Multichannel & Omnichannel strategy – what’s the difference?

The way in which customers can contact companies and brands can handle customer service has changed significantly in recent years. Years ago, you could contact company only by phone and eventually largely forgotten now fax.

Now, you have much more options. You can still use the phone, but you also send email, live chat message, and visit social media profile to contact the company.

What is more, with the rapid technological advance people don’t have to wait until they come home to contact you. They can, and they want to do it immediately, using their mobile device or tablet.

Companies know about it, and they are striving to be accessible through as many places possible. Not only to be able to gain new customers (the more channels, the more ways to find new customers) but also to provide excellent customer service whenever their customers are.

For this, they are using “marketing channels.”

Marketing channels are the routes used to deliver marketing information to your customers. There is plenty of them – websites, social media, emails, ads, mobiles and more.

In earlier years, companies were fine using just email or just their sites. Today, however, using only one channel to communicate with customers stopped being enough.

That’s why many companies turned to multichannel approach in the last years.

What is a multichannel approach?

Multichannel approach (“many channels”) is connecting to customers through several different channels – social media, mobiles, email, phone, live chat and so.

Nowadays it’s a necessary practice for any company. Limiting to just email, or just social media is also restricting the opportunities to find new customers and get new sales. So instead of using only email or only social media, companies use as many channels as they can, to find as many customers as they can.

However, there’s a couple of problems with a typical multichannel approach nowadays.

The biggest problem is that all channels are often treated as independent entities. They have different people working on them, different strategy, different goals, without any connection with each other – you could say every channel works in a sort of a vacuum.

This brings up several issues:

  • Instead of working together, the channels are competing with each other for the same client.
  • The brand message often is different on all channels which confuse and frustrates the user
  • There’s no connection between the channels, so a customer either has to stick to only one of them or start from scratch
  • It gives unnecessary problems to the customer – such as having to make separate accounts or repeating their issue several times

Why do you need Omnichannel?

Companies still often assume that customers are choosing only one or two main ways to interact with them and their company so there’s no need for the channels to be connected in any way.

Nowadays, however, most customers jump between several different channels during just one purchase.

Let’s say a customer wants to buy a new smartphone. Since a smartphone is an expensive product, it’s natural they will spend some time researching so they would get the best phone for their needs.

They start from searching the type of smartphone they are interested in their PC. Later on, when they find one that might fill their needs, they visit the producer’s website to have a closer look at the product.

Later they want to discuss the options with their friends, so they show them the same product on their tablet or mobile.

They might also want to have a look at the chosen smartphone in person (to see how big it is, will it be convenient to hold) so they are looking in what store or mobile salon they can find the chosen product.

At the same time, they are reading reviews on the social media or reviews side. After they decided on buying the product, they might need accessories too, so they are returning to the website again.

That is if all goes smoothly. If at any point the customer will encounter a problem of some sort (such as return issues – “product bought online can be returned online”), they might decide against buying from this brand and look for something else.

The brand just lost a customer so what is the solution? Turning your multi-channel strategy into omnichannel strategy!  

What it omnichannel?    

Multi-channel and Omni-channel strategy are often confused – they both use several channels to connect with customers so many people think they can use the term interchangeably.

While it’s true that both Multi and Omnichannel strategy uses several channels to interact with customers, there is a visible difference when it comes to how are they doing it.

While multichannel focuses only on having as many separate channels as possible, omnichannel strategy instead strives to deliver a consistent and seamless experience for all customers, no matter what channel or what device they are using.

An omnichannel strategy is all about showing the channels as one, unified channels which ensures all shoppers will have a great shopping experience and get their issues solved fast, no matter are they using the brand’s website, the social media account or are shopping in the brick and mortar store.  

An essential thing in Omnichannel strategy is on building a stronger relationship between consumers and the brand, not merely getting as many new customers as possible.

Omnichannel in practice

Here’s an example of how an omnichannel strategy works in action: While in the physical store, a customer finds an item they are interested in but hesitates to buy it. After reading positive online reviews of the product on their mobile device, he decides to purchase the product later through the e-store and after completing the purchase, receives an email from the store asking for feedback. That feedback is then used to create an even better customer experience in the future.

Let’s look at another example. While scrolling through Facebook, you see an ad for 30% off for winter wear in a popular clothing store. When you click on the ad, you are immediately taken to a shop website that shows you all items which are on sale. You need a winter coat and see one you are interested in but first, you want to try it on. On the website, you check which store has the coat, visit the store in the evening and purchase the jacket there.

That’s omnichannel in action!

Sounds great but does it work?

Definitely!

Those marketers who have changed their multi-channel strategy into omnichannel are already seeing the results. Both in increased sales revenue and improved customers retention.

Have a look at those stats:

  • Businesses that adopt omnichannel strategies achieve 91% greater year-over-year customer retention rates compared to the businesses that don’t (Aspect Software)
  • 98% of Americans switch between devices on the same day (Google Research)
  • Companies with powerful omnichannel customer engagement retain on average 89% of their customers. (Aberdeen Group)
  • 89% of customers get frustrated having to repeat their issues to multiple representatives. (Accenture)
  • 90% of customers expect consistent interactions across channels. (SDL)
  • 71% of shoppers who use smartphones for research in-store say that it’s become an essential part of the experience. (Google)

How can I change my multichannel approach to omnichannel?

#1 Take care of mobile users

If you have a business in 2018 and can’t offer full support for mobile users, you might be sabotaging your marketing efforts.

Today’s customers are demanding that they would be able to connect with the business anywhere they are and whatever device they are using.

Nowadays, 87% of customers are using mobile devices to browse the internet. Many of them complain that making a purchase or visiting a website via mobile is problematic.

That’s why having a fast and easy to use mobile website should be your priority. Customers expect the page will load within a few seconds if it loads longer they might abandon it entirely.

Make also sure the buttons are big enough for convenient use, the contact info is easy to find and that the website font is clear and easy to read on all screen sizes.

Opting for a responsive layout that will automatically adjust to the size of your customer’s mobile device screen is a good idea.

#2 Cut down your social media reply time

Social media accounts can be a fantastic customer service tool. They results in better engagement, high customer satisfaction rates, and higher sales. It’s also a great way to solve your customers’ issues and answer question much faster.

However, there’s a big gap when it comes to how fast customers expect an answer and how fast the businesses respond. 32% of clients want a reply within 30 minutes, 42% expect a response within 60 minutes at most. But when it comes to business, the average response time is 157 minutes. And 12% of companies don’t respond to customer messages on social media at all!

An ignored customer is a lost customer.

So try to respond to all questions within 60 minutes. If you can’t solve the issue straight away, it’s crucial to tell your customer this and reassure him you will get in touch once the problem is solved.

#3 Think about getting a live chat system

Customers love live chats 🙂 They are a fast, easy and convenient way to get their questions answered and issues solved. Because chats are much faster compared to email, more and more customers pick them as their preferred method of communication.

It’s especially important in today’s world where customers have had little time on their hands and want to get their issues solved as fast as possible.

Getting a live chat is neither complicated nor expensive nowadays. There’s plenty of tools for you to use – both for small companies and enterprises.  

Before you purchase a system though, think about your needs and expectations first. If you get a system that is too complicated for your company or that doesn’t have the features you need, it might turn out that you got a hindrance instead of help!

#4 Let your customers solve their problems themselves

More and more customers expect companies to make it easier for them to solve their customer service issues themselves. 40% of consumers prefer fixing the problem themselves than having to contact a customer service team.

Being able to look up the solution on the website and fix the problem themselves is convenient both for the customers (they don’t have to contact customer service) and for the customer service staff (more time for other customers).

There are lots of ways to help customers find solutions to their problem themselves. For example, by using a comprehensive FAQ page, “How to” guides or video tutorials.  

FAQ is an especially good idea. If you have questions that are often asked, don’t forget to add them to the “Frequently asked questions” section. Your customers will be able to find the answer they need quickly. And your customers’ support team won’t have to answer the same questions every day.

#5 Use a reliable CRM system

To have an omnichannel strategy working without a hitch, you should have all of your customers’ data in one place, easily accessible by all. How can your company deliver a great customer service if people in charge of different channels don’t know what the other team is doing?

It’s also a major annoyance for a customer if he has to repeat himself because he is talking now with a different customer service rep that has no idea of the customers’ issue.

A good, reliable CRM system can record and then store all interactions with your customers inside the database, with all team members having access to it whenever they need. Even if the customer previously used a different channel and talked with a different customer support rep, the representative can quickly look up with what question the customer was calling earlier and help the customer faster than if the customer had to repeat everything he said earlier.

CRM also helps in keeping all data in order (no more looking for “that one file”) and with netting an additional sales by giving your customers items tailored to their need.   

Summary

While omnichannel and multichannel strategies might seem similar, they are fundamentally different in the approach to customer’s experience. One has only the number of customers in focus, while the other has the number and customers experience too.

To increase customers retention and overall sales, marketers should shift from multi to omnichannel strategy. The most important thing in your company should be ensuring that all your customers have an excellent experience with your brand. And no matter what channel they use, and no matter in what way they choose to interact with you.

Have you implemented the omnichannel strategy in your business? Or are you still thinking about it?  Let us know below by leaving a quick comment.
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