What is this bloody Omni-Channel?

I thought I understood this term. All of our marketing messages and branding were aligned. Whether we were communicating on social media or anywhere else, the message was the same.

Right?

Wrong!

You see, what’s wrong with this definition is that omni-channel is not specifically about the message. It’s about the experience. Regardless of whether we are talking about marketing, selling or servicing the client in any other way, do we have a totally integrated and aligned customer experience in all communication with the client?

How do our customers deal with information we put out? Clearly if our customers are technology challenged, then mailing them a beautifully handwritten letter or a high-quality catalogue is appropriate. However, if you are targeting the millennial and Gen X, you need to appreciate that the majority of communication will occur via the mobile phone.

A diamond retailer may have a sensational website. It displays a selection of diamonds, they even spin and have a certificate attached, but is that database up-to-date? If the customer was to call, are they going to speak to a salesperson who says “let me check our stock and see if that stone is still available”?

One of the key aspects of this omni-channel concept is that whether I’m on your website or in your shop, it should make no difference. So those retailers who work off a live database, both web enabled and in-store, are laying down one of the key foundations of the omni-channel experience. Needless to say, one can’t help feeling that a retailer who responded in the above manner is possibly using a “bait and switch” approach. Be aware however, consumers are more and more familiar with this scam and will trash you in social media for this type of behaviour.

I don’t want to sound like I’m repeating myself, but it’s so important to appreciate that you could have great mobile marketing, really cool social media and a great website, but if they don’t work together, you are not achieving a true omni-channel experience. You’re also not capitalising on the potential synergistic effect.

If a diamond dealer sent you a spreadsheet with available stones, is there a link to the video of the diamond? Can you see the diamond certificate? If you had a question about stone, is there a link where you could activate an immediate online chat with questions? I know most of you would read this and think that’s only possible for the large wholesalers, but you could easily incorporate a small piece of code which activates an SMS notifying you that your customer has a query about a stone. At least that gives you the option to communicate with them straight away or set up an immediate response that you will get back to them on the next working day. Isn’t that great service? Not to mention the time saving benefits or the market intelligence you are capturing. After all, you would know exactly which stone they are looking at before you call back.

To create a truly omni-channel experience, one needs to involve all aspects of the business. It’s also important to appreciate that it will take time to create and clearly identify what that experience needs to look and feel like. Only then can you create the appropriate framework.

There are a number of companies that are doing it very well. As I always say, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, just learn from others.

Oasis, one of the top fashion brands in England, has built an excellent website which is completely aligned with their physical stores. This is achieved by having all the sales team carry an iPad with them. Not only can they make the sale with you on the spot (like in the Apple Store), but they can also check stock levels. If something is currently unavailable, you could purchase it and the item will be delivered directly to your home.

How many of us look at an item in-store and then search our mobile phones for a comparable price or product information? Current research says 43% of us.

The buzzword we keep hearing time and time again is how do we make it ”easy” for a customer to buy from us. The successful omni-channel is exactly that. A great example is the online ordering of food. Some put a clock on your order with statements like “it’s being prepared; it’s being packaged; it will be delivered in 15min”. Some even include a map showing where the delivery person is. Yes -my purchase from Domino’s was for research purposes only.

Naturally, I come back to the diamond jewellery environment. The very fact that so many of our millennial customers would be searching diamond engagement rings well after the stores have closed is a reflection buying patterns today. The research from the fashion industry says that from 6pm to 10pm is the peak of online research. So ask yourself, do you have the resources in your business to have a chat online during these hours? Admittedly, if you were catering to a 60+ age group, the data shows that they like to buy online between 9am and noon.

If you were able to make a list of the 20 or more popular questions being asked of you, you may even begin to consider a ‘Bot’ in the online experience. Personally, due of the nature of the product, I think scheduling a sales team during these hours to manage the online conversation is what’s needed in today’s world. This can be “hand in glove” passed on to the day team the next morning. Whatever interaction happens online or in that conversation must not be lost when that customer goes into any of the stores. You might ask how is this practically possible? Apart from obviously making an appointment, the online salesperson could text the customer with a QR code specific to them generated in the CRM. Simply ask that they swipe it when they enter one of the stores. I would suggest one creates a VIP station with possibly a red carpet and barriers like we see at the Academy Awards. This type of experience would motivate the online customer to activate their code in-store, which allows the salesperson to have this customers full history and searches before they begin talking to them.

There are so many examples that one could apply. It’s exciting just thinking about them.

At the end of the day, when someone  asks ‘what is that bloody the omni-channel?’ 😊 you can respond. It’s about aligning the experience online and offline, not just the message.