A shop-front, a phone line, a website, a Facebook page – even the simplest combination of two or more touchpoints means you’re a multi-channel business. But as customers become more connected, marketing strategies need to evolve. It’s no longer enough to implement a solid multi-channel strategy. You need to start thinking in terms of an omni-channel experience. This extends a multi-channel approach to one that creates a holistic customer experience that is seamless and integrated across all channels.
You can’t control the unpredictable ways customers are now interacting with brands (commonly switching between channels during a single purchase and almost certainly throughout a brand relationship) but you can be prepared for it.
Here are five things you need to get right to deliver great omni-channel user experiences:
More than just brand consistency, users demand the same meaningful experiences everywhere they engage with your company. If a customer is familiar with your app, they expect to be instantly familiar with your website. A Twitter follower expects the same tone of voice in the copy on your mobile updates. Where consistency is lacking, so is credibility.
The deeper into the experience inconsistencies are discovered, the more likely it is that a customer will raise their eyebrows. Nespresso’s iOS app, for instance, doesn’t synchronise the app’s basket content with the website even when the user uses the same username and password for both channels. A more consistent and convenient shopping experience could boost sales.
You were once expected to consider the web, mobile, and email touch points, and you had a pretty good idea of the context in which a customer would use each. With the evolution into omni-channel, you now need to include tablets, smart watches, various social media, offline channels, and more – plus how they interconnect with regards to user experience. Your users will choose when, where, and how they engage with your brand as it suits them.
It’s crucial to make available not only a wide range of channels but also key user actions – checkouts, account information updates, help pages, and more – through each of those channels. When not possible or appropriate, nudge the user to the best channel for the task with as little friction as possible. A brilliant example is Amazon selling eBooks on their desktop website but sending them directly to the user’s Kindle device.
By definition, an omni-channel approach is channel agnostic. This means a customer should be able to see the same data and options in every touch point. Don’t make the “door slamming” mistake of forcing mobile visitors to download your app when there is not a valid reason to do so, for example, as promoting one channel by limiting another leads to an overall poor user experience.
In a corporate structure, this may mean previously competing teams now need to work in tandem – “under-performing” channels are now less of a liability, instead becoming supporting acts for a great all-round experience.
Building on the previous points, true maximisation of an omni-channel UX strategy comes with context-optimisation. While touch points need consistency and accessibility, leveraging the technological capabilities of individual channels (think offline capabilities, cameras, a smartphone pedometer, printers, and in-store experiences) is a great way to enhance customer engagement.
Nespresso allow US-based customers to print pre-paid labels and return used capsules for recycling through their Capsule Brigade programme. This takes unique advantage of the capabilities of desktops to provide a context-optimised experience. More simple examples are Starbucks’ loyalty card enabling customers to pay for drinks with the Starbucks app, or Costco’s mobile website providing a user with its nearest superstore location by tapping on the location icon and accessing the GPS.
Customers should be able to pause and continue their tasks and journeys as context demands, even moving between channels or devices during a single transaction. On an ecommerce website, for example, this would mean identical offers, inventory, basket data, and account information available across all channels.
You can go a step further and bring seamlessness together with consistency and context-optimisation to blur the lines between digital and in-store. Disney’s mobile app lets guests check attraction waiting times and improve their own experiences. They also provide “MagicBands” – internet-connected bracelets that do everything from food stall payments to unlocking hotel doors.
Great omni-channel UX provides 360-degree engagements between brands and their customers allowing users to cross from one channel to another with a consistent and seamless experience. Your website, app, or Facebook page may be great, but the total package must be designed around users and their needs. Despite the complexity of implementing the technology required for some of the above examples, investing in great user experience pays for itself in the form of impressed customers who keep returning.
By Danny Bluestone, CEO of Cyber-Duck.
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