A recent study discovered that 69 percent of Internet users would consult their smartphones for product reviews in-store rather than seek out a sales associate. More than half would also shop for deals on their smartphones while in the store.
These statistics prove that businesses, particularly retailers, need to provide multiple channels for customers to interact and communicate with them. But while lots of organizations support more than one channel, many aren’t doing it effectively.
This is where the distinction between omnichannel and multichannel becomes important. These terms have been thrown around for years, but there’s often confusion over exactly what they mean. While they have similarities, there’s also a big difference—and that can make or break your business.
Let’s take a closer look at what each term means, why omnichannel is the better approach for your business and how the right technology can get you there.
The basics: The difference between omnichannel and multichannel
Both omnichannel and multichannel involve selling products or services across more than one channel; after all, your business has both a physical and digital presence. The main difference comes down to the customer experience.
In the multichannel universe (where most businesses live), the various channels aren’t connected. You may have a physical and a digital store, but each one has its own inventory. Customers may not be able to return online purchases in the physical store.
When it comes to communications, the multichannel experience is again siloed. A customer can’t easily switch from one method of communication to another. They have to start the conversation all over again and repeat their information, which leads to frustration and wasted time.
The omnichannel experience, on the other hand, breaks down these siloes. The customer experience takes center stage and is seamless. Customers can engage with products and services while moving between channels without any interruption in their journey. This applies to browsing for products and services as well as communication. When you break down these barriers, the benefits of omnichannel over multichannel are clear.
5 benefits of omnichannel
The omnichannel customer experience outperforms multichannel in many ways. Here we focus on the main benefits when it comes to communicating and delivering superior customer service.
Create a customer experience hub. With an omnichannel approach, your contact center transforms into a hub, giving agents and executives a full view of the customer journey. When interacting with customers, the hub has the power to seamlessly transition from one communications channel to another. Reps can send an SMS to a customer in the middle of their chat session. Or they can switch from chat to a voice call with one click—without losing any customer details in the process.
Gain a deeper understanding of customers. The combination of cloud communications, machine learning and AI enables businesses to analyze customer communications across all channels, including social media. Identify potential problems and customer complaints so they can be addressed before becoming a real issue.
Improve productivity and efficiency. When call agents can seamlessly move from one channel to another, the first contact resolution rate improves. The option to interact and share information across channels reduces wait times for customers and the total cost per contact. AI technology allows businesses to identify bottlenecks in the communications process, which can then be corrected, increasing employee productivity and efficiency.
Create a more personalized customer experience. While customers want seamless communication across all channels, they also want personalized interaction. Integration of your CRM system provides agents with detailed customer information at all times, regardless of the communications channel.
Improve communications with suppliers. Communication with suppliers and vendors is just as important as your interactions with customers. The omnichannel approach to supplier communications enables you to stay up-to-date on deliveries via the channel that makes the most sense at any given time, allowing you to address delays or other issues before they impact the customer.
The first steps down the omnichannel path
Before jumping onto the omnichannel bandwagon, businesses need to make sure they take the right approach. What channels are available to customers? Which ones do they prefer? It’s also important to consider call agents, as they’re your front line and will use the system to interact with customers each and every day. How will it work for them and impact their daily operations?
This is why it’s so important to use the right communications technology when looking for an omnichannel solution. The system should be easy to use, allowing agents to manage all communications channels from a single interface. The transition of customer conversations between chat, voice, text and social media has to be seamless and instantaneous. CRM and API integration are must-haves if you want to create a personalized customer experience and provide truly stellar service.
Also consider AI and other innovations when you’re looking for a technology solution. You want a vendor at the forefront of innovation, so you can leverage the latest tools as soon as they’re available.
In today’s landscape, where it’s just as easy for a customer to reach out to a business on the other side of the world as it is to walk into the neighborhood store, retailers need to stand out by delivering exceptional customer service. This starts with an advanced communications system, one that allows customers to interact with your business via voice, text, chat and social media—and to seamlessly navigate between these channels without interruption. This is the future of customer communication, and its name is omnichannel.