Modern customers aren’t just shopping through one specific channel every time. The typical 21st Century customer interacts with numerous channels, both physical and digital, from brick-and-mortar stores to websites, social media, email, print, marketplaces, and webstores – all of which are all critical to the purchase journey and customer experience. This merging of different marketing, physical and multichannel eCommerce interactions is known as an omnichannel customer experience.
Brands stand to gain significantly from employing a multichannel strategy within their business and reflecting it in the customer support they offer. Research from Forrester reveals that customers spend 21.7 times more when they purchase both online and in-store rather than at brick-and-mortar retail locations only.
On top of that, today’s shoppers are digitally savvy, with eCommerce predicted to rise by an additional 14.2% this year alone. These factors certainly make a case for offering multiple, joined-up channels through which to offer purchasing power to potential customers.
For modern businesses, implementing a multichannel strategy and the related omnichannel customer support around it is no longer a ‘nice-to-have’ – it’s a necessity.
What is an omnichannel customer experience?
It’s widely known that today’s customers have many channels available to them to make purchases. Customers can choose to shop in-store or online, via mobile or online chat. Research from consulting group McKinsey reveals that more than half of customers engage with three to five channels during each journey they take towards making a purchase.
The purchase journey through multiple channels has been recognised for some time. Businesses offering multiple channels and pushing a customer towards their preferred shopping channel is what has been known as a ‘multichannel’ strategy. An omnichannel strategy takes multichannel a step further by creating an interconnected ecosystem of numerous touchpoints that all converge to support one customer-friendly, joined-up shopping journey.
Here’s how: Brands understand customers’ multichannel eCommerce shopping habits and deliver to customers accordingly by connecting all channels into one seamless customer experience.
For example, a customer may receive a marketing email from a brand, click through to the brand’s website to view the offerings, purchase from their mobile device, and make enquiries about their order via social media or a phone call.
By strategically linking the different channels and using sophisticated technology to create customer profiles, each brand can deliver a better, more individualised experience for each customer profile. This way, every customer journey is unique, highly personalised, and made as easy and convenient as possible for the customer.
The importance of omnichannel customer support for multichannel eCommerce sellers
Omnichannel customer support is crucial for eCommerce sellers. Today, sellers reach potential customers through their presence on multiple marketplaces, from eBay to Amazon to Walmart Marketplace and more. In addition to marketplaces, eCommerce sellers also have their direct-to-consumer (DTC) strategies, where they meet their customers’ need for convenience by offering numerous shopping options via channels such as web and mobile.
Omnichannel offers customers consistency and convenience across these multiple platforms. By implementing a customer-centric omnichannel strategy, eCommerce businesses also develop a holistic view of each customer, allowing them to personalise and optimise interactions across all platforms.
By combining various data sources in one place, omnichannel customer support can help guide and support the customer through every step of the journey across all platforms.
Customer service agents working within an omnichannel strategy will have an overview of each customer based on their interactions and touchpoints with the brand. A ‘big-picture’ view of the customer enables agents to find appropriate solutions quickly.
Omnichannel customer support makes the shopping experience easy and pleasant for the customer. This not only increases word-of-mouth recommendations but helps drive customer loyalty in the long term.
What is an omnichannel customer-centric approach?
At the heart of an omnichannel customer-centric approach is the understanding that each customer journey is unique and doesn’t always follow a linear path.
A customer may peruse items on a shop floor, leave without buying but then fill an online shopping basket, leave it for a bit, and ultimately click through a marketing email to purchase later with a promotional voucher. The journey can be meandering but this isn’t a bad thing. Omnichannel support exists to create a more straightforward path to purchase by using data and building a single view of each customer so that the customer can have an extraordinary experience.
As such, an omnichannel, customer-centric approach is one that views each customer as an individual and aims to deliver an experience as tailored as possible for that particular customer, seamlessly integrating the various channels by which the customer interacts with the brand and supporting the customer every step of the way.
The importance of extraordinary customer experiences
Multichannel eCommerce experiences have become a deciding factor in influencing consumers’ buying decisions. Research from PwC found that 73% of the people it surveyed credited customer experience as an important factor, with 65% saying they consider excellent customer experience to be more influential in their purchasing decision than advertising.
Centering growth strategies around customer experience begins with improving the customer journey. This means taking an omnichannel, customer-centric approach across the board, from marketing right through to the support provided to customers as they navigate product questions, purchasing options and fulfillment queries.
Using customer segmentation to funnel customers to the appropriate marketing channels at various stages throughout the customer journey requires a data-led approach. For example, knowing that your customer is a parent means that your brand can approach them with products and offers that are more suitable for their lifestyle. In contrast, another customer who is a student or a pensioner will be marketed to differently that fits more logically with the individual customer profile.
Furthermore, in addition to segmenting customers to deliver personalised experiences, the brand will want to ensure that the experience is extended to each customer across many different channels that incorporate both in-person and digital. This makes the customer journey easy to access at any touchpoint and seamless right through to the final step: purchase.
The benefits of omnichannel customer support
As multichannel eCommerce customers connect with brands, omnichannel customer support is crucial to the customer experience because it offers seamless customer service across all touchpoints. Deploying a customer service strategy that encompasses multiple channels allows the brand to be better in control of the customer journey, ultimately benefiting customers because they receive better customer support.
Because it is seamless, some businesses will mistakenly assume that this means that omnichannel customer service is self-sustaining and does not require human support throughout the journey. This could not be further from the truth. In fact an omnichannel approach requires a savvy customer service strategy that utilises dedicated professionals who understand how to support each customer every step of the way. They may be augmented with help from chatbots and knowledge bases, but ultimately the human element must be present for the omnichannel customer support to enhance the customer experience.
Omnichannel customer support streamlines the customer service process to include all touchpoints and channels, ensuring a smoother and more efficient experience for both the customer and the brand. Everyone wins.
In particular, some benefits of omnichannel customer support include:
- Superior customer experience. As mentioned, this is the cornerstone benefit of a top-notch omnichannel customer support strategy. A company implementing this approach will understand that each customer is different and requires individualised support and will deliver this expertly. Omnichannel customer support allows multichannel eCommerce customers to interact with brands whenever and wherever convenient.
- Increased customer retention. Offering a highly personalised customer experience through omnichannel customer service improves the customer experience, which in turn means that customers are more likely to be loyal to the brand. Creating lifelong customers through a stellar customer experience is a winning strategy since statistics show that 65% of a company’s business comes from existing customers.
- Customer insights gained from analytics. An omnichannel customer support strategy provides a plethora of data-led insights into each customer. As mentioned, this can be used for segmentation but can also be used to improve experiences and processes. Combined with customer feedback, the analytics gained from omnichannel customer support helps establish a positive feedback loop and continuous improvement.
To develop a strong omnichannel approach to customer service, online retailers need fit for purpose customer service tools and training to ensure the best results.
Omnichannel approach for long-term growth
Building a brand, gaining recognition and retaining customers are essential components of a long-term growth strategy. The one thing all of these factors have in common is that they rely on relationship building as a means of fostering growth not just for the immediacy but for the long term.
As every business owner knows, quick wins alone simply aren’t sustainable. To succeed and expand into new markets, a multichannel eCommerce business or brand must build a relationship with its customers to keep them coming back again and again.
It’s been shown that acquiring new customers is five times more expensive than keeping an existing customer. Therefore, it is crucial that any customer-centric brand keeps this at the forefront when designing the optimal approach to omnichannel customer service.
Taking an omnichannel approach to customer support helps a business maximise efficiency and ensure long-term revenue growth. This is because omnichannel support is highly personalised and accessible to the customer at whichever part of the customer journey the support is most convenient to them. Offering a range of options, backed up by support, makes the customer feel prioritised throughout the journey.
When implementing an omnichannel support strategy, it is essential to stay consistent, gather data and base decisions around those data insights. Using data to understand customers and build profiles while joining up the different channels allows multichannel eCommerce sellers to improve customer interactions through tailored offers and more specialised support, whenever and at whichever part of the customer journey it is needed. Doing so builds lasting customer relationships.
Scaling in multiple geographies and marketplaces using an omnichannel strategy
For growing multichannel eCommerce businesses, it can be quite an ambitious challenge to decide to ramp up operations and customer offerings across geographies and multiple marketplaces, particularly so for companies looking to implement an omnichannel approach. There are many moving parts that must work together seamlessly across geographies and various interfaces for the operation to be successful.
For example, businesses preparing to launch in multiple marketplaces that cross geographical boundaries will need to incorporate this into their omnichannel customer support processes to be able to launch successfully and maintain seamless multichannel experiences for all customers around the globe.
With a deliberate approach and careful strategic planning, this can be achieved. A good part of managing such an expansion successfully is having the digital infrastructure to be able to handle multiple marketplaces and multiple geographies, including currency and language localisation services.
Companies that exemplify how to launch in multiple marketplaces smoothly and profitably are the New Zealand multichannel eCommerce brands Parallel Deals and Goslash. Both owned and operated by one owner, the brands expanded their customer support to launch across multiple marketplaces, including eBay, TheMarket and Newegg.
By investing in the right tools for the ambitious growth project, Parallel Deals and Goslash saw constant revenue growth, resulting in a 165% year-over-year increase on the marketplaces. This success has spurred both companies’ forthcoming growth into the UK and European markets. The lesson here is that by investing in an omnichannel approach, businesses can fuel growth into new markets.
Implementing an omnichannel customer support strategy helps multichannel eCommerce sellers sync their communications and shopping channels so that both reps and customers can work consistently within them.
Customers around the world are already shopping across multiple, joined-up channels. The question for eCommerce sellers is whether their business is supporting it. If not, perhaps it’s time to make a change towards building a more seamless, data-informed strategy.
The omnichannel approach to customer support improves customer satisfaction. Offering a streamlined service that places the customer at the heart of everything improves quality, reputation and, unsurprisingly, revenue.
Adopting a multichannel eCommerce strategy is one of the most effective ways to grow your online business. But managing processes across multiple geographies and channels can be tricky.
To help you maintain great customer experiences and scale as you grow, industry experts from Amazon Multi-Channel Fulfillment, ChannelAdvisor, and eDesk will share best practices for simplifying multichannel complexity on Thursday, 3rd March at 1pm EST, why not join us? Register now