Omnichannel marketing is all about staying relevant to customers. How? By enabling customers to interact with your business and buy from you when and how they prefer. In fact, this might sometimes be quite different from how you want to sell.
Savvy marketers will tell you that the “omnichannel” concept is essential for success. As such, it implies creating convenience from end to end of the customer experience (CX). The confusing thing is this: convenience means different things to different people and emerges in different ways for the same people over time. In other words, customer expectations change as lifestyles take different shapes and diverse pressures insert themselves into our activities.
For example, things were simple decades ago: Shop, pick up, and pay — all in the same building. In 2023, customer choices have escalated exponentially thanks to smart phones, the internet, and the incredible SaaS/app era. Moreover, the speed and magnitude of communication opportunities went ballistic alongside the proliferation of Social Media (SM) such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, TikTok, and dozens of other penetrative entities in the SM space. Also, dedicated online sellers became a mainstream shopping channel, inducing many companies to combine virtual platforms with brick-and-mortar (B&M) systems.
Thus, customers can pursue buying the same thing in several convoluted directions. So, nowadays, it boils down to “buy anywhere, pick up anywhere, and pay via several different methods.” Indeed, working out where the customer is in the process of moving from an attentive or mildly interested prospect to putting money down for the brand (and possibly repeat buying) is a dizzying exercise. Yet mapping it out is a must.
Exploring the primary omnichannel drivers
Mobile phone shopping in 2023 is having a phenomenal impact on the business landscape. Reliable data shows that:
- More than 90% of adults between 18 to 49 buy online using a smartphone.
- Approximately seven of every ten adults ages 50 to 64 follow suit.
- Nearly half of US citizens 65 and older adopt mobile devices as a go-to shopping prop.
So, marketers who ignore smartphones as an integral part of omnichannel marketing do so at their peril if they want to succeed in the race for customers’ discretionary dollars.
Taking it further, here’s an example demonstrating a customer’s omnichannel activity covering only 25 of possibly more than 100 touchpoints (TPs) before she buys:
- TP-1: A prospective customer (let’s call her Mary) with an eye for fashion saw a stunning Valentino designer dress on the Australian-based online distributor platform via an app on her mobile.
- TP-2: Mary jumped to her desktop to inquire further. There she noticed that the distributor cut the price from over AUD 2775 (about $1859) to AUD 1665 ($1,115), which seemed like a good deal. However, Sydney is thousands of miles away, creating a little unease.
- TP-3: So, Mary made the short trip to the Valentino brand outlet in a regional mall and discovered that the one she saw online was indeed an original and wasn’t in stock. Nonetheless, the trip was worthwhile because the trained store staff provided valuable information on the outfit’s authenticity and edition date, plus she tried on similar options.
- TP – 4: She mobile-scanned competitive retail sites to explore Valentino alternatives and investigate similar offers.
- TPs 5 – 9: In five separate instances, she engaged in live chats provided by site chat bots and phoned customer support to discuss it directly.
- TPs 10 – 16: From there, Mary entered the online forum discussions over a few days with like-minded consumers to hear opinions about the dress and pricing on her iPad. A disturbing alert emerged in this discussion of fashion piracy, pointing to certain copiers marketing excellent replicas at around $300.
- TP – 17: As a result, Mary searched Google for more input on this because one of the forum participants commented that she couldn’t tell the difference.
- TPs 18 to 25: Another forum participant recommended an online site, “Rent the Runway,” where subscribers, for $38.50 per month, could order up to five latest edition designer dresses for two months. It led Mary to browse the internet for a few days using her mobile, iPad, and desktop to investigate the dress leasing option.
And that’s just the start of Mary’s possible purchase of the Valentino dress from the original app. From the above, we can see Mary moved from one TP to another in a zigzag fashion, between devices, platforms, and more, all driving her towards a possible purchase. That is just a brief glimpse into a part of the omnichannel experience a customer engaged in.
What is a touchpoint?
To better understand the myriad of touchpoints that encompass the customer journey, let’s start with the basics. What is a touchpoint? Customer touchpoints (TPs) define customer interactions with your brand.
It starts with overviewing a prospective buyer, progressing to a first-time purchaser, and then moving on to repeat usage (the essence of customer retention). Thus, touchpoints kick in when customers search for products and services and end when they drop out of the lifecycle.
A principal goal in touchpoint mapping across an omnichannel landscape is to detect the TPs missing from your engagement strategy and, just as vital, those which are malfunctioning. Indeed, marketers must realize that an omnichannel system has permeated marketplaces in every industry, creating multiple TPs online and offline, moving prospects through a sometimes hectic customer experience. Factually, a single defective TP has the power to derail customer journeys and blow up customer experiences. This is no small matter because customer churn is the arch-enemy of a healthy ROI & sustainable sales revenue growth.
One thing is undeniable: businesses won’t understand at which point or why customers jump ship unless they create a consistent and integrated omnichannel experience for their customers, capturing feedback from all touchpoints across the customer journey.
Defining the omnichannel touchpoints
The best way to appreciate your customers’ expectations from an omnichannel platform is to delve into the most crucial TPs driving their behavior in today’s markets. So, here are a few examples of this based on the point at which a customer interacts with a brand:
- Online advertising: Customers expect to see and respond to online advertising. One of the most penetrative ways to connect with an audience is through a persuasive SM paid online advertising strategy that commonly works on a Pay Per Click system (PPC). The logic is that you should spend less for clicks than the business they generate, taking interested parties to your website or app. The website / app then function as the next series of TPs by converting interest to a more committed action (e.g., a download or traversing to a live chat or even making a purchase).
- Social media: For example, in B2B engagements, customers anticipate referring to LinkedIn accounts to check the integrity, experience and competence of the people they’re dealing with. In B2C businesses, however, being present on social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter is preferred.
- Video content: Customers love it as a basis for understanding the brand better. It’s arguably the most engaging communication channel outside of direct one-and-one communication and can be leveraged across YouTube, and even for advertisements on social media.
- Chatbots: These offer customers an easy resolution for concerns, especially the more common ones.However, if the bot is faulty, uninformed, or creates frustration, it can single-handedly trigger a prospect to bounce.
- Blogs and articles: These are a great way to increase your organic reach and establish your brand expertise, building customer confidence. Moreover, your customers rely on this content to be informed and gather deep insights.
- Website/online store: This is crucial to establishing audience engagement. If the content on the site is off-point, confusing, or fails to convey your brand’s value proposition as meaningfully different, the customer journey will likely screech to a halt. On the other hand, a well-structured website/online store can accelerate conversion.
- Brand reviews: This is something everyone looks for these days. After all, customers are often suspicious of contrived testimonials and brand marketers abusing the system to produce false narratives. So think carefully about your review content and placements. Analyze your market reputation by taking a look at reviews on third party websites, and take corrective actions if needed.
- Store presence: If customers aren’t sure about your products, they might actually want to check it out in person before committing.
- influencers: Word of mouth is one of the most powerful strategies. This is closely followed by the rise of social media influencers. They promote products and inspire prospective customers to take the plunge.
- Point of Sale (POS) experience: It represents a gigantic data collection arena and offers TP opportunities that reinforce brand goodwill. How? In multiple ways.
- Here’s how it can benefit your business:
- Sending fast, personalized customer messages via email, thus energizing loyalty programs.
- Recording credit cards for more seamless checkouts.
- Upselling at the cash till.
- Accelerating self-checkouts in B&M outlets (with staff standby as a must).
- Leading customers to buy-now-pay-later programs for big-ticket items.
- Conversely, faulty checkouts create:
- Customer frustration.
- A pile-up of abandoned carts at the ultimate TP – honoring the invoice.
- A sizable surge in customer churn.
- A lost opportunity to cement customer engagement over the long term.
- Here’s how it can benefit your business:
- Reverse logistics: This was a massive industry worldwide (around $ 847 billion in 2021). Why is this significant? Because it revolves around returned items after what appear to be conclusive sales. So a sale is only a sale if the product doesn’t backfire with the customer asking for a refund.
The biggest concern at this point circles back to inadequate “omnichannel After Sales Service” (OASS) – on the phone, online, and in-store.
Look at it this way: it’s part of the territory for customers to discover the size ordered doesn’t fit, the company delivered it wrong or late, the color doesn’t look the same as the website images, etc. Your customers expect you to manage these TPs seamlessly; if not, they often return the products with severe disappointment – a customer journey roadblock if ever there was one. We’ll deal with establishing a functional OASS team in an upcoming article.
So there you have it – complete coverage of customer expectations within omnichannel marketing strategies. Either your platform meets them, or it runs the risk of encouraging customer churn. So, are you sure your CX strategy addresses all your critical touchpoints?
Sogolytics can help! Our powerful customer experience platform helps you gather insights from your customers to understand key engagement drivers and address experience gaps across the customer journey. Let’s get in touch, and we’ll help you understand how to create a customer experience strategy tailored for your business.