How Omni-Channel Marketing Can Help Brands Better Connect With Customers
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine received an email from HSBC Bank informing him that as a platinum cardholder, he was entitled to "fabulous wedding offers." From the banquet, gown and jewelry to photo packages and honeymoon travel, his wedding bases were covered. It might have been nice if he weren't married with two young kids - details that were stated clearly on his HSBC profile.
This is one of many innocent but avoidable blunders we encounter in the digital age. As marketers try to conquer every 'touch point', many risk diluting the personal, human touch of commerce. Despite covering QR codes, email, mobile, social, web, events, webinars, etc. all at once, marketers continue to provide a unichannel experience in a multichannel world.
The problem is that marketers are struggling to evolve from multichannel to omnichannel: marketing in which all channels have awareness of all others. In the omnichannel world, marketers know that my friend is married with kids and doesn't need wedding promotions. They know how he likes to receive messages and what types of messages he will respond to.
Omnichannel is not about spreading out more, nor is it about "share of voice" or "share of wallet". Omnichannel is about "share of experience". It begins by weaving information from disparate channels into a single narrative in order to personalize commerce, overcome the distances of a multichannel world and return a personal touch to commerce. While retailers quickly gravitated to omnichannel, it is not isolated to that sector. Banks, insurers and the healthcare industry, in particular, need to grasp the omnichannel concept or risk losing business to brands that get it.
Know Your People
The importance of trust and familiarity goes back to the ancient beginnings of business when high transactions costs and weak legal structures made relationships the heart of exchange. Little has changed. People want to feel like brands know them. However, when we scale from personal exchanges to multichannel relationships, trust and familiarity can get sacrificed.
The issue is data dumbness. A hair stylist who sees you monthly essentially collects 'data' about you and uses it to improve the experience each time. Yet he or she never has to share that data or worry about what you're doing on other channels. In contrast, large brands see customers moving from platform to platform on a regular basis, often to perform the same task. These customers expect that their behavior in one place will influence the experience in another.
Consider the typical customer experience at a bank. A customer can perform transactions online, in the branch, through ATMs, call centers or through a mobile device. Yet, the data from each experience is not captured, integrated, analyzed and acted upon. The bank has no idea how experiences vary across these channels. Stuck with siloed data and a one dimensional view of customers, marketers tell you about "fabulous wedding offers" when you're already married.
Instead, brands must build one consistent understanding of the customer that draws from all channels because that is what leads to personal, enjoyable experiences.
After marketers know their customer, the next hurdle is making it easy to act. A surprising number of marketers still create promotions where we have to sign up for an email, then print a coupon and then go to a physical location on certain days, between certain times and by a certain date. Why not let people present the coupon from their smartphone? Why force the customer to join an email list they will instantly unsubscribe from? Overall, why make it hard for people be a customer?
To be everywhere and be successful, omnichannel commerce has to be dead simple. It should take one tap (or click) to act on a discount, upgrade a service plan or request a call from a customer service associate. Customers are people who have limited time, preferred methods of interaction and detectable habits, and it's within a marketer's power to understand and enable these preferences on all channels.
Show That You Know Them
If you can weave omnichannel data into a cohesive whole and enable action on all channels, then you can show that you really care about your customers - by delivering value.
To give a real example, when I travel the world for business, I stay with Marriot when I can. They know what types of rooms I like, what requirements I have, which TV programs I tend to watch and they use all this data to make each stay memorable. Having my favorite programs appear on the TV menu isn't about dollars or deals - it just shows that the Marriot cares about my experience. We, as marketers, can provide this level of service in any industry
Banks, for instance, could track interactions to provide better service and offers. If I withdraw cash in an ATM at several foreign airports, the bank could tell me about their global travel card that has no foreign transaction fees and other travel privileges.
Or consider a customer in the process of making a long-distance call on her smartphone. Just before the call goes through, the service provider sends a text message saying that she can make the call at a cheaper rate using a long-distance calling plan. The customer purchases the new plan with a tap, and it's a win for both parties. To take it a step further, imagine the same customer visiting the foreign country she had called. On detecting that the customer is in this country, the provider could offer a cheaper roaming package.
In healthcare, I can research a specific illness and hospital online, get an appointment on my mobile, get my queue ticket at the digital kiosk at the hospital, receive my diagnosis report and prescription by email and claim medical insurance for my visit on my mobile again. I get control over a stressful experience.
Omnichannel is an adventure from being everywhere and annoying to being at the right spot, with the right message and the right choices.
Marketers Need Allies
In the cyber age, omnichannel is how we return trust and familiarity to commerce. The point of going from unichannel marketing in a multichannel world, to true omnichannel, is to provide a seamless experience at every stage of the customer journey. From awareness to engagement to conversion to loyalty, get to know your customer and show that you care. On a practical level, this requires that business functions, processes and data no longer remain in silos.
All the examples given require IT, operations, customer service, finance and other departments to participate. An omnichannel world requires an 'omni-department' response.
Wherever you represent your brand, collect all the data chatter into one potent narrative, and give something in exchange. By the time information moves from one channel to another, a customer isn't being taken care of. It's too late. Listen everywhere, take note if someone's married and return some personal touch and humanity to multichannel business.
This guest article was written by Redickaa Subramanian, CEO & Chief Strategist, Interakt Digital Group.