Mobile technology means the customer is always on and always available. As such, companies can no longer wait until they arrive in store or on their website to engage them – brands need to spread their wings to seek out potential customers through digital transformation.
Campaign marketing used to be an effective tool to drive commerce, but these are being replaced by targeted and personalised cross-channel communications that are delivered seamlessly to the customer at each stage of their purchasing journey.
How does all this work? Big data can be used alongside new technology in order to create a personalised journey for the customer. Digital can lead a change and offer a multi-channel platform for customers to engage with. This, in turn can enhance the customer purchase journey.
But, it is no longer about selecting just one channel that will bring a return at a cheap price, but applying a strategy across several to target and delight a chosen customer group.
As businesses embark on the task, the danger is they could focus too closely on one area – social media, for example – at the expense of other channels like online video or content sites.
Instead, businesses need to adopt a holistic, ‘omni-channel’ approach to ensure their potential customers can engage at the time, and in the location, of their choosing.
Companies with effective omni-channel customer engagement strategies retain an average 89% of their customers, compared to 33% for companies with weak omni-channel customer engagement. In addition, these customers are expected to have a 30% higher lifetime value.
Omni-channel: what does it mean for customers and businesses?
As customers become increasingly comfortable interacting with companies across a range of channels, their expectation about the level of service they can expect will grow.
Whether online, on the phone, or in-store the customer will increasingly expect the provider to understand their requirements and act accordingly. However, if the provider expects to solely run an automated online presence, this will not be acceptable to the general customer. Despite the growth of online and mobile, the clear majority (86%) of customers still want an option of speaking to someone face-to-face.
As many as 90% of customers claim to have suffered poor experiences when seeking customer support on mobile devices, so no wonder that in-store purchases and face-to-face contact remains such a requirement.
As referenced in our recent whitepaper: ‘digital onboarding’, across the banking industry, for example, the conversion rate for in-branch sales is 85%, compared to a current dropout rate of 85% for digital channels.
The customer still trusts and values face-to-face contact, so the challenge for businesses is to instil that level of trust in their digital channels and reduce this high level of variance. That’s a huge challenge, and many reasons feed into why such a big gap exists. But the primary focus should be on understanding the customer’s needs and trying to translate that into digital.
For the future development of businesses into truly omni-channel organisations it’s important for them to understand why stores still play such a significant role in new acquisition activity – why, for instance, do brands that have both a physical and digital presence, find that in-store accounts for over 60% of sales?
Businesses need to focus primarily on how they intend to acquire customers in the future. How will they listen, learn, and efficiently transition onboarding from other channels to digital without affecting volume and quality, and while ensuring customer service is as personalised and engaging as it’s possible to be?
Transitioning a business and its customers to a truly omni-channel world is certainly a challenge – and for a great many companies that do not yet possess digital transformation skills and expertise, the challenge is even greater still.
Considering each and every channel of interaction
The importance of an omni-channel approach is complicated by the fact that 72% of customers still consider the in-store experience as the most important channel for making a purchase. So, omni-channel doesn’t just mean lots of digital channels, it means combining them with the experience of going into a shop. It’s vital that organisations do not lose sight of their physical presence and ensure the same level of consistent service is offered in every channel they operate.
In store, employees need to be empowered to deliver the same level of service as would be available online. Many are making headway and as seen in our previous blog, social inclusivity is starting to appear within customer facing roles. Staff need to be supported by fast and easy solutions that enable the focus to remain on the customer, rather than on one or two particular digital channels.
Putting digital into the operating strategy
This whole process isn’t as easy as it sounds. Many companies talk about digital transformation, but what the majority are really doing is digitising legacy services. They take existing products, processes, and propositions then creating a digital version. As a result, often, struggle to link them up with their offline locations.
If a company does this, it’s clear that they’ve failed to consider the changing nature of the customer. Digital transformation is about radically changing a business to serve the changing needs of the customer in the best way possible.
Even for those companies that do understand the real requirements of digital transformation, and are committed to it, things aren’t getting any easier. Speed of change is a huge challenge. Technology and customer behaviour are shifting quicker than companies can react to at the current time.
Interpreting customer decisions with automation
With the rise of expectations to access decisions and applications instantly, organisations are challenged with the need to interpret data in order to make decisions. This is where automation and rule based engines are essential as they can make sense of the data in a fraction of a second, offering speed and accuracy.
Increasingly, customers expect simplicity, immediacy, and a great experience from every interaction they have with a company – digital or physical. Those organisations that get this right, and can keep pace, are being rewarded with rapid growth and increased market penetration.
Demery, P. (2016). Why an Omni channel strategy matters. [online] Internetretailer.com. Available at: https://www.internetretailer.com/2013/12/31/why-omnichannel-strategy-matters