Build For Consistency
“Omnichannel anticipates that customers may interact with one or several channels before completing their purchase as they progress in their buying journey. The customer’s transition in between channels must remain fluid.”
The buzzword, ‘Omnichannel’ broke onto the scene when businesses realized that customers explored several interaction nodes before completing a transaction. For instance, customers interacted with the business through social media, toyed with the product in-store, made a purchase online and had it delivered to their doorstep.
In order to create a seamless journey across purchasing channels, businesses need to collect customer information, track their shopping progress and nurture them towards a resolution. During that process, the business must ensure that customer perceptions and expectations match as often as possible. What customers are exposed to on one channel should be prevalent on another (with concessions for valid constraints, promotional or strategic initiatives).
Being a product guy, I’m in the habit of evaluating customer experience wherever I shop. I look for improvements and ideas in making the journey comfortable and satisfying. I also get to pick up a few worthwhile tips in the process. With that in mind, I was recently taken aback when I encountered a breakdown in my shopping experience.
An Omnichannel Predicament
With the impending cold-front coming in, I decided to purchase a few outdoor faucet covers. In keeping with 80%+ of the populace, I began a quick online search before venturing out. The options, in order of proximity, included Home Depot, Walmart, Lowe’s and Ace hardware.
Now, buying faucet covers is not rocket science and is certainly not an interesting product to research. My prerogative therefore was to get in and out with minimal expense of effort and time.
According to the Home Depot website, stock was available at my neighborhood store (over 1000 units). However, upon visiting the store, my expectation-to-reality gap looked something like the diagram below (with some exaggeration). Two customer associates and a sore neck later, I discovered that the product was in fact, not available.
(Expectation ≠ Reality) = Frustration
Now, this may get chalked as a system stock versus physical stock discrepancy. But, it reality, it impacts customers a lot more than you think. Errors like these ultimately chip away at customer experience.
This outcome may have been acceptable a decade ago. Today, customers expect much more. They are prone to frustration quicker and easier. Failure to earn and retain trust on one channel could set in motion a ripple effect on others.
To maintain a consistent and fluid customer experience, businesses need to maintain information synergy on all their channels. Think of an ad campaign for a new line of shoes that ends with “…Now in a store near you“. Only ‘now’ ends up being two weeks later in reality. How would customers react to such an experience?
Omnichannel is not just about connecting marketing, customer support, B&M retail or e-commerce. It’s about the entire network and the customer’s journey in it. Every interaction, whether deliberate or accidental, purposeful or casual must pull the customer a step closer towards completing a goal while building loyalty into the relationship. You cannot build loyalty with bad experiences. Just so you know, this wasn’t the first time it occurred for me.
Businesses need to set up regular internal and external customer experience audits to find holes in the value-chain. Every employee should play the ‘customer’ and walk the customer path in entirety. Businesses must constantly review, learn and improve so that consistency and accuracy prevail.
Hi! I’m Sheldon. For over ten years I’ve worked with brands and private labels bringing some pretty awesome products to market. I’ve worked on research-based product development and marketing to deliver the total package.
I’m instantly drawn towards products that are deep-rooted in consumer research. The type that ends up being simple and intuitive, yet profound and potentially disruptive.
I’m equally passionate about brand strategy. I believe that the only thing that trumps a good product is a brand that connects with people on a deeper level.
If this resonates with you and your current need, I’d love to hear more about it.