation at our fingertips, brands today still essentially rely on the "spray and pray" method of multichannel marketing. Hence the call for a revolution.

The design (thinking) of a revolution.

Customer experience (CX) isn't anything new. In fact, the phrase "the customer is always right" dates back to the late 1800s. But since 2009, CX has gone from being the differentiator of disruptors to a fundamental component of brand viability.

That's around when the U.S. economy started its recovery. Social media began picking up steam. And disruptive brands, like Amazon, Apple and Netflix, started scoring big wins using data not only to market their products and experiences, but to design them, too.

Power dynamics changed. Customers slid into the driver's seat, and successful brands shifted toward design thinking.

Designing thinking is a human-centered practice that focuses squarely on solving problems from new perspectives. It forces companies to balance the needs of the people they serve with what makes sense for business and technology.

As IDEO, the creators of design thinking, puts it: “When you sit down to create a solution, the first question should always be, what’s the human need behind it?” And that's exactly where omnichannel experience begins. 

Go from zero to omni in three steps. 

The idea of "going" omnichannel can feel daunting. So, we've outlined three keys to preparing your business to deliver a new kind of experience.

1. Audit your CX.

What's even more daunting than transforming into an omnichannel business? The thought of slowing down to audit (and, perhaps, rethink) the solutions, products and experiences you deliver to your audiences. But it's a valuable first step. 

  • Start by mapping out the stages of your customer journey. Plot out exactly where you're bolstering that journey with content and support, and what that support looks like.

  • Take a step back and ask yourself: what's the human need behind each stage of the journey? And then ask your customers or clients the same thing.

  • Review your current cross-channel touchpoint. Read the emails you send, ebooks you publish, customer support transcripts, landing pages, social media posts, direct message threads. How does the experience translate across different media? How consistently are your brand's message and value being delivered? How well are those touchpoints, messages and value props supporting — and advancing — the customer journey?

  • Edit, overhaul and spruce up your touchpoints according to what you've learned. Remember: it doesn't need to be perfect. You'll be able to measure and iterate on your customer experience over time.

  • Put a date on your calendar each quarter to check-in with your CX. And keep it on your calendar until iterations become a natural part of your process.

2. Trade in your funnel — for a flywheel? 
Customer journey is often mistaken for a conveniently timed, linear path from stranger to loyal brand advocate. That’s rarely the case. Real journeys differ by the customer. There are often loops and pauses, near-misses, disappearing acts and even some great revelations. 

The difference between multichannel and omnichannel reveals itself here, too. One of the keys to understanding a true customer journey is that it’s not based on a timeline. It’s based on intent. 

As the customer learns more about their problems and understands available solutions, their intent to buy builds momentum. Their behaviors change. And their center of gravity lurches toward the decision they’re about to make. You can’t put that on a straight line.

Nevertheless, most brands’ sales and marketing processes are still built around the linear concept. We shove the greatest number of potential clients in the top of the funnel, force them to walk a straight line that doesn’t match up with their true wants and needs, and see who comes out the bottom of the funnel. 

HubSpot defines the problem quite well: “What happens to customers in the funnel? They’re the outcome — nothing more, nothing less. All of the energy you spent acquiring that customer is wasted, leaving you at square one.”

What’s the alternative? Many omnichannel teams are turning to the flywheel. The flywheel puts customers at the center of your sales and marketing efforts — not simply as an end-result. Instead of pushing customers through a narrowing funnel, the flywheel revolves around the customer, using intent data and feedback to get smarter, delivering a more comprehensive and meaningful customer experience along the way. 

Much like transitioning from multichannel to omnichannel, taking the flywheel approach is a culture change. It requires cross-team buy-in, that customer experience audit we covered above and a commitment to understanding your customers like they’ve never been understood before. 

Let’s talk about how to do just that.

3. Create systems and put your data to work. 
Like we said, going omnichannel can be daunting — especially if your business has more than one customer. That’s where creating systems comes in. 

First, you need to get everyone on the same page with your value proposition, messaging, customer support — and how to store data. Establishing standards and systems early on will save your team time and create an environment for learning from and improving your sales and marketing performance. 

Next comes technology. While many companies are already up and running with CRM, an omnichannel experience calls for something more powerful. Like a CDP. 

Customer Data Platform (CDP) is a system that aggregates and organizes customer data from all of your data sources, including historical and behavioral data about the customer, website traffic patterns, social media data and even content affinity. It helps your company understand how customers behave across all channels — and know what experiences they’ve had with your brand already.

What you get with CDP are centralized customer profiles that update and evolve with real-time data. When paired with machine learning, your system can then execute personalized marketing campaigns that nurture customers according to their respective profiles and level of  intent.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM), on the other hand, is built to support a company’s sales funnel, not to understand the customer and act on their intent. It stores data and can execute on drip and automated campaigns. 

But that’s where CRM often stops. It’s separate from customer support and ticket systems, and doesn’t integrate with your analytics machines. CRM certainly has a place in the sales process, but it won’t advance your company’s move toward the omnichannel experience. 

Unify teams around your common goal, the customer.  

While CDP can be a significant lift for a company, the nature of the tool encourages teams to unify around a goal and rethink how they go about serving your customer. 

Even if your team isn’t ready for CDP, you can start making strides toward the omnichannel growth. Put your customers front and center. Talk to them. Serve them. 

Challenge your sales team, marketing, UX, IT and delivery teams to get on the same page. Sign up for accountability. And go all-in on creating a comprehensive omnichannel experience that meets your customers where they are, together.

If omnichannel experience is a new topic for you, take a minute to catch up on trends WunderLand Group sees coming your way. Catch up on How Digital Marketing Has Changed in the Last 10 Years on our blog.

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