by Yev Galper, Head of Mobile Competency Center, EPAM United States
As you enter a store, your iPhone vibrates to notify you of a just arrived push notification. The message contains the information on the sale items in the store as well as special coupons and discounts that are available only for VIP customers like you. A few digital cameras that are on sale catch you attention and you want to learn more about them. iBeacon-enabled store helps you quickly navigate through your phone to the appropriate section where you not only can look at and play with different camera models, but also compare their technical specifications side-by-side on a large screen of Microsoft Surface right there. You narrowed down to two models, but you want to make sure that you get the absolute best, so you decide to go home and think about it a little more. After dinner, you get yourself comfortable on a couch and turn on TV. Of course, you have your iPad with you and while having Discovery channel on the background you decide to check out the user feedback and ratings on the two cameras that you liked in the store. After careful consideration, you make up your mind and place an order using single-click purchase functionality of the iPad-optimized responsive website that already has all your personal information as well as your preference of the store to pick up your brand new camera. You cannot wait to start taking pictures and the next day you pick your camera at the store on the way home, just in time to catch the beautiful sunset.
Welcome to the Omnichannel!
Why should you care? Because you care about your users! Also, through deeper user engagement you will be able to improve conversation rate, which inevitably will increase the revenue. Users of your products and services are increasingly becoming more and more demanding. It is not enough anymore just to give them the functionality that they think they need and expect, you have to create an engaging experience that will bind users to your brand. Otherwise, there is a good chance your customers will flee to someone else who does.
Now, let’s take a closer look at what it really means at this day and age to create a great user experience. Granted you have to build useful, intuitive and stylish mobile apps. But is it enough? Is it really enough to release flashy stand-alone apps that are not integrated with other user touch points and do not leverage content, analytics and context that is available from other channels like web, connected cars, smart watches?.. Days of a single channel (even if it is implemented well) are gone as new types of devices, like tablets and wearables came to the market. Customers started to use different devices in different environments for different tasks – phone on the go to get ultra-local and immediate information, tablet on the couch as a second screen and more laid back browsing, and laptop at the desk to complete longer more monumental tasks. So, it is not a surprise that they demand unique experiences tailored for each of these devices and various circumstances. That caused the birth of the multi-channel approach, which enabled companies reach more users and provide them customized solutions based on various factors, like geo-location, device type and user’s history. The average US customer now owns two or more connected devices and according to Zendesk who commissioned a study to explore customer service attitudes and behaviors among 7,000 consumers across seven countries it turns out that 67% of online shoppers have made purchases in the past six months that have involved multiple channels. At the same time in many cases companies were reacting to the quickly changing terrain of user demands and device capabilities and were operating on a tactical level rather than think strategically. This approach got many companies to the point where they have a number of isolated single channel siloes that don’t have consistent representation of the brand, don’t talk to each other and don’t leverage common backend infrastructure.
The good news is that now we understand the problem and see the benefits of successful implementation. For example, according to Forrester, 24% of enterprise retailers already implemented and currently offer buy online and pickup in-store option. Not only 41% of these retailers reported positive impact of this approach on the customer retention, but also more than 60% have seen greater in-store upsell and cross-sell opportunities.
We clearly see the path that will lead to the unified set of solutions that will create user journeys across all available channels - mobile devices, personal computers, brick-and-mortar stores, call centers, social networks etc.
Here is the 7-step process that we recommend to our clients when we help them define their Omnichannel strategy:
1. Define and prioritize business goals. It is a cornerstone of the successful implementation. The biggest problem that we see some companies do is to pump out apps just because it is trendy or because competitors have them. Business goals help product managers take meaningful strategically sound decisions just like North Star helps sailors stay on track to the destination.
2. Understand users and their needs. Without deep heartfelt understanding of customers’ pains and gains it is impossible to create a useful and engaging experience for them. One of the best ways to do that is to define Personas that embody each customer archetype. Stepping into the world of these personas helps you associate yourself with the customers and better feel what will motivate them. Ability to identify user segments and then correctly placing each customer into an appropriate segment will enable you create personalized very relevant experience for each customer.
3. Map user needs to the business goals. Not all goals are created equal. Some goals are more tactical, some others are more strategic. Some goal are easier to implement, some are harder. Some goal are more impactful, some are less. Taking everything into consideration you have to prioritize based on what will give the biggest bang for that proverbial buck. Otherwise you run risk to get yourself busy without creating much impact.
4. Define all available channels. It is critical to understand all places (channels or touch points) where customers interact with the brand. Go beyond web site and mobile apps. In-store store experience, customer service, email marketing, loyalty programs and wearables all play significant role in the overall strategy. Also, you have to be conscious that the solution that you are putting in place right now needs to be expandable to be able to support future channels that you are not thinking of right now.
5. Create user journeys through channels. Your customers interact with your brand at different times for different purposes using different devices that they own. So, besides creating complete experiences within each channel you have think through scenarios when user might start the journey on a smartphone on the way from work, then continue on a desktop at home at night, and finish in store on the weekend. This journey might be very frustrating for the customer if channel experiences are not integrated and consistent or it could be just delightful if the journey is seamless regardless what device the user is on at any given moment.
6. Create a roadmap of implementation of user journeys. Just like business goals, user journeys and channels are not created equal. You need to create a roadmap based on a number of factors like complexity of implementation, impact on business, urgency for users, etc. Before you get into implementation of specific apps, though, you have to ensure that you have solid scalable infrastructure that is ready to support future growth and interconnectedness of various parts.
7. Implement the strategy iteratively. We recommend to adhere to Agile methodologies that preach implement, measure, evaluate, adjust lifecycle. This approach enables you to quickly get features to your customers, measure engagement, evaluate effectiveness, learn from the findings and incorporate them into future iterations. In many cases such self-correcting data-driven paradigm will inevitably get your product shaped to be closer to what your customers really want comparing to the traditional waterfall approach.
These steps require thorough understanding of the business domain and users, knowledge of advanced user experience approaches and deep technical maturity. We help our clients achieve this maturity first by conducting an Omnichannel Audit and then helping build a roadmap how to get there. One of the first stumbling blocks that we encounter with many of our clients that needs to be resolved is that they are lacking a single view of a customer across applications and backend systems. Single view of a customer is a prerequisite to truly understand your users and ability to create a meaningful cross-channel experience, which is the cornerstone of Omnichannel.
Omnichannel journey is a never-ending process full of surprises, but if done right, it will continuously and consistently create delightful experiences for your users, increase visibility and speed up time to market, which in turn will increase revenue and establish loyal customer base.
You can’t ignore this trend, so might as well do it right.