what is omnichannel

Omnichannel is a mega trend defining everything from marketing, to finance, IoT, and everyday life.

While it may seem like everything is omnichannel – is it really? When there’s popular buzzwords like this one, everyone jumps on the bandwagon and the real meaning behind the trend gets lost.

Read on as we uncover what omnichannel is, is not, and how it came to be.

What does “omnichannel” mean – literally?

  • “Omni” means ‘all’
  • “Channel” means a passageway or tunnel/funnel to access something or communicate via

But that doesn’t mean ‘every channel’ is “omnichannel”. Frost and Sullivan describes omnichannel as “seamless and effortless, high-quality customer experiences that occur within and between contact channels”.

That’s because there is so much more to omnichannel than just having many channels – and to dig deeper into that, we should start with what omnichannel is not: multichannel.

In essence, all omnichannel experiences include multiple channels. But an experience on multiple channels is not always omnichannel.

Multichannel vs Omnichannel

In the not so distant past, businesses wanted to be present on as many channels as possible so customers could reach them for support or to buy products on their preferred channels. Every business could be multichannel if they wanted to:

Multichannel examples of multiple “contact channels”

Multichannel Retail: Department Stores released mail order catalogues as far back as the early 1800s – so customers could buy in store, or through the mail.

Multichannel Finance: A bank has physical branches, ATMs, phone banking, online banking, mobile APP banking, and a call centre.

Multichannel Communications: Businesses that relied on email and phone for enquiries started talking to customers on Facebook, SMS and more.

Each industry has different variations of channels, whether it be for communications, points of sale, or managed internally or through a third party.

That being said, in the long run there are many downsides to multichannel:

  • Inconsistent experiences, which lead to customers dropping out of the purchase journey
  • Oversaturation of products and messages, leading to the customer essentially becoming immune to advertising
  • Decentralised data that is inconsistent between channels, and managed by separate teams
  • It’s unclear how some channels inspire purchase on other channels. Such as a customer falling in love with a product in-store, trying it on, and then buying online. In many cases businesses divested a channel thinking it did not perform, only to find sales crash on another channel that previously performed well
  • Businesses had to keep finding new channels when current ones kept facing decreasing engagement rates due to oversaturation
  • Quality of service suffered when managing too many channels
  • Customers had to repeat themselves every time they communicated with a business on different channels – despite being the age of “CRM” and “big data”

And while omnichannel is different for each industry, we will analyse it from the broad perspective of omnichannel customer engagement – which is a hybrid of retail, marketing, sales, communications, and technology.

Omnichannel Customer Engagement: immersive, customer-first experiences

Due to challenges faced in the multichannel environment, omnichannel puts the customer first for an immersive brand experience on every channel. There’s 3 key elements to omnichannel:

A Customer-first Customer Journey

  • Omnichannel prioritises the customer with a personalised, customer-centric journey
  • Every customer embarks on a hyper personalied and seamless journey beyond purchase, to become a loyal brand advocate with repeat purchases  
  • Every touchpoint on the customer’s journey with the brand is consistent, including branding, look and feel, and messaging (tone of voice and key terminology being used)

Unified/Integrated Technology

  • Through the use of technology, all of the channels are integrated into one system to share data, allowing the customer to transition between channels seamlessly on their journey
  • The business can interpret and leverage the data as it shares a similar pattern and interface, showing the relationship between different channels

Personalised

  • Personalisation for each customer is key – even if communication is automated to push customers along the journey. This includes ads, and any content and messaging – as content that isn’t optimised for the receiver leads to a loss of interest in the brand all together
multichannel vs omnichannel

With a multichannel approach, the product is at the centre, and each time a customer interacts with the product, it is within the confines of that channel – as an independent opportunity for purchase.

Omnichannel is an immersive experience that puts your customer, not your product, at the core.

To be omnichannel means communicating with a consistent message across different channels, and understanding through data where a customer is at in their individual stage of their journey.

From Purchase Journey, to Customer Journey: Customers are able to purchase wherever they are, because omnichannel considers overlap between channels and how they interact, rather than treating channels as independent silos.

A customer can move between channels without noticing the difference for a seamless experience, and marketing becomes hyper personalised to push only the most relevant content and products to customers at the right time and channel depending on their status in the customer journey. The omnichannel customer journey also considers post-sales experiences to build loyal brand advocates and repeat purchases, rather than just focusing on getting the customer to purchase.

From Ticketing systems to customer-centric communication

While all customer engagement software uses ticketing systems as a way to support customers, CINNOX puts the customer first with a unique chat room approach, to deliver truly omnichannel customer engagement.

1 individual customer has 1 chat room with a business, instead of multiple tickets for different enquiries across different channels.

Ticketing Systems solve 1 problem at a time: In a traditional multichannel approach built around ticketing systems, communication is centred on the problem the customer is facing or the product they showed some interest in, rather than the customer.

CINNOX’s Chat Room puts the customer first: Omnichannel communications means putting the customer first to provide hyper personalised experiences – where you can have one conversation with your customer across channels instead of starting again every time.

Here, Paul is receiving a highly personalised, quality service that creates long term brand advocates. This kind of seamless interaction across technologies is the key to great omnichannel experiences. Instead of looking at a purchase journey, Paul is in an immersive customer journey with repeat purchases and engagements.

The key difference between multichannel and omnichannel communications is that the customer comes first, with a high-quality, personalised and convenient experience on his preferred channel. He didn’t have to repeat his problem, and was able to get a solution right away.

Should your business adopt an omnichannel strategy?

Converting your business to an omnichannel strategy seems like a logical choice, but it is not so straight-forward.

Selecting the wrong technology will result in experience remaining disconnected, and businesses need to allocate resources to ensure experience, messaging, and branding is consistent at every touchpoint, including those not managed exclusively by your business.

Consider this checklist when deciding the move to omnichannel:

  • Leadership should create a shared vision for the business to align messaging, content, and the right channels to support it
  • Ensure you have strong technical talent in the business to support the transition
  • Get staff on board with the changes and make sure they know the expected outcomes. Reduce rewarding sales on each channel, and start rewarding overall customer experience
  • Remain flexible. Keep improving and fine tuning

Click here to start a demo with us today to learn more about how CINNOX can make your business the next omnichannel success story. You’ll be connected with one of our omnichannel experts for your industry.