Want customers? Meet them where they are! With rapidly evolving customer expectations, it’s safe to say that customers expect businesses to be accessible across platforms and formats. Hello, omnichannel CX!
What is an ideal omnichannel strategy?
An omnichannel ideal is one in which a single platform creates online access integrated with brick and mortar outlets, allowing customers to freely navigate the brand’s products/services from any digital device, capturing all crucial touchpoints that lead to a sale and repeat transactions (the latter representing customer loyalty and retention).
The first article in this series emphasized that customer touchpoints define their interactions with your brand from initial searches to customers leaving your value proposition (i.e., when they stop buying). There, I proposed that transforming your omnichannel strategy begins with customer journey mapping. What’s that? It’s documenting your customers’ step-by-step movements toward the cash till to detect any steps missing from your engagement strategy and, if already in position, those malfunctioning. It involves scanning multiple touchpoints on and offline, remembering that a single buyer obstruction is enough to derail an entire customer journey, kicking all the previous progress to the curb.
The problem balloons out of all proportion when tens, hundreds, or even thousands of customers jump ship as they encounter the same defective touchpoint (e.g., an impatient or rude live chat, an incompetent support person, or a faulty point of sale). Indeed, wholesale customer churn is the last thing any company can afford.
In addition, there’s no way to understand critical market dynamics unless marketers vest themselves in the school of thought that every single touchpoint combines to form a chain of vital links in every customer journey. Why? Because the way your customers buy via digital devices and take advantage of online and brick and mortar stores, social media, and influencers is an essential part of their journey. Detecting when – through this convoluted process – customers jump on board the brand bandwagon or abandon ship is fundamental to sound strategic decisions.
To better understand this, we previously covered all primary touchpoints in most marketplaces and customer expectations of how things should work at every stage. We listed many, but they all circle back to the following five strategic activities.
Five steps to omnichannel success
1. Understand your customers
It boils down to knowing who your customers are and why they behave the way they do. Of course, companies with thousands of customers cannot map out an individual customer journey route for each group member. Thankfully, proven segmentation principles signify that defined groups behave similarly, allowing us to zone in on the touchpoints relevant to the target segment, although individuals within it may deviate here and there.
Conversely, individual mapping aligns with B2B situations where one sizable corporate client may be the entire segment (e.g., Microsoft, Apple, IBM, John Deere, and other Fortune 100 entities). However, it’s critical to remember that B2B buying decisions frequently revolve around committees, including engineering, production, legal, finance, buying, etc. It means that B2B customer journeys zigzag between departments and several staff participants and can get complicated. Unless a seller accounts for all pivotal party roles in a buying decision, success is questionable.
I’ve written extensively on the various marketing segmentation options, starting with a general overview explaining that demographic analysis defines surface characteristics such as education, age, city or town of residency, occupation, religion, income, etc. From there, segmentation goes deep, evaluating behavioral trends and psychographic commonalities affecting the group’s buying decisions. Of course, surveys play an integral role in segmentation exercises. You can deploy these to uncover puzzling TP questions like:
Why your customers (prospects):
- Frequently bounce from specific landing pages (within seconds)
- Abandon shopping carts
- Stopped buying
- Express interest but aren’t pulling the trigger
- Return purchases
- Visit stores when they purchase online
Or how your customers (prospects):
- Feel following customer support calls
- Use SM and digital devices to help their shopping process
- Like your blogs
- View your value proposition
- Rate you versus competitors
- Navigate apps and websites when they buy online
Sogolytics can help you understand just how your customers are feeling by keeping an eye on the key metrics and capturing insights at critical touchpoints. This will help inform your customer journey map, identifying touchpoints that need to be added and even ones that might be malfunctioning, thereby helping you take rapid corrective action.
2. Ensure you’re dealing with after-sales issues effectively
What happens after a sale is complete? No marketer welcomes returns, but reverse logistics is a gigantic part of doing business. Previously we discussed it at length, noting that severe losses start totting up when returns run out of control. The principal culprit is dismal “Omnichannel After Sales Service” – on the phone, online, and in-store. Let me explain: There are always reasons for returns (right or wrong), but either way, your customers expect you to manage these unfortunate issues efficiently and courteously; if not – worse than the returns – the returner has probably left the stage forever.
A customer journey collapse is not inevitable when a trained and responsive team is in your corner – it’s the solution to the above. Indeed, a well-oiled unit can turn lemons into lemonade by slowing returns considerably and consolidating customer loyalty. How? In the following ways:
- Courteous and fast attention to errors
- Helping clients decipher instructions (if the latter’s a problem) by:
- Deploying videos and screenshots appropriately
- Holding the user’s hand through the usage process
- Dealing empathetically with customers’ second thoughts after purchase
- Helping customers:
- Navigate accounting issues
- See disappointing brand performance in a better light
- Comping disappointed customers with freebies, deep discounts, or gifts
The same goes for markets where customers purchase contractor skills, time, or entertainment value that fails to meet expectations – like a disappointing restaurant. An acceptable management response could be the difference between retaining or losing a clientele.
3. Be wherever your customers are on their journeys
To reiterate, omnichannel marketing is about selling how your customer wants to buy, not according to your preferences. So, you must:
- Accommodate their pay methods (e.g., credit cards, mobile wallet, digital wallet, cash, Venmo, Zelle, buy-now-pay-later for big-ticket items).
- Engage with them on the social media platform they favor. Indeed, it’s an ideal method for creating an online community – even a culture – around your brand (e.g., sharing experiences, suggestions, solutions to complaints, etc.)
- Create an App for easy use if that’s what the customer wants.
- Provide real-life opportunities to connect, even if customers prefer to go online for the final transaction.
- Develop a LinkedIn profile – a must-do for B2B engagement.
- Insert yourself positively into the customers’ influencer sites and SM choices to guard against negative opinions.
- Streamline your website for easy navigation, checking that every landing page, video, blog, review, and supporting page leverages crucial calls to action (CTAs). The metric analysis discussed above goes a long way to bring your website up to speed.
- Develop a trained and responsive support team (including live chats) – aligning with tested chatbots – to answer questions.
- All attributes connected to an effective client success team apply to client support at every stage of the customer journey.
- Defects in this arena are a surefire customer churner.
- If you have a brand that sells through a distribution network customers rely on – multiple online stores, brick and mortar outlets, or both – ensure you have a significant presence.
- Please note that filling all the gaps in a broad supply chain is sometimes impossible. However, if you have enough coverage not to inconvenience customers, explain your tactics with online or device messaging and information.
- If your customers like podcasts, videos, and webinars to expand their engagement with your brand, give it to them. Again, communicate how they want to hear from you, not the way you necessarily prefer to talk to them.
- Notably, in the B2B marketplaces, personal visits have given way to Zoom conferencing with buying committees (who integrate with their designated buyers) and various communications providing technical information on YouTube, LinkedIn, Slack, and different SM formats.
4. Look like an omnichannel leader, even if you aren’t one yet
SEO strategy works hand in hand with paid social media advertising. It focuses on developing content on your website or app pages that contain the precise search terms audiences use when searching your brand’s category (i.e., keywords). The goal is to pop up high on the search results (at least on Page 1), creating the probability of free clicks to a site or app landing page. However, more important than getting free clicks is the fact that customers perceive the top results as being the market leaders (right or wrong). Therefore, execute a professional SEO strategy whereby you:
- Optimize your company’s “Google My Business profile” (a mainstream business directory).
- Find the SEO gaps, such as high-volume keywords with low competition.
- Ensure your content complies with Google’s SEO rules while squeezing out the last drop of keyword power.
5. Make your customers feel special
Customers buy the sizzle, not the steak. In other words, in 2023 and beyond, omnichannel dominance depends on creating an emotional and thinking relationship with your customer. Each customer may be one of a segment numbering (say) a thousand.
However, the challenge is to communicate (through omnichannel options) so that each feels they’re the one in a thousand getting your VIP attention. How? Many are many ways, but here are a few examples:
- Personalize your emails.
- Reward customers for their survey responses.
- Recognize their recommendations by executing them and applauding the suggestions.
- If their first language, for example, is Spanish, acknowledge that – don’t try to work around it.
- Spend time analyzing meaningful rewards in the customer’s mindset. For example, if you know they love concerts and, even better, who their favorite artists are, what’s better than tickets to a live event or something similar?
- Share QR codes – a technology that can elevate your omnichannel engagement beyond the realm of competitor activity.
- Did you know numerous QR code options and applications can connect customers to expanded information about manufacturers and the supply chain that gets the brand into their hands?
- Brand loyalists love those extra insights, and by delivering the latter, you may convert one-time buyers to the loyalty circle.
- Providing wifi connection in your location, based on:
- 61% of people use their mobiles wherever they roam.
- 84% of consumers access the Internet while in stores.
- Up to 65% use their devices (in-store) to find coupons online – according to Forrester Research and RetailMeNot.
- This may not seem like a massive recognition item, but what if your competitor is Internet connected for customer convenience and you’re not? Thinking of it that way pays dividends because, after all, everything happens in a competitive environment.
- Offer free in-store pickup. Why? Because shoppers — especially millennials — go overboard to save on shipping costs.
- A substantial differentiating move is transforming your brick and mortar outlet into a fulfillment center for your online customers to pick up their purchases and save on shipping.
- Reliable data shows that 30% of shoppers welcome a free-of-charge pickup facility – likely to grow massively over the next few years.
Omnichannel marketing strategy is a broad area of study, and this two-part series just scratches the surface. A deep understanding requires considering perspectives of your customers, influencers, and the brand team in the center of it all. The bottom line is that the digitally connected marketplace vastly differs from its predecessors, putting the omnichannel challenge front and center of your business. A one-dimensional approach won’t cut it any longer, and the suggested omnichannel model covered here is likely to fractionalize even more in the future as digital options escalate.
To ensure you’re keeping up with the rapidly evolving customer expectations, start by getting the data you need: Ask your customers. Connect with them to understand their preferred platforms and formats so you can prioritize the right aspects of your omnichannel strategy.
Sogolytics can help! Let’s set up a quick call to get you started on optimizing your customer experience today.