[Progress News] [Progress OpenEdge ABL] What is Omnichannel Customer Experience and How to Build It?

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Suzanne Scacca

Omnichannel customer experience refers to a seamless and integrated approach to customer service across multiple channels, both online and offline.

It doesn’t matter how many touchpoints a customer has with a brand or where they occur. A company that uses an omnichannel customer experience (CX) strategy offers a fluid, friction-free and optimized journey for that customer as they move from channel to channel.

If you’re looking to craft a truly user-centric approach to design, marketing, sales and customer service, omnichannel CX is the way to do it.

In this post, we’ll explain why omnichannel CX is so effective, how it differs from other multi-channel strategies, and the 10 steps needed to create a successful strategy for your brand.

What is Omnichannel Customer Experience?​

Omnichannel customer experience refers to a holistic and seamless approach to serving customers regardless of where they engage with a brand—through digital channels or in the real world.

Omnichannel customer experience (CX) is about more than just designing all of a brand’s digital channels to look and sound the same. Omnichannel CX requires deep integration between each channel, physical and digital. This integration enables a company’s teams to pick up where one left off in order to serve up the right type of content, service or experience at the perfect time.

For instance, let’s say a customer sees a “Shop Now” sponsored post on Instagram. It catches their eye because it’s for a product they’re interested in and from a brand they purchased from before.

This doesn’t happen by chance. The brand’s integrated approach to marketing enabled them to target a former customer on a digital platform they were likely to be with an offer that made sense based on prior purchases.

Some benefits of omnichannel CX are:

  • Cohesive brand strategy that’s easy to execute
  • Greater market reach
  • More accurate customer segmentation and targeting
  • Enhanced understanding of the customer journey
  • Cost-effective marketing, sales and customer service
  • More satisfied customers
  • Greater customer retention and loyalty
  • Increased profits

Omnichannel customer experience can be used to enhance all segments of the user journey—from lead generation to customer retention and loyalty building. And it can be used by various teams, like design, marketing, sales and customer service.

Multichannel vs. Cross-Channel CX vs. Omnichannel​

Omnichannel CX is not the same thing as multichannel CX or cross-channel CX. Let’s break down the differences:

Multichannel CX
With a multichannel CX approach, a brand makes itself available to customers via numerous channels. This strategy is all about giving the end user numerous options for engaging with a brand.

In multichannel CX, a customer has various options for how it interacts with a brand. In this example, it could go to the store, visit the website, call customer service, or email them.

Omnichannel is one type of multichannel CX whereby the various touchpoints are synced with one another. However, multichannel CX doesn’t always offer a fully integrated approach to customer service. Instead, it’s about offering customers different options and flexibility in how they interact with a brand.

Cross-Channel CX
With a multichannel CX approach, a brand makes itself available to customers via numerous channels that are connected by some means.

For instance, a responsive website is an example of cross-channel CX. Users can seamlessly move between mobile, tablet and desktop views—in addition to using different OS—and still have a consistent experience with the brand.

Cross-channel CX can bridge the gap further by integrating different channels with one another. An example of this would be a website that allows a customer to log in, save items to the cart and complete the purchase from another device.

![In cross-channel CX, a customer has various options for how it interacts with a brand. Each channel is synced with one another. In this example, we see how the laptop, tablet, and smartphone versions of a website are connected and how the customer can seamlessly move between them.](https://d117h1jjiq768j.cloudfront.net/images/default-source/blogs/2023/2023-07/cross-channel-cx.png "Cross-channel CX illustration’)

Omnichannel CX is an example of multichannel and cross-channel CX, but taken to the extreme.

Omnichannel CX
Omnichannel CX is a user-centric approach to attracting, engaging and retaining customers as they interact with a brand across all of their preferred channels.

The onus isn’t on the customer to restart their relationship with a brand every time they engage with them on a new channel. Omnichannel CX enables brands to pick up where they left off and to deliver a truly convenient and personalized experience for their users.

In omnichannel customer experience, the user can engage with a brand across any channel and it will feel seamless. This includes websites, mobile apps, email, social media, customer support call centers, brick and mortar stores, and live chat.

The prefix omni means “all,” but it doesn’t necessarily mean a brand needs to be everywhere at all times. A successful omnichannel strategy is one that identifies the target user, understands their behaviors and preferences, and utilizes as many of the channels where those users are bound to be.

These channels may include:

  • Websites
  • Mobile apps
  • Web apps
  • Search engines
  • Ads
  • Social media
  • Email
  • Live chat
  • Customer support
  • Physical storefronts
  • And more

Omnichannel CX creates an optimal experience for the end user based on real data and feedback. In order to do this, all of the channels must be in sync and the whole user journey analyzed as opposed to monitoring each touchpoint in isolation.

10 Steps to Create a Successful Omnichannel Strategy​

A solid omnichannel customer experience strategy takes a lot of time and internal coordination to bring together. Because it’s not just web designers that need to find a reliable content management system to build their digital product with. The tools you choose and strategies you use impact all of your teams.

Here are some tips to help you put together an effective, winning strategy for all involved:

1. Choose a CMS That Helps You Manage and Monitor Your Channels​

With each passing year, consumer technology changes and evolves. Think about something like new social media platforms like TikTok. Or changes in consumers’ technological habits brought about on a mass scale, like during the pandemic.

As technologies change, it can become quite difficult for brands to stay on top of all of them. However, that’s what the prefix omni in omnichannel customer experience asks of brands—to utilize all of the possible avenues that make sense for your aims.

A content management system (CMS) can be an indispensable tool in this process. First in setting up your digital product. Then in integrating it with all the other channels it needs to share data and work with.

Not all CMS are equal though. If you want to create a truly omnichannel customer experience, look for a digital experience platform built for such a purpose. Sitefinity, for instance, does the following:

  • Build and manage all of your digital products in one place.
  • Consolidate data from all your digital products.
  • Expand data collection by integrating with external channels.
  • Analyze behavior across various channels to better understand the entire user journey.
  • Develop accurate and comprehensive user personas.
  • Create more refined user segments based on data from the entire customer lifecycle.
  • Provide personalized content and experiences.
  • Optimize the user journey with tools like lead scoring and A/B testing.

All of this data tracking and customer experience enhancement takes place within a single platform. So, no matter how many channels and touchpoints you add to the customers’ experience, you’ll have one powerful tool to help you manage it all.

2. Get to Know Your Users​

It’s important to get the technology right before you do anything else. But once you find a CMS that makes developing and managing the omnichannel experience easier for you and your teams, you can start strategizing.

The first step is to get to know your target users:

  • Who are they?
  • Where do they live?
  • What do they do for a living?
  • What are their goals with regards to the product you’re building?
  • What are their goals on a broader level?
  • What are their fears? Their struggles?
  • What motivates them?
  • What do they need vs. what they want?
  • What does their digital footprint look like?
  • What are their communication preferences?
  • What types of technology do they use?
  • If they were to create a profile on Instagram, what kinds of content would you find there? What types of accounts would they follow?
  • What kinds of memes would they save to their phone’s media folder? If any at all?
  • How frequently do they check their email?
  • How do they feel about phone calls?
  • If given the option to speak to a person or go the DIY route, what are they most likely to choose?
  • What are their feelings on ad blockers?

While it’s important to understand your user within the context of the digital product you’re going to build, that’s not omnichannel customer experience.

From the very beginning, you need to go deep on who your users are in the digital sphere. This will help you create more accurate user personas and map out a customer journey that they’re likely to take. Otherwise, you might end up spending too much time and money building a product and connected channels that they don’t have any interest in using.

User segmentation is also important as you flesh out your customer personas. Not just segmentation based on demographics or funnel stages either. If you can, start segmenting them based on how they interact with other channels. Differences in age, gender and geography, for instance, will significantly impact which channels they use and how they use them.

3. Plot out the Customer Journey​

There are two types of customer journeys that will have to be mapped out in this step.

The first is the journey that users take within your product. By designing your product around the most common and preferred user flows, it’ll be easier to keep extra pages or features out of the product until you have a reason to create them. A succinct and streamlined in-product flow also means you won’t be throwing time away personalizing and optimizing content and pages the users don’t need or aren’t likely to interact with.

The second is the journey that users take as they interact with your brand across different channels.

You’ll have to collaborate with your marketing and sales teams in order to create these journey maps. While they might have a better understanding of what draws users to an Instagram post or to open a newsletter, you know the digital product better than anyone else.

So this will need to be a combined effort if you want to successfully direct users to move seamlessly between your channels and back to your product.

4. Build Your Digital Product​

There’s not much to be said about this step. The digital product is the central hub of the omnichannel customer experience strategy, so take your time in building it out.

One thing I will mention is this:

Make sure your website or app is set up to be multi-channel, cross-channel and omnichannel from the get-go. That means:

  • Giving visitors different options for engaging with the brand within the product. For instance, via a contact form, through a live chat widget or by email.
  • Creating a responsive product that customers can use from any device or browser, and that they can pick up where they left off on the device of their choice.
  • Integrating your product with the most important channels from the start. I’ll touch on what that means in the next few steps.

Oh, and it’s a good idea to build an MVP anytime you’re creating an omnichannel customer experience. This process is long and involved, and the costs are going to add up. By building a product slowly and methodically that your users need, you won’t have to throw away time or resources on features that are unnecessary at this moment.

5. Create a Style Guide and/or Design System​

Before tackling any marketing, your visual and written style needs to be solidified and well-documented. An omnichannel customer experience needs to look as good as it feels to users. And a strong, consistent brand identity is essential for this.

What you create to document your brand styles and guidelines is up to you.

A style guide is a good choice if you’re building a product and strategy for a smaller brand that won’t evolve much over time. A design system, on the other hand, is useful if your plan is to scale over time. And if you have disparate teams working together to create a unified brand presence and customer experience.

6. Start Adding Social Media Channels One by One​

Social media marketing and advertising can become a time-consuming, budget-eating monster if you let it. That said, social media plays an important role in an omnichannel marketing strategy.

For starters, Google is a non-negotiable platform in the omnichannel customer experience. Every website should have a Google Business profile counterpart. And every mobile app should have a well-built app store listing.

When it comes to choosing other social media channels for your omnichannel strategy, though, things aren’t as straightforward. While you may hear that everyone is on a platform like Facebook, it might not be the best place for you to invest your time or energy.

If your initial user research phases failed to shed light on where your users spend their time online, now is a good time to do some more. You’ll want to know what their favorite social media platforms are. What’s more, you’ll want to know what their intent is when they go there.

For example, let’s say you’ve built a mindfulness app for mothers. They tell you that they love TikTok. But why? What if they use it merely as a diversion and very rarely click on ads? If the social media platform leads to a dead end for your brand, now is not the time to try to turn it into a viable channel.

When you’re first starting out, choose no more than two or three social media channels that seamlessly integrate with your product and fit well into your users’ journey. You can add more to your omnichannel strategy later.

7. Add an Email Component​

There are different ways to weave email into an omnichannel customer service strategy. It all depends on what type of digital product you’ve built and what your customers prefer in terms of communications.

You can use email in the following ways:

  • To add a contact form to your site.
  • To provide a direct line of communication to different departments.
  • To handle customer service inquiries via your website or support portal.
  • To send marketing and content newsletters to subscribers and readers.
  • To send promotional newsletter to customers.
  • To deliver automated transactional messages (like for an ecommerce site).
  • To move leads through your sales funnel.

While social media might seem like the more exciting and modern means of connecting with customers, email is more reliable and tends to have a higher conversion rate.

With social media, your communications have to compete with lots of other people’s messages. What’s more, you often have to pay to ensure you reach your users on those platforms.

With email, your recipients actively signed up and gave you permission to contact them that way. So take full advantage of this platform in your omnichannel strategy.

8. Set up Other Integrations​

While it’s great that you’ve built a digital product that integrates with platforms like Instagram and uses email to draw customers back to your site, you have to think about yourself too. Omnichannel CX is effective when it takes into account the channels that streamline things for your brand.

A CRM, for instance, is a critical component of omnichannel strategies. This type of software gives you and your team a place to keep tabs on everyone who has interacted with your brand. What’s more, you can track what part of the journey they’re currently on and what their likelihood of conversion is. You can also use this software to store details and preferences that allow you to create personalized content and offers for each user.

The CRM should then connect to your digital product, your email marketing platform, social media accounts, as well as your customer service channels.

Take a look at all the software your team is using to manage their part of the customer experience. There are likely ways in which these tools can sync up with most of your channels. This will help with data gathering as well as in automating tasks from channel to channel.

9. Start Creating Repurposable Content​

At this stage, your sales and marketing team are going to put together campaigns to attract leads, build an online following, increase conversions and grow customer loyalty.

Your digital product will play a central role in these campaigns. And your style guide/design system will be an indispensable tool to ensure that customers encounter recognizable and consistent visuals and content on every channel.

When creating these campaigns, it’s important that each has:

  • A SMART goal that will help users move to the next step in their journey.
  • Content that can be repurposed for as many channels as possible.
  • A way to connect it all back to the digital product, if it doesn’t start there.

I’d also recommend setting up a digital asset management (DAM) system if you don’t have one already.

Saving all of your assets—visuals and copy—in a central repository will be useful for creating future campaigns. In some cases, you’ll be able to reuse assets. In others, they’ll serve as inspiration or templates so you don’t have to spend so much time designing everything from-scratch with each new campaign.

10. Analyze Your Data Regularly​

As your team runs more campaigns and you have more customers engaging with your digital product, the amount of data you collect will quickly become difficult to manage and analyze. This is why it’s crucial to have a CMS built for customer experience with integrated customer data management and data-driven marketing capabilities.

Automation and machine learning will allow you to scale your strategy as well. So those social media channels you put on the backburner, for instance, can be brought into the fold much sooner.

In addition to creating a system for monitoring and analyzing your product and campaigns, you’ll also need a way to gather customer feedback.

While there’s a lot you can tell both bad and good from how your content performs, it will never tell the full story. For many users, it’s not worth it to re-engage with a brand after a bad experience. However, if you give them a platform to speak their minds—be it through a feedback form on your site, a survey on social media or a user research panel—they might be willing to give you more information or a chance to redeem yourselves.

Once you have a steady and meaningful stream of data and feedback coming in, it’s time to do something with it.

First, review your omnichannel strategy as it stands now. Are there things you got wrong or missed the first time around? If so, do some user testing to validate your hypotheses. Then fix those parts of your strategy or of the customer experience.

Next, figure out what more you can do for your users. Is there a way to create a more optimal experience across your channels? Again, user testing and feedback will come in handy here as it’ll give you concrete ideas to work with.

The Future is Omnichannel Customer Experience​

Google isn’t going to penalize your website or mobile app if it doesn’t offer an omnichannel customer experience. But your customers might.

As bigger brands offer a seamless omnichannel experience and service to customers, they’re setting the bar higher for everyone else. Thankfully, there are plenty of tools that can help you create this convenient, personalized and interconnected web for your customers to move through.

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