While most businesses function in a multichannel way, meaning they can interact with customers in multiple ways on or offline, the trend in retail and marketing is toward an omnichannel, or fully integrated, approach. This transformation can further streamline your business practices and better align brand messaging, and it is predicted to dominate the market in the next couple of years. To help you prepare for this transformation, it is a good idea to understand how omnichannel differs from multichannel and the benefits it can offer your business and your clients.
What Is Omnichannel?
Multichannel strategies will focus on having digital and physical customer interactions, such as ordering items online and then picking them up from or returning them to a brick-and-mortar location. Omnichannel means all or every channel, and these strategies will focus primarily on fully integrating your physical and digital media for a cohesive customer experience. In many ways, an omnichannel transformation is an upgrade to your multichannel approach. It can incorporate everything from customer service desks to artificial intelligence chatbots, including email marketing lists, call centers and mobile apps. The more integrated your systems are, the easier it can be to find, analyze and act on essential data.
How Does It Benefit Companies?
Not only can an omnichannel transformation help boost sales and improve customer experiences, but it can also improve your business hardware and software integration for more streamlined processes and better Electronic Data Interchange connections throughout the supply chain. By implementing EDI systems designed for omnichannel approaches, you can standardize the tools and communications between your business partners and avoid common errors or misunderstandings.
Your digital transformation does not have to be solely in customer relations and data transfer; with automation of inventory tracking, robotic manufacturing lines and IOT, you can more accurately stock each location with timely products and transfer items from the storerooms to customers at distant sites. For instance, customers shopping online can see if products are in stock at a nearby location, available to ship from the website or transfer to their local store from one in the next town. Integrating these inventories can allow clients to fill one shopping cart online and make a single purchase but have items shipped to their home and others available to pick up from the corner shop.
Does It Benefit Customers?
Changing how you interact with customers is always risky because it can be difficult for both sides of the conversation to adapt. With omnichannel transformation, however, you integrate your approaches to have the same experience talking to customer service in a store, on social media, or the website. By integrating artificial intelligence chatbots to your site and supplying them with the same informational resources offered to phone or in-person representatives, customers can ask questions or report issues on their own time.
You can add analytical tools and integrated marketing to your omnichannel transformation to further benefit both the customer and your company. For example, an online shopper has a question about the materials you use to make the custom dog beds in your shop but does not have time for a phone call. If you have a chat feature on your site, the shopper can quickly type the question into that tool, and your AI can supply the answer. Analytics tied to chat AI performance can track how many times particular questions are asked and display the most common queries on the dashboard for your website management team. This team can then produce blog posts answering these questions, add the information to product description pages and put an updated entry on the FAQ page so the next online shopper will not have to ask.
How Do You Make the Transformation?
Your omnichannel transformation does not have to be all done at once and should be an ongoing process. Your first step is to determine what your company needs and what your capabilities are. For instance, if you know you need a unified commerce platform and do not have an in-house development team, you can place that software solution on your list of needs. You can also find solutions companies with consultants and management services to walk you through each step of the transformation and manage the integration of applications. As you find more needs, you can add them to the list and work with business partners to find the right solutions, such as automating mundane tasks and unifying inventory processes with cloud-based platforms.
Moving your multichannel company to an omnichannel approach can seem intimidating until you see how suitable systems and platforms can do most of the work for you. Adding an AI chat tool to your website can enable customer engagement on that platform. Analytical tools can use trends from those conversations and others to improve your website or inform your marketing campaigns, all while streamlining processes and automating mundane tasks.