The Omni-channel: What it is and why it matters

I recently had what I would call a great omni-channel customer experience. We often talk about CX in terms of positive experiences, but the truth is, when things go wrong, this is precisely the moment companies have an opportunity to shine.

My case involved a bed frame which I bought from a large online furniture retailer. The checkout, payment and shipping process was all smooth and quick, which is expected these days.

However, upon assembly, I realised that I was short a couple of ‘end connectors’. I don’t want to get into the technicals of bed frame assembly here, but they are the little plastic thingys that go on the end of the wooden slats.

I completed the assembly with the parts I had, and the bed worked fine, but I figured since it is 2019, surely I can get these missing parts sent to me pretty fast, right?

We have recently been writing about chat, so I decided to give that channel a go. I jumped on the website and had a conversation with “Ryan”, who I am pretty sure was a 100% real human (I was going to ask him but thought it rude - you decide). Here is how that went:


Almost immediately after this exchange, I received a call from the company's Marian store, which is the one closest to me. The person at the Marian store knew who I was, where I was, and the issue. There was nothing for me to explain. She apologised and gave me the option of either picking up the end connectors or having them mailed to me free of charge. I opted for the latter and two days later they were proudly connecting my bed slats. Case closed!

Seamless integration the key

So what is omni-channel and how does it differ from multichannel? The word you will come across in most definitions is “seamless”. Omni-channel is really the evolution of the multi-channel, and thus it is multichannel done well.

In my example, what made this experience omni-channel was the seamless integration of the chat and phone channels. There was no need for me to explain again my case, because the person who called me had all the information.

That integration happens behind the scenes and is becoming increasingly crucial. Companies must invest in the resources and platforms that allow them to share data across channels to prevent customers from having to reenter information or repeat themselves. Eliminating that friction makes for a smoother, quicker and better CX.

Also check out: The Benefits of Omni-Channel Retail

Do it because it works

I was impressed with my bed frame experience, and have since shopped from this store again and recommended it to someone. This says a lot about the importance of both CX and the omni-channel.

But don’t take my word for it. The Harvard Business Review recently conducted a massive study of just over 46,000 consumers who they asked about every aspect of their shopping journey. Of the study participants, 7% were online-only shoppers, 20% were store-only shoppers, and a whopping 73% used multiple channels.

HBR found that customers loved using multiple touch points along their customer journey and would actually spend more if they were able to do so seamlessly.

“[W]ith every additional channel they used, the shoppers spent more money in the store. For example, customers who used 4+ channels spent 9% more in the store, on average, when compared to those who used just one channel,” HBR said.

Consistent with my bed frame experience, HBR also found omni-channel shoppers to be more loyal.

“Within six months after an omni-channel shopping experience, these customers had logged 23% more repeat shopping trips to the retailer’s stores and were more likely to recommend the brand to family and friends than those who used a single channel,” HBR said.

How is Australia faring?

The good news is omni-channel is doable with the right tools and that it works. So how is Australian retail doing when it comes to adoption?

My bed frame experience was not an isolated incident but one of the things that made it special and memorable is that it was an experience provided by a 100% Australian company.

I have had good omni-channel experiences in Australia before, but it is worth noting that many of them involved global brands.

For example, Apple can be considered the gold standard of omni-channel. Using the website, talking to a rep, walking into the store, even unboxing your product is a seamless experience that feels high quality and uniform at every touch point. It is not a coincidence that Apple is one of the world’s most valuable brands and that it inspires a cult-like following. Apple's CX is next level.

CBRE Group last year released a report called ‘Australia’s Omni-Channel Revolution’, which highlighted the ongoing transformation of retail markets both globally and in Australia as underpinned by the shift to 24-7 shopping across seamlessly integrated channels.

CBRE Associate Director of Research, Kate Bailey said that major changes in the Australian retail landscape would take place in the next few years as it evolves to match the more advanced markets worldwide.

“The retail goal posts are shifting, and as a result, businesses need to transform entirely – not just update their website,” she said. “The evolution of the omni-channel retailer requires the involvement and transformation of the entire business, from advertising and merchandising to payment, fulfilment and delivery.”

The evolution of the omni-channel retailer requires the involvement and transformation of the entire business, from advertising and merchandising to payment, fulfilment and delivery.

The takeaway from all this is that omni-channel is doable with the right tools, effective, and also necessary in the rapidly evolving retail environment.

endconnect - missing furniture parts

Seamless integrating channels to deliver something small like bed slat end connectors might not seem like a big deal. But CX is quickly becoming the most important differentiator and, as I said, I am now a loyal customer of that particular online furniture retailer. And all because of these:

To learn more about how you can improve the CX of your business via the omni-channel, contact Fifth Quadrant today.

Ready to talk CX?


Stefan Kostarelis

Written by Stefan Kostarelis

Stefan is the Content Manager at a Sydney-based investor relations firm, and a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Techly, Paste Magazine, Lost at E Minor and Tech Invest.

Topics: Customer experience omni-channel CX Articles & Insights

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