Rich digital capabilities make customers more demanding. Especially now, almost any enterprise cannot run without software for interaction with clients and various communication channels like Facebook or Instagram pages, versatile call centres, websites, and applications. Under the Omnisend 2020 Marketing Automation Statistics Report, the purchase rate of omnichannel campaigns is 287% higher than single-channel ones. But what omnichannel exactly is. It's a bird, it's a plane, or it's a boosted version of the multichannel connection. Let's see why omnichannel is much more than robust CRM, what it means for business now, and what product is needed to manage it properly.
What Is Omnichannel And How Did It Arise: A Piece Of History
“Omnichannel or multichannel, it’s all just language to us. Someone recently told me we should say omnichannel, but if you put customers at the heart of the sentence — they don’t care if it’s multichannel or omnichannel, they just want it to work.”
Steve Sweeney, General Manager Marketing Operations
Not only ordinary buyers but also most business representatives get lost between the multichannel, cross channel, and omnichannel, considering them as synonymous. At first sight, it's true: these concepts have a lot in common. But there are also significant distinctions between them.
Let's skip the ancient period when you could buy something only in brick-and-mortar stores and start right away with multichannel. It's a transformation of customer-company interaction that arose at the beginning of the devices popularization.
Having a near store, telephone, or Internet at hand, the customer has the opportunity to order a product/service in any convenient way. But here's the problem: these channels are not integrated with each other at all. The buyer cannot start communication in one way and continue it in the other one at the same place he has stopped.
Let's say Jack leafed through the store's website via laptop and looked at a TV in the house. At the decision-making stage, he couldn't order it through the phone instantly: he would have to flip through the catalogue again in search of the desired product. As seen here, the communication channels don't operate together but compete with each other for the frequency of their usage. The above complexities often affect customer experience negatively. But even today, large companies use this approach in their practice. It is not completely bad, but it’s slightly legacy and suitable for beginners in the business area.
Cross-channel provides the user with more opportunities. All communication sources interact with each other. Using this approach, the company enables the customer to see the product through the website, click on it, switch to the mobile app, and discover the newly selected product in the shopping cart. No more repeated catalogue searches.
Omnichannel is the result of multichannel evolution. Its main distinction from previous approaches is a wide range of influence on the company's back-office operation. Besides, omnichannel allows not only to accurately and quickly interact with clients but also receive information about customer experience and behaviour directly from them. It's core for any business, especially trade. No multichannel nor cross-channel can boast of such a feature.
Why Omnichannel Matters
There are 5 stages that a buyer goes through making a purchase:
They may not go in order, but the essence remains the same. The omnichannel approach unifies these stages. One process seamlessly transitions into the other, regardless of whether both of them happened online or offline. It removes any inconvenience related to purchasing and improves customer experience. Omnichannel not only improves customer service, but it also affects the change in all internal systems, optimizing their work and making them client-oriented. That’s why following PwC, in 2020, the number of companies investing in the omnichannel has grown from 20% to over 80%. Since any business strives to satisfy the client’s needs, omnichannel help to reach it.
This method will not work appropriately without a robust digital product capable of collecting information from all channels and transmitting it to back-office systems. Let's consider what solution will allow managing omnichannel in the right way.
CRM Omnichannel Management is Not Enough
Today CRM have a possibility to collect all customers' data across the channels to create a holistic view of the touchpoints and relations. But is it enough to manage omnichannel?
Unfortunately now, and here is why:
- Omnichannel is connected to any part of the business: sales channels, inventory management, and marketing strategy, appointment scheduling & Customer Management Platform
- The most important thing in Omnichannel management is a real-time possibility to update the information & integration with all parties, systems & solutions involved
- To manage all processes which are involved in omnichannel action just right now there is a need to offer middleware solutions for omnichannel management - to take all extras from ERP parts to one solution which contains all omnichannel logic. That's why CRM can’t solve all omnichannel issues
Why Omnichannel is Important for Retail Business
Nearly 80% of retailers claim how hard there is to provide a holistic customer brand experience. Half of those who are trying, say that their progress is not as fast as it should be. And half is still behind just wondering what to do. The main reasons are:
Poor internal organization (39%)
The gap in customer analytics across whole channels (67%)
Low-quality data (45%)
Inability to track the customers across their shopping journey across the channels (45%)
On the other hand, customers are already using various channels to make their purchase decision, and they are willing to receive as many benefits as possible from omnichannel.
75% of shoppers use various channels to compare prices, search for offer or discounts, and even shop online via in-store tablets.
Omnichannel customers spend 4% higher on every shopping trip in-store, and 10% extra while shopping online than regular one-channel customers.
The more channels customers use, the more they spend
Perfect Suitable Middleware For Omnichannel Management And Where To Get It
Effective omnichannel management is possible with the usage of middleware - a type of software that acts as an intermediary between the main company's systems. Omnichannel directly affects customer management, marketing, logistics, warehouse systems, analytics, etc. How exactly? - When a customer orders any product, all the data about it are immediately transmitted to the above systems. They instantly receive information about the delivery address, purchase price, type of product, based on which the company can form statistical data and organize work based on the client demand, received in real-time.
It would be irrational to create an additional solution for each system, affected by the omnichannel. It's much easier to develop a versatile middleware that can integrate with all back-office components. Thus, the best way to manage the omnichannel approach is to implement middleware with the following features:
Microservice base. The solution should act independently of other systems and provide the business with the necessary flexibility. So, it should be designed on a microservice architecture. Monolithic one will create strong component dependencies, and the middleware implementation will not be justified.
High integration. Imagine that you bought a T-shirt online and paid for it with your card. You also decided to drop into the nearest store to pick up the purchase yourself. Besides, following Statista, as of June 2020, 15% of US customers admitted they preferred to do the same.
The principle of an omnichannel management system operation is the following. The order is processed by the system instantly, all its data is transferred to the:
POS system, which can't recognize the barcode to sell the item to someone else
warehouse management system with a request to order one more item
the marketing department, transferring data about your preferences
analytics department, helping to determine which goods are more and less popular, etc.
Thus, the system must have a high level of integration with all the company's software.
Scalability. Remember that the system will handle thousands of client requests from different channels and appropriately transfer them to other software. It has to do it accurately and quickly.
Real-time. Omnichannel will work only in conditions of real-time data transmission. Recently, the XME.digital team has developed a real-time delivery calculator. Collecting data from different sources, the system provides a potential buyer with the delivery time for any product from the catalogue instantly while viewing it. Online purchase largely depends on how quickly the customer receives his product. This solution allows the buyer to determine which goods suit him best from the beginning. The customer experience is improved and the client feels that the company is acting with integrity.
One-stop-shop interface. An intuitive interface is the сore for an omnichannel management system. It allows automatically collecting data from different channels and using them with benefit. An example is the contact centre designed on the XME. fast code platform basis. The solution enables operators to get a massive amount of information about the client without switching between countless tabs. The system automatically provides the employee with the data that he will need to serve the buyer, like what's the customer's previous purchases and what he most likely will buy next.
Thus, the product supports omnichannel, processing data, requests, orders from different sources of communication with the client. It keeps seamless interactions between channels, works with a sizable amount of data, and therefore creates a positive customer experience. And that's not all. This middleware directly affects the operation of the above systems. As seen, all back-office departments build their activities and change based on the information about customers' needs received from the middleware. For example, the logistics department creates more efficient routes and implements robust software to satisfy client demand. Marketing forms fruitful strategies and campaigns. Where do they get the data about what the client wants? - Omnichannel management middleware is the only powerful connection between customer and company. Providing valuable data, such a solution affects the company's operations and its customer policy.
The fast code platform is a perfectly suitable base for omnichannel management middleware development. Because of its features, it gives an opportunity to design a microservice solution in a short term, making it scalable, highly integrable, working in real-time, and supporting modern technologies.
The Bottom Line
Thus, omnichannel can be called a new generation of multichannel, capable not only of providing client-company interaction by different communication channels, but making the connection seamless, mutual (when the client receives the goods/services, and the company gets information about the customer experience) and affects the internal systems' operation, making it customer-centric.
Omnichannel is a base for real-time campaign management. It's a way to completely meet the client's demand at the moment it arises and even earlier.
To get the full benefit of the omnichannel approach, it should be used appropriately. It is impossible without robust middleware, has a high level of scalability, integration, clear interface, and logic. Such a product can be quickly designed with the fast code platform. Its benefits enable the creation of an efficient solution with minimum resource consumption.