Provided by Visionet Digital, written by AJ Leale, Sr. Director eCommerce
With increasing competition online and offline, product offering alone is no longer sufficient to attract and retain customers. This is especially important as we shift to the new normal after Covid-19. It is the convenience and now the necessity, in some cases, of finding a product online then purchase it to be shipped to your home, or picked up at the store; curbside pickup is the norm in this pandemic. This flexibility can be the deciding factor in someone purchasing from your store or going elsewhere.
Importance of Omnichannel Customer Experience, CX
The series of and experience quality of your customers’ touchpoints, across all your channels is the omnichannel customer experience (CX). It is your omnichannel CX that determines the strength of your eCommerce competitive position, and strength of your business model.
To better underline the significance of omnichannel customer experience, consider a few industry stats:
- A study by HBR found that 73% of customers prefer using multiple channels for their purchases (both offline and online).
- According to the Aberdeen Group research (via Forbes), companies with the highest omnichannel CX boast an average retention rate of 89%.
- The same study found that companies with strong omnichannel CX report a 7.5% year-over-year decrease in cost per customer contact.
- A Walker study revealed that by 2020, CX will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.
- A consumer study by NewVoiceMedia found that the key driver of customers having an emotional connection to a brand is the ability to contact the company through any channel (phone, email, social media, webchat, etc.).
While these stats clearly show that omnichannel CX has a great bearing on how successful your eCommerce will be, the psychology behind them is what’s most important.
There are a few basic truths that you have probably already seen in your own practice. Understanding them guides how omnichannel CX should be approached.
- Customers want convenience.
- Customers react better when given personalized products/services/experiences and not cookie cutter assortments.
- Customers will use multiple purchasing channels sooner or later.
- The number of these channels continues to increase.
- Customers still like the traditional channel of brick-and-mortar shops; even the younger generations — most Millennials still prefer purchasing in physical stores.
- Covid has impacted traditional stores heavily, and retailers must use all their channels to keep revenue up.
How can we use this to optimize our omnichannel?
First, an eCommerce retailer should cast a wide net and use various channels to reach a wider audience. They should use these channels to continually market the brand and site, providing information on their products that informs and intrigues their customer base to drive them to learn more. Use social media, search engine ads, video, affiliates, physical stores, and maybe even billboards — then combine, test, and adapt.
Second, customers want convenience and speed. You need to integrate all your channels to reduce the amount of work for a customer and provide them several ways to get your product quickly and safely. Eliminate any unnecessary steps and make the purchasing process flow smoothly.
Third, companies need to have a single view of their customers, across all channels. To do this, they can’t afford to keep their data fragmented, locked in silos. Instead of separate systems, which often come with competing metrics, an eCommerce retailer needs to enable a single system, or reporting engine, that holds all this information so that each service can easily access it when needed. This eliminates the struggle to identify the customer across multiple channels.
Fourth, physical stores, although impacted heavily now, are not going anywhere, even if their usage changes. The ability to use stores as ‘pick-up’ locations and the tangibility of products that brick-and-mortar stores give, is highly valued. Even if customers make a purchase online, some part of their journey is likely to involve a physical store.
Focus on the omnichannel journey
The old proverb, a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, is well known, but in omnichannel retailing, this first step can happen anywhere, and you need to make sure that step counts. Is it going to be a Pinterest ad or your physical store? Or is it going to be a YouTube ad on their tablets or your webshop on their desktop devices?
There are as many possibilities as there are channels, so it’s no longer sufficient to optimize just a few of these outlets. eCommerce retailers need to optimize all channels, starting with the first contact between their brand and a customer and continuing long after their first purchase since the goal is to make them a repeat customer.
This will be a considerable effort that will reap its rewards. Between the cost of new customer acquisitions and remembering the Aberdeen Group report where a company with a strong omnichannel CX scores an average retention rate of 89%, it will be worth it!
So, how can retailers focus on this journey, and optimize the omnichannel journey?
As an eCommerce retailer, you need to focus more on streamlining the experience between touchpoints. Instead of delivering a great experience at all touchpoints individually, you need to connect them smoothly. So smoothly that the customer feels they are not changing channels and receives the same service regardless of channel. One mistake manufacturers and service providers often make, is focusing on individual touchpoints and not removing the residual friction between them.
Consider this scenario: a healthcare clinic allows customers to book an appointment with the doctor. It’s a pretty straightforward process, even optimized for mobile. The customer books a slot, shows up for their checkup only to find out there was a “slight issue” and that there is no record of the appointment being made. There was some interference in the communication between touchpoints. The result? The customer is angry. Imagine how satisfied they would be, on the other hand, if they were reminded in advance, or notified that the doctor was running late and they could delay their arrival by half an hour.
A similar scenario can happen in any industry, whether it’s clothing, food delivery, skincare products, or nearly anything else you can imagine.
Connecting all the touchpoints smoothly requires removing any extra steps such as redundant signup forms each time a shopper switches to a new device or multiple checkout pages and breaks in the process or hiccups where systems do not communicate and, as an example, leads to inaccurate real-time information on inventory/availability.
The goal is to sync all the existing systems, remove redundancies, share all customer data and use it to provide a consistent, repeatable and measurable customer experience. One method to support this, and there are many, is through the “Anything as a Service” paradigm.
Why XaaS enables seamless omnichannel CX
XaaS is a collective term used to describe the delivery of Anything as a Service (it’s sometimes dubbed Everything as a Service, too). It essentially means providing products, tools, and technologies to users as if they were a service, via a network. This network is most often the internet. The most common instances of XaaS are Software as a Service, Platform as a Service, and Infrastructure as a Service.
XaaS has many advantages over traditional, on-premise IT systems. This paradigm reduces the costs of maintaining proprietary data centers, including physical and virtual servers, storage, and networking.
More importantly, all these issues become the responsibility of large service providers such as Google, Microsoft, and Amazon, who can deal with any problems far better and faster than an average eCommerce business.
And while concerns have been raised about this paradigm (most often in regards to security, reliability, and compliance), we argue that these large service providers still have better chances of dealing with these issues.
Now, when it comes to its impact on omnichannel CX, the XaaS model helps speed up the delivery of information at the right time and at the right touchpoint. With XaaS, an eCommerce retailer has a single centralized system that all information from various touchpoints flows into before flowing back out to the many touchpoints.
Most XaaS providers these days have a robust infrastructure that increases the speed of data exchange and reduces latency. This translates into robustness for your eCommerce business. Multiply the number of potential users, at various stages of purchasing journey, across various touchpoints and across various devices, moving in and out of the perimeters of your physical and virtual store. All of these factors change all the time. And your job is to make sure it all adds up so that no customer is let down.
This robustness helps retailers provide customers with accurate information (such as inventory levels) and allows them to create tailored offers that can satisfy shoppers by delivering a highly personalized shopping experience. A highly personalized experience can go a long way — 49 percent of customers purchase items they didn’t set out to buy as the result of a personalized recommendation from a brand. In turn, this boosts customer loyalty.
The bottom line is that with XaaS, you can manage expectations of thousands of shoppers in real-time and even anticipate their needs and wants before they even realize them.
If you’re looking to improve your omnichannel customer experience and you need a hand, get in touch with us. We can help maximize your revenues by combining all your channels for a smooth customer experience.