Channel strategy is a hot topic in customer communications management (CCM). There’s omni channel communications vs. multi-channel vs. cross channel. What’s the difference? Why does it matter?
First, let’s define our terms.
Multi-channel means selling through a variety of channels – physical stores, catalogs, websites and mobile apps. The goal is to offer customers an opportunity to buy in multiple ways. But each channel often is managed separately, and as a result, messaging and the customer experience may not be consistent across the channels.
Cross-channel means a customer will use a variety of channels during several phases of making a particular purchase. For example, in the auto industry, a customer is likely to research vehicles online but go to a brick and mortar store to make the purchase. In fact, according to the inaugural Car Buyer Journey commissioned by AutoTrader and conducted by IHS Automotive, 88% of shoppers use the internet for vehicle shopping.
Omni-channel, like cross-channel, gives customers a choice of shopping options. But omni-channel communication is a much more sophisticated strategy because it ensures that the customer experience and messaging are consistent and seamless across all channels. Omni-channel is closely tied to an organizational strategy that focuses on the customer journey.
Omni-channel is getting traction. It’s easy to see why: Brands with a strong omni-channel customer engagement strategy have an 89% customer retention rate on average compared to a 33% rate for companies with a weak omni-channel program, according to a 2016 report by business2community.com.
Technology is key to omni-channel communications. A single platform that allows employees to create consistent, personalized communications across channels – digital, print, and agent-assisted – opens up new ways to collaborate on communications design and messaging across functions. Added benefits include rapid development and deployment of new or modified communications, streamlining operations, and improving compliance. Omni-channel is even more powerful when linked to business intelligence tools to analyze how customers are reacting to content and channels.
A true omni-channel approach goes beyond crafting and delivering modular content. It requires the ability to adapt communications, both the design and the content, to fit the channel and device being used. The layout of a web page, for example, resets itself to suit a device’s screen size. Similarly, a payment notice may use dozens of words in a letter or online, but fewer words when delivered via SMS/text message.
Omni-channel can create a better experience for customer payments, too. For example, our ExpressoPay platform stores payment options and preferences across channels so customers can set it and forget it. For example, you can set up an ACH payment online and use the same information to make a payment via IVR without the hassle of having to re-input your bank account credentials.
We see great potential for enhancing customer communications across all channels, including new ones that have yet to scale such as digital wallets, which allow people to make secure, convenient electronic purchases with payment information stored on their smart phones. The built in passbook features of modern smart phones also allow for virtual membership cards through which companies can push messages directly to the customer’s home screen. It’s another channel for communication, and an opportunity to enhance the customer relationship by rewarding loyalty through discounts, coupons, and more.
From time to time, we are going to call out best practices in customer communications management, such as today’s on omni-channel communications. Our next post will cover adaptive content and responsive design.
All in all, it’s an exciting time to be helping companies leverage technology to improve how they communicate to their customers across all channels. Let us know if we can help.
About the Author
Bryan joined Nordis Technologies in 2016 to manage and grow the company’s already-large vacation ownership client base. He also is responsible for business development and market expansion in the healthcare and financial services markets. Before joining Nordis, Bryan spent more than 21 years with Interval International, a leading global provider of vacation ownership services. Bryan graduated from Northwestern University with a bachelor of science in political science.