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Stop Thinking Omnichannel, Start Thinking Customer

If you’re still thinking in terms of crosschannel, multichannel or omnichannel, stop it, and stop it now. It’s time to think customer.

Customers don’t think of your brand in terms of channels, and they expect the same service, offer and experience regardless of how they interact with you. And they’re right to do so.

Customers drive your business; understand their needs and you will succeed. If you consider your customers’ experience in every interaction you have with them, you will always do better than if you don’t. But where do you start with what can seem like an insurmountable business challenge?

Adobe’s white paper Succeeding in the Omnichannel Age highlights the struggles that companies across all sectors face when trying to map customer journeys. With only 5% of retailers closely matching channels and content to a well-mapped customer journey, it’s clear that many are struggling to keep afloat in the overwhelming stream of online and offline customer data.

As detailed in the report, this data should give retailers unrivalled insight into their customers, but actually harnessing this data often proves to be the most difficult obstacle to overcome.

Legacy technology, data silos and politics still exist. Creating a single customer view (SCV) with personalisation and marketing automation is a massive leap for many businesses.

But, just as the adage tells us to eat an elephant one mouthful at a time, customer-centricity can also be tackled in more manageable steps. Here is what you can do today to start your journey.

Step One: Identify All Your Channels
The report tells us that “the average consumer owns 7.2 devices and uses three on a daily basis”; however devices are not channels, they are just ways customers choose to interact with brands digitally. They may do this via social media, your website, email, or by using an app, but all of these channels are digital.

For retailers, the key is integrating data from physical stores because, despite the growth of digital, stores are usually still the biggest sales channel.

One of the main roadblocks in joining up stores to your SCV data strategy is that point-of-sale (POS) terminals—or tills as most of us call them—are often old and use out-of-date technology. Updating them usually represents the biggest single cost and change management risks a retailer will face.

Even moving at pace will often result in a project spanning years rather than months, so instead of waiting for all your technology to be in place, just be aware of and take into account your system limitations.

For example, a “Welcome brand new shiny customer” email sent by your website can annoy a loyal customer who has been shopping in your stores for years. Simply acknowledging this and changing the message slightly if you can’t join your store and web data up mitigates against such a faux pas.

Step Two: Make The Most Of Your Existing Technology
After identifying your channels, the next stage is to understand what systems and technologies you use to manage these channels. Consider how many of them are integrated with each other as well as how well they are integrated. In our experience, businesses have a lot of technologies managing their marketing and customers, some more successfully integrated than others. Often vendors of marketing systems build their own SCV and businesses can end up with three or four SCVs, ensuring the one thing they don’t have is a single customer view!

When you have listed all the technology you have, research what is possible with each system. At Practicology, we often find that companies are underutilising their existing tech stack and are able to improve their insight and marketing efforts at minimal cost.

Step Three: Establish Your Goals
A top-level strategy with business goals is required from the outset, if for no other reasons than to give you something to aim for. Whether it’s an improvement in sales, new customers, engagements, or some other metric, ensure that your goals are measurable so you know you’re heading in the right direction.

Step Four: Start
It’s that simple. Start segmenting the database, but test and learn to ensure you are making true improvements to your efforts. Think about the messaging; how and when customers will receive communications and what the messages could be. Start simple and build in complexity. If you start too big, there’s a danger of spending a fortune creating content that will never pay back.

Once you’re up and running you will learn what’s effective, what needs improving, and what needs to be left alone. This in turn will create a feedback loop into your overall strategy, enabling you prioritise and select the right systems to keep you on the road to customer-centricity Nirvana.

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