Achieving a seamless omnichannel customer journey through digital transformation
In an increasingly digital landscape, businesses are driven by the pursuit of a seamless omnichannel customer journey. This journey, a focal point for many industries, aims to create a unified and cohesive experience across various touchpoints.
The Omnichannel customer journey unveiled
The concept of an omnichannel experience transcends the mere existence of a brand across multiple channels and platforms. It embodies a unified approach where customer interactions with your brand flow effortlessly across channels, ensuring continuity, consistency, and convenience throughout the customer journey.
Digital transformation as the pillar of seamless experiences
Retail experts speaking at The Retail Bulletin’s Digital Transformation Strategy 2023 emphasised that digital transformation stands as the bedrock for achieving a seamless omnichannel journey. They underscored the transformative role of technology, citing examples from their experiences.
For instance, Chris Delahunty is the Head of Digital Marketing at 3rd Rock, a direct to consumer (D2C) brand that specialises in sustainable climbing and activewear. 3rd Rock is a growing storeless clothing brand although they do operate some concessions. They see themselves as primarily a B2C digital brand. So how does a brand like this curate an omnichannel customer journey?
Chris says: “For us as a D2C brand, it’s understanding where that consumer is and then how do you get to them. We go to climbing events, fashion events and even festivals because that is where our customers are.
“What we have found as well, is tailoring that experience based on the consumer you’re going to. So the way we talk, the way we present ourselves, the products that we bring are different… And we talk to customers to get their input on what we should be doing as a brand in order to make you, as a community, feel more comfortable.
“So for me, omnichannel is being wherever you need to be in order to get to your consumers at the right time.”
This somewhat fluid and entrepreneurial approach can clearly prove successful for small brands and startups. In contrast, Chris also highlighted the structured process undertaken during his tenure at a large corporation, where going digital-first involved meticulous planning and data-driven decision-making.
Overcoming challenges and managing risks
The transition towards seamless experiences isn’t devoid of challenges and pain points. Legacy systems, resistance to change and fragmented operations often hinder the creation of a unified customer journey.
Emma Siveyer, Head of Digital & Experience at telecommunications company Three, believes that B2B industries are lagging behind when it comes to digital transformation and having a digital-first strategy. In particular, she speaks of the risks it carries within her industry and how Three has addressed this in their approach:
“We are trying to bring everything forward, but risk is massive for us. You know we’ve got a lot of issues around fraud, particularly with digital transactions fraud. We have to have very tight credit risk strategies.
“The way that we’re approaching it is in a very gentle phased approach. So anything that we’re trialling on the website, we first of all do as an A/ B [test]. We’ll only expose it to maybe 10% of our customer base.
“At the moment we are going through the process of opening an e-commerce shop now to customers, and we are doing it very gently. Different product SKUs are going live, only shown to particular customers while we test and see.
“And that’s how we measure the risk. We take a gentle, phased approach and build the confidence internally with our legal and reg teams, to test if it is working. If it’s not working, we are able to pivot without having too much damage.”
AI’s role in customer interaction: striking a balance
One of the emerging debates in enhancing omnichannel customer journeys is the role of AI. When applied to online tools like chatbots, AI-driven solutions can offer quick and functional responses.
However, there is currently a general consensus that human interactions remain irreplaceable for deeper, more personalised engagement in customer service.
Kaylie Mitten, Senior Digital Product Manager at FatFace, comments: “We implemented a chatbot back in 2021 and the approach that we took is absolutely there are times where working with an AI chatbot works for a customer. It gives them the answers that they want. They need that answer really quickly and succinctly.
“But also there are certain use cases where you want to talk to a human and you want that personal effect. So the approach that we took is actually let’s look at why our customers are contacting us, understand which ones we could serve digitally and which ones we do want to have that communication and that conversation with. I think that’s really really important, to give the customers choice, not to cul-de-sac them.”
Paving the path towards future growth
One recurring theme at Digital Transformation Strategy 2023 was the potential opportunities provided by better leveraging the data that retailers now have access to. This data could help strengthen the omnichannel customer experience through personalised communication and loyalty programs.
And even though AI was not seen as being a total replacement to human-led customer service any time soon, its future potential is still up for debate. Our panellists envisioned the future of AI in transforming unknown customer interactions into known, contextualised, and personalised experiences.
Emma Siveyer believes in the potential of AI in revolutionising customer service, foreseeing its capability to replace traditional roles by harnessing advanced data analytics for more intuitive and proactive customer engagement.
She comments: “It’s all about the data that we feed into it, but I truly believe the power of the conversations we can have, absolutely, we will completely change what a customer service centre is there to do. We will change what a retail environment is there to do because a lot of that power will be done, the chatbots will move into a new generation.”
Embracing the journey ahead
The quest for a seamless omnichannel customer journey remains a journey in progress rather than a destination. The convergence of digital transformation, strategic customer data utilisation, and a customer-centric approach will continue to drive businesses to improve customer experiences across diverse channels.
The linchpin for this success lies with the strategic alignment between technology and human touchpoints. Getting this balance right is crucial to curating a superlative, cohesive, and enriching customer journey.