Defining omnichannel—a first step on the path to better experiences

Todd Leach | Sep 9, 2016 Todd Leach 09/09/16
It’s no surprise to anybody that omnichannel capabilities have drastically changed the game—for both retail and restaurant. It’s no longer enough to focus on the customer experience you provide in your physical locations. To be successful, you must consider your app experience, online experience, contact center experience, and others—and how all of those channels interact with each other. Because your customers are using all of them.

What is omnichannel?

But even with this knowledge—that an omnichannel strategy is important and critical to your brand’s success—it’s perfectly normal to be stuck asking yourself, “What exactly is omnichannel?” It’s a question I get from clients all the time. And I’ll admit—it can be hard to answer. Because omnichannel may look very different from brand to brand, depending on the touchpoints available to customers and how customers use them.

That’s why at SMG, we define the concept in a way that focuses on its goals rather than the methods used to deliver an omnichannel experience. From our experience working with more than 350 global brands, this is how we’ve come to define omnichannel:

A system of integrated brand touchpoints that –

  • Delivers a seamless (effortless) shopping and purchasing experience for customers
  • Creates a consistent and favorable impression of the brand
  • Provides brands with information on customer preferences and past behavior to help them optimize profitability

It doesn’t sound as daunting when it’s broken down like that, does it? Now let’s talk about each of these components in a little more detail, so you can develop an omnichannel strategy that delivers on all of them. 

 A seamless experience


It sounds simple: just make it easy for the customer to do business with you! But we all know that’s easier said than done.

It’s hard work to make sure information about the customer—his or her preferences, purchase behavior, personal information, and payment information—is available across multiple touchpoints and can be called upon to make transactions with the brand more efficient and effective. It requires close collaboration with your IT team and a free-flowing data feed. Because if you keep all of this information siloed in your organization, the data won’t talk to each other, and your customers will have drastically different experiences depending on which channel they use to interact with you.

Instead, you need a highly organized system that shares customer data across touchpoints. So when a customer sometimes uses your app and sometimes visits your locations, her preferences will be retained and she’ll have a consistent, personalized experience. Because that’s what “easy to do business with you” looks like.

 Favorable impressions

This is all about consistency and making sure everything works. First, is everything functional? Do links on your website work? Is your contact center operational? Do you have an active social media presence? And are you communicating accurate information about your brand on your social pages?

Once you have the functionality piece figured out, you need to make sure each piece of the puzzle—the website, the app, the contact center, the locations—all deliver on your brand promise. If you’re all about speed, do your digital platforms reflect that? If you’re known for personalized service in your locations, are you delivering the same thing on your website? It’s not enough to just have additional channels. They need to work for your brand and the type of experience you intend to deliver.

Get everyone in your company, across departments and touchpoints, on the same page when it comes to defining the customer experience. That way, you can be sure you’re executing the same experience no matter how the customer interacts with you.

 Actionable data

Beyond what it does for the customer, an omnichannel experience needs to benefit you—the brand. It should deliver data you can use to drive loyalty and financial performance. And it’s the ability to leverage the big data associated with customers’ omnichannel behavior that really excites consumer insights and marketing professionals.

You’re capable of learning things like:

  • Where customers look for information
  • What helps get them to buy
  • How often they visit
  • How much they’re willing to pay

And yes, this data from multiple touchpoints is enlightening. But if you don’t use it to make a difference in the customer experience, it’s all a waste of time. The best brands will use omnichannel data to find ways to better deliver the right product to the right customer at the right time more efficiently.

It’s up to you to make sure that’s what’s happening at your brand.

To read more about the omnichannel environment, the forces behind it, and how you can equip your brand to succeed—check out our omni ebook The ultimate guide to omnichannel experiences.

Todd Leach photo

Todd Leach
VP, Client Insights

Customer Experience Update