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In a fast-paced world where customers regularly switch between channels and devices to complete tasks, it’s more important than ever for companies to put their customers at the heart of their decision-making, and develop strategies to deliver impeccable customer service across digital and non-digital channels. With each company needing to craft the strategy that’s right for them, deliberately select the right channels, content and messaging can ensure that companies are exactly where their customers expect them to be.

Here are some steps to help you build an omnichannel strategy:

Understand your customers and their preferences

The foundation of any element of your business strategy is understanding your customers, and for an omnichannel strategy this is more important than ever.

If you haven’t already created personas, now is the time to do so – as well as helping you identify the values, motivations, needs, wishes, frustrations, and dreams of your ideal customers, this will also help you understand how they are likely to engage with your brand.

Capturing information about their preferences in terms of digital vs non-digital is particularly interesting when developing an omnichannel strategy. Users with different behaviours need to be able to craft an experience that suits their needs.

For example, global firm McKinsey divides people into four different personas according to how receptive they are to being engaged via digital and non-digital:

    • Digital by lifestyle (23%): These customers have fully integrated digital into their lives, and don’t see a separation between the digital and traditional worlds. They use social media every day and tend not to watch traditional TV or read newspapers.
    • Digital by choice (35%): These customers enjoy the advantages that digital brings – such as Netflix, Skype, online check-in, online banking etc., and although they also use other channels, opt primarily for digital.
    • Digital by need (25%): These customers only engage with digital channels when they have to.
    • Offline society (17%): These customers typically do not use digital channels and prefer personal contact, in-store shopping, bank branches etc.

Find out where your customers are, and prioritise those channels

Not every channel is relevant to every business – for example, LinkedIn is more relevant for B2B, Instagram more for B2C – so it makes sense to only focus on the ones that really matter.

Data analytics can tell you a lot about how customers are arriving at your site, which means you can better understand how they are discovering you, and how you can optimise your approach for the more important channels. This is especially important for small businesses who may need to make trade-offs about where to devote resources so they can maximise the impact for their budget.

Surveys can also be a valuable tool to get feedback from existing or potential customers.

Map customer journeys to identify touchpoints and potential handoffs

Once you understand your customers, you can start to identify the end-to-end customer journeys that are the most important to your company and to your customers. Customer journeys are increasingly non-linear, with a series of handoffs between digital and non-digital channels that can vary significantly by customer type.

By keeping in mind your personas and differences in digital vs. non-digital preferences, you can also understand better the possibly wide variation in journeys e.g. a customer who tends to be ‘offline’ would be more likely to visit a store or pick up the phone after seeing a flyer or ad in the newspaper, compared to a ‘digital by choice’ customer who is more likely to check out your brand’s website or social media channels.

Align your content to the different stages of your customer journeys to make sure that they feel accompanied on their journey.

Speak with one voice across channels

To achieve a strong and unified brand image, it’s critical to coordinating your messages across channels and media and essentially speak with one voice. This doesn’t mean using the same content across channels, but all your marketing materials should have the same look and feel, and deliver the same tone and impression as any real-world channels, e.g. your store, or a stand at an event.

This also goes for how your sales and support teams communicate with your customers. To deliver a truly unified experience, customers need to feel like they’re interacting with your brand as a whole, and not for example, with the Facebook channel of your brand vs the call centre of your brand.

Optimise the experience for channels and devices

Consider the devices and channels that customers may be using at different stages of their customer journey, and focus on the strengths of each.

For example, a customer may prefer a desktop experience for more complex tasks like filling out a long form, where a keyboard and large screen make the task easier, or reading detailed product descriptions or comparisons.

On a smartphone, on the other hand, companies should keep in mind that users are more likely to be on the go, and perhaps even interrupted in their task. Therefore, condensing content, enabling customers to navigate to further levels of detail if they wish, may be the way to ensure content remains easily consumable by a busy, sometimes distracted audience.

By understanding the strengths and context of devices and channels, teams can better design elements that enhance and facilitate a user’s experience and help them complete their task in the most effortless way possible.

Measure the performance of your omnichannel strategy

With an omnichannel strategy, there is potentially a huge amount of data to sift through, but to get a clear view of performance across channels rather than just per channel, it’s important to take an integrated view of each touchpoint. This means that some traditional key performance indicators may need to be reconsidered to take into account the new ways that customers are interacting with your brand.

Choosing relevant Key Performance Indicators for each touchpoint and each stage in the customer journey can help you build up an overview of how your strategy is performing, with each channel credited for its contribution to the KPI.

In a world where customers are using multiple channels and devices to interact with companies, developing, executing, measuring and continuously adapting an omnichannel strategy is the way to create channel-optimised experiences that increase brand awareness and revenue, build user loyalty and ultimately differentiate you from your competitors.

For more about omnichannel marketing, take a look at our omnichannel guide.

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