Omni-Channel marketing key to superior customer experience

Author -  Vaughan Reed

The customer is now asserting control of the shopping process and they now have virtually unlimited choices of what and where to buy through an expanding list of channels and devices. Vaughan Reed, Owner of Labyrinth Solutions, explains why omni-channel marketing cannot be ignored and shares some important emerging trends.

Over the last few years, digital marketing has been undergoing rapid advancements at stomach-churning speed. Marketing teams can no-longer simply rely on their website for their digital strategy. The number of digital touch points is growing and today’s tech-savvy consumers demand information be readily available at their fingertips across any device, regardless of whether they are online or browsing in-store. This begs the question…

What is “Omni-Channel” and why is it becoming increasingly important?

Omni-channel implies the delivery of a seamless, integrated and consistent customer experience; irrespective of the channel or device.

If we take Air New Zealand as an example. I can start my journey by booking a ticket online via their website, then switch to their mobile application (‘app’) on my phone or tablet to view my booking details and use the ‘check-in’ function to avoid any queues. The app also allows my phone to act as my e-ticket, boarding pass and keeps me informed through-out my journey, including notifying me of any flight delays, the weather conditions at my destination and when my flight is ready to board. If I enter the Koru Lounge my phone acts as my Koru pass, again all thanks to the app - it even asks if I would like to order a coffee so it can be ready for me when I get to the café counter.

All of this is about making my life easier and providing me with a great experience so I continue to fly with them and truth be told…it’s working. It’s also about facing up to the reality which is that today’s consumers use multiple devices during a single transactional process. If I start my journey or experience with an organisation from my desktop computer, it should be backed-up by a similar experience when I’m on the run via my mobile device or in-store via an interactive kiosk.

Omni-channel marketing can give a business the upper hand over its competitors by allowing them to deliver an enhanced customer experience. And since people buy based on emotion rather than price, you take yourself out of the price war. Sticking with the Air New Zealand example, while they may not always be the cheapest airline available, many people choose to fly with them because of the superior experience they receive, which in part is thanks to their smart use of technology.

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The heart of omni-channel marketing

There is the common perception that managing communication across multiple digital touch points is a difficult and complex process. But increasingly businesses are overcoming these ‘barriers’ by positioning their website at the heart of their omni-channel marketing strategy and leveraging its content across other devices to automate and enhance the customer experience. Some of the other trends we are seeing:

  • Mobile applications are emerging as the touch point of choice for nurturing and managing the ongoing communication and collaboration with customers. This in most part is due to the immediate and streamlined nature that mobile applications offer over a website. For example, if your website contains activities, recipes, events, product catalogue, online ordering, loyalty rewards program etc. – then a mobile application can be used to foster a tighter relationship with your customer.
  • Interactive kiosks bring the online experience in-store. This makes it easy for customers to learn more about your products by accessing ‘how to videos’ and training guides, locate products in-store, order out-of-stock items and view specific information such as reward points, gift registers etc. – and this is only the beginning. Kiosk technology has the potential to take customer engagement and the in-store experience to a whole other level by merging the digital and real world in new and exciting ways. You only have to look at the emergence of smart-mirrors and other ‘smart’ kiosk technology to realise the limitless possibilities.  
  • Digital signage is being used more and more as a channel to inform and engage with customers and staff, taking it beyond being just a digital billboard. Digital signage provides a flexible platform for presenting information such as events, promotions, new products, and popular ‘how to’ videos across retail outlets, reception areas, information centres, sports venues… the list is endless.
  • Next generation technology such as SmartGlasses and SmartWatches are examples of some of the emerging platforms. Even though these platforms are still in their infancy, they have the potential to become disruptive digital touch points and therefore need to be considered as part of your overall omni-channel marketing strategy. Currently the SmartWatch is a device that serves to extend the SmartPhone experience by providing an alternative display (showing alerts, notifications etc.) and an alternative input (voice commands for compiling messages, sending txts etc.). However in the near future the SmartWatch could very well lessen or remove the need to carry or own a SmartPhone. 

A website’s content is therefore the lifeblood necessary to fuel an omni-channel marketing strategy and it is going to play an increasingly vital role in the race to deliver a superior customer experience. Retailers and businesses that ignore this trend and try to deliver a brand experience, which relies on engaging with customers via siloed touch points will miss-out on a substantial competitive advantage. Retail and business success today is about working to optimise the online-offline mix through better leverage of content and introducing a platform that is capable of centralising customer interactions across multiple touch points. 

Vaughan Reed is the Managing Director of Labyrinth Solutions; a leading omni-channel platform provider in Australasia, which centralises the management of content across the four primary omni-channel touch points – Website | Mobile Application | Kiosk | Digital Signage.

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