The Omni-Channel Retail Customer Experience & Customer Service
There’s a certain pizza chain from which I order delivery. I go to their Facebook page to see the latest coupon codes I can use for discounts and specials when I make the purchase via their mobile application on my smartphone.
I was looking to buy a new big-screen television, but I was not sure if it would also work as a computer monitor with my home office’s desktop computer and also be compatible with my cable provider and DVD player. So I searched on Google to see if I could find the answers (before I would consider making the purchase) because the store’s website did not tell me what I had needed to know.
In essence, I am an “Omni-channel” shopper. But what does the term mean. According to Wikipedia:
Omni-Channel Retailing is very similar to and an evolution of, multi-channel retailing, but is concentrated more on a seamless approach to the consumer experience through all available shopping channels, i.e. mobile internet devices, computers, bricks-and-mortar, television, catalog and so on. Retailers are meeting the new customer desires by deploying specialized supply chain strategy software.
We talk a lot at Macy’s about “Omni-channel” retailing. Our customer is multi-dimensional. She is busy at work and out with friends. She always has her mobile device in her hand. She’s active on Facebook and Twitter and YouTube and a dozen other social media sites. She is smart and demanding. We want that customer to be able to interact with Macy’s no matter where she is or how she shops.
Back to my personal experience, the pizza chain not only posts discount codes on Facebook – it also sends tweets and text messages with immediate, time-sensitive deals to use on their website or mobile site channels. In similar ways, more and more businesses have numerous channels through which they interact with customers:
But the increasing necessity of “Omni-channel retailing” comes with a catch: Too many businesses wrongly think about channels when they should still be thinking about their customers. Companies do not have “Twitter customers” and “Facebook customers” and “mobile customers” – they only have customers who happen to use different communication methods. People are the same regardless of the channels that they use to communicate – and in a consumer context, customers have the same needs and desires regardless of the channels through which they interact with companies.
As Brian Kilcourse writes at Retail Systems Research on “Omni-channel retail”:
Simply put, it’s the notion that consumers use more than one channel (web, catalog, mobile, store) to make a purchase. The idea reflects the fact that consumers don’t see channels, they seek solutions: either a retailer satisfies a need or it doesn’t. Increasingly, consumers use the digital channels to make a purchase decision even if that purchase is ultimately completed in a store. Therefore, the notion of channels goes away.
First, it is crucial to determine how you can create a customer service experience that fulfills the needs of your customers and provides the most relevant information to your buyers, including letting them know on different promotions regardless the source or target channel. Along with aligning the messages on all of your channels, you also need to provide that same, quality customer service and experience on all of your channels.
From providing customer support to offering promotions and coupons, your business needs to offer whatever information you choose seamlessly on all of your channels whether it is on Facebook, mobile devices, your website, in-store kiosks, and more.
And what’s the benefit? Multi-channel shoppers spend 15% to 30% more than those who use only one channel. I – or, more accurately, my waistline – can attest to that fact. After seeing all of the specials from the pizza chain on Facebook, Twitter, and being able to use it when I order on my smartphone, I eat a lot more pies than I should.