Continuing with our UX design week, today we examine the omnichannel experience. We explore the difference between multichannel and omnichannel, what are its most important elements, and some of the steps that companies can follow in order to build powerful and compelling experiences.
UX design: the key elements of building an omnichannel experience
Multichannel vs Omnichannel
Imagine that you want to purchase a product. You want to find exactly what you want, regardless of where you are, what device you are using, and without spending a huge amount of time. Multichannel and omnichannel experiences make this possible. But how are they different from one another? By definition, multi means “many” while omni means “all”. Thus, a multichannel experience provides various channels to engage the user with a brand or product, while omnichannel seeks to harmonize all the channels to offer a consistent and high quality overall experience. The main difference between them is that with a multichannel approach, users can experience difficulties when moving from one channel to another, while omnichannel allows the customer to interact with different touch points without obstacles.
In addition, as multichannel offers separated channels, customers can sometimes find different information regarding pricing or content, which is an obstacle in their journey to purchase a product. The objective of omnichannel, then, is to create a cohesive message and provide an individualised customer experience in which users can easily buy a product wherever they are and whenever they want.
Elements of an omnichannel experience
From our perspective at Belatrix, there are three main elements of an omnichannel experience:
- Establishing consistency across channels
- Convenience and availability
Establishing consistency across channels. Building a cohesive message involves various aspects of a brand such as content, pricing, tone and visual structure. Customers want to address a single identity, which means they expect to find the same information and quality of experience across channels. Companies that have been successful have used visual tools to create patterns, established a color palette and standardized typography. They also think about the tone of their content. It’s very helpful to ask questions such as “what is the language we are going to use?”, “is our content going to be formal or informal?”, “who are our users and how can we better address them?” A good example of visual identity is Spotify. They created an esthetic of bright colors, using a duotone technique that reminds us of pop art graphics. The typography without serifs, and the photographies used to differentiate playlists, give the site a fresh and modern look. The series of playlists that Spotify created help provide additional customer satisfaction, because users feel the brand cares about what they want to hear according to their mood, activity and even personality. Also, as their platform is used for entertainment, they address the customer in a very informal way.
Going further, Disney is the perfect example of a total brand experience. If you go to Disney studios, you get to feel the brand. From the moment you enter the place, you will see the face of Mickey Mouse on the fences, on the chairs and the walls. They place brand elements through all the spaces to create a high quality experience and a sense of familiarity that is reinforced by a warm and welcoming treatment of Disney’s employees. They have also created the “My Disney” experience, which is a digital platform that allows customers to plan their trip to Disney Studios in detail. Users have access to it from the web or a mobile device. This digital platform can be also connected to a Magic Band which you wear at the site, and that helps people make purchases, find attractions, and store their photos.
Users who find familiar features every time they interact with a channel, will develop a closer relationship with your brand. Also, if you create emotional ties with your customers, they will be more likely to recommend your product, becoming a powerful tool to attract new customers.
Convenience and availability. Customers want to be able to choose when and where they interact with a brand and they expect customer service to offer the best options according to their preferences. That is why omnichannel aims to create a variety of touchpoints, able to respond to the user’s needs at a given time. For instance, over 70% of consumers expect to see in-store inventory online and 50% of consumers expect seamless transitions between online and offline. These examples show the importance of integrating virtual and real experiences, providing available transactions, and relevant information in the right channel at the right time.
Neutrality. Omnichannel experience is also about offering the same quality and content in every channel. Neutrality avoids concentrating too much on a single channel, risking a poor experience in the rest of the touchpoints. When customers find valuable options and content in every channel, they will be able to stop their purchasing process whenever they want it and continue from a different location and from a different device. However, neutrality is not just about providing the exact same content across channels. It is about understanding them as a whole, working together to achieve the same objective. For example, channels that might not be generating sales could still contribute by guiding potential users to the stores. Also, neutrality avoids unhealthy competition between channels and between different areas of an organization who are accountable for those channels. This means omnichannel experiences require collaborative organizational structures.
What does it take to create an omnichannel experience?
Learn about users. UX research methods are the first step to understand users expectations, preferences and behaviour. Collecting and analyzing data from surveys and interviews is crucial to find out what kinds of channels customers use to access your content. Once the omnichannel strategy has been implemented, organizations will not only be able to provide a seamless experience through all channels, but also to improve and refine the customer experience in the ongoing process. Thanks to the omnichannel holistic view, companies are able to track the user in every interaction, which means they collect large amounts of data to anticipate future customer expectations. Studies show that 73 percent of customers prefer to engage with brands that use personal information to provide meaningful shopping experiences. High levels of personalization are crucial to building an omnichannel experience.
Customer Journey Mapping is a useful tool to understand how users feel, and what they need along the process to purchase a product. Building a customer journey strategy begins with mapping the stages, interactions and elements that make up the entire customer experience. This map focuses on observing key interactions to foster positive points of the journey, improve negative experiences and detect which are the channels that deliver the highest value to the users. The objective of customer journey mapping is to know what users want at a given time to enhance the capabilities of every channel and provide valuable information. For example, if a customer is in a store looking for shoes, he or she could receive a message on their cell phone about the shoes that are on sale, which will encourage them to buy. Also, the message could have a specific style or format depending on the channel. For instance, the content on the website could show all the types of shoes that are on sale while the information on mobile could focus on certain types. Other channels such as advertising boards or flyers could briefly attract the attention of the user with a short sentence. All these strategies aim to satisfy users through every channel and build customer loyalty.
Put in practice context-optimisation. Although the omnichannel experience builds a consistent message in every touchpoint, it is important to understand the specific capabilities of every channel. A useful strategy consists of combining data about the customer journey with a deep understanding of the functionality of every touchpoint. If you are able to detect in which circumstances they engage with your brand and what kind of information they look for at a given time, you will be able to get the best out of your omnichannel experience.
Reorganize the structure of your organization. An omnichannel experience requires the alignment of multiple areas of an organization. As the number of channels increases, so does the number of departments in charge of customer satisfaction. As we mentioned in our previous blog posts about UX design, in Belatrix, we believe in the power of changing siloed organization structures for a collaborative workflow. For instance, a great user experience integrates the role of the UX designer and software development. The same strategy applies for creating an omnichannel experience. Marketing, customer relationship management, IT, sales and human resources should work together to build a holistic approach to the customer. Decentralized models make every area accountable for the customer journey, increasing the rates of customer loyalty and satisfaction.
Build a team of “knowledgeable employees”. In a collaborative environment, employees share valuable information that can improve considerably the quality of customer service. A Harvard Business Review survey shows that 65% of customers would like to encounter knowledgeable employees, which means, personnel able to answer their questions without putting them on hold, or transferring them to other areas to solve their issues. This is why it is vital for organizations to hire and retain employees who are able to develop a deep understanding of both the customer and the product to deliver a higher level of service.
If your company needs to enhance customer satisfaction, creating an omnichannel experience is a great option to understand and anticipate their needs, provide valuable information at a convenient time, and offer a meaningful experience in every interaction. Although it is challenging to create a corporate structure to manage the complexity of integrating channels, the positive impact it will have on your brand are worth the effort and investment.