Multichannel Versus Omni-Channel

What’s the difference and where should you begin.

Customer demands and expectations as well as advances in technology are driving significant change in the way organisations and customers interact. Customers are demanding experiences that deliver greater convenience, simplicity, transparency, consistency and a high level of personalisation.

Accordingly, the role of product, price and brand as a means of differentiation is becoming less and less important for customer retention, meaning that customers are increasingly basing decisions about staying with brands on customer experiences.

Leading organisations are recognising the importance of investing in customer experience as it is proving to be a significant driver in delivering better business outcomes.

Invention of the world wide web in the early 90s truly opened up the world to real time communication. It is now an indispensable part of personal and professional life of more than 3 billion users worldwide.

The Channels

The Multichannel Approach

When faced with a large number of digital channels, such as smart phones, tablets and laptops, it is normal for businesses to dedicate distinct divisions to each channel in order to maximise their individual performance.

This kind of “multichannel” approach is characterised by a lane structure within the organisation, each having its own revenue targets and reporting formats. It is quite effective in allowing the business to interact with their customers more effectively across individual channels, it becomes nearly impossible to provide a seamless and uniform experience across all channels.

The Omni-Channel Approach

The inability of businesses to maintain uniformity across all their channels has given rise to the concept of omni-channel marketing. The multichannel approach divides the customer experience into its corporate silos, while the omni-channel approach puts the customer at the centre.

Omni-channel experience is defined as the design of the customer experience through your customer’s eyes to provide an integrated, seamless and consistent customer experience across all channels including face to face, mobile, digital and voice.

Omni-channel anticipates that customers may start in one channel and move to another as they progress to a resolution or purchase.

It is therefore critical that the transition between channels for customers is easy, doesn’t require the repetition of information and has the same look, feel and consistency of information regardless of the channels utilised.

The result is that instead of lanes, the omni-channel strategy has structure like a spider’s web, with all channels working simultaneously to achieve a common objective.

The trade-off in this case is the added complexity of integrating multiple channels into the same marketing strategy. In order to promote a more personalised interaction between a consumer and a brand, businesses are already recognising the importance of executing an omni-channel strategy.

Where to begin

Designing and implementing a customer experience program is a significant investment. To help you maximise the return on this investment, you may want to consider some of the following questions:

  • Do you have journey maps for all of your key customer segments?
  • Do you use consistent CX measures across the organisation?
  • Do you measure CX at the key moments of truth and across all key touch-points?
  • Do you measure effort and emotion?
  • Do you talk to inactive or lapsed customers to improve retention and lost leads to improve acquisition?
  • Are you using text and voice analytics to understand qualitative feedback?
  • Have you developed a CX model that predicts future behaviour and links to organisational performance?
  • Do you use a technology platform to monitor and share CX data?
  • Are the insights from your CX research shared across your business?
  • Do you use design thinking to create better customer experiences?

Drivers of Channel integration

Channel integration must deliver to business efficiency and customer experiences that are personalised, responsive and optimised to the device.

Organisations have commenced the journey to channel integration by understanding their customers and evaluating the potential impacts on channel integration including technology, culture and data.

There is a focus however, to firstly optimise the existing channels, technology and data analytics capability before progressing further with integration.

As organisations progress to an integrated channel environment, there is a trend towards consolidating multiple disparate systems into a single platform.

Mobile, online and voice are the three priority channels for growth, investment and channel integration over the next 12 months.

The mobile channel in particular, is expected to have the biggest shift in priority for channel integration over the next 12 months, and therefore mobile user experience design is of utmost importance for organisations.

For more information check out our recent podcast series with Tips to create a better omni-channel experience for your customers. Available on Soundcloud and iTunes

Brad Arsenault

Written by Brad Arsenault

Brad is the Head of Marketing at Fifth Quadrant. For over 16 years he's worked across digital marketing and content production. He actively publishes content on LinkedIn and Medium.

Topics: Customer experience omni-channel multi channel CX CX Articles & Insights

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