It is a common misconception that omnichannel is a matter of connecting system A to system B to create a new mobile app or bring the latest channel online. Today, omnichannel is about becoming channel-agnostic. And if there is one thing the last decade has taught us, it is that new channels and new ways of interacting with consumers emerge rapidly.
Omnichannel then becomes more about future-proofing your business — creating the capacity for change in your organization so that no matter which channels your customers, employees, and partners want to use across the business, it can be accommodated quickly and easily.
A large part of this omnichannel push is due to the growing demands of consumers. Customers want more than a transaction, they expect an experience. They do not consciously differentiate one channel (e.g. mobile) from another (e.g. in-stores); rather, they expect their interactions with businesses to be consistent across all channels and, most importantly, they expect to be able to seamlessly move from one channel to another.
There has also recently been a greater push of omnichannel initiatives in industries beyond retail. The financial services and healthcare industries, for example, have ongoing initiatives to improve engagement with customers through digital channels. These efforts have a strong business case, as studies show that it is beneficial to develop an omnichannel strategy. In fact, customers who engage with multiple channels spend up to 37% more than single-channel customers.
Omnichannel has, therefore, become both a ubiquitous and critical success factor for all organizations. That said, what are the top 3 factors to keep in mind when developing an omnichannel strategy?
1. Deliver a unified experience across channels faster
Organizations must build a holistic view of their customers’ channel patterns and understand each possible interaction or scenario––achieving a single, 360-degree view of their customers. This deep visibility is crucial in enabling organizations to understand their customers’ behaviors and preferences, allowing the business to better market and sell products.
And to unlock the full value of every customer, organizations should go above and beyond this “single view” and understand the customer’s social graph as well. What is a good gift for their partner? What should they get their mom for her birthday? Building a comprehensive picture of customers makes customers’ interactions more seamless and enjoyable––creating more value for the business.
2. Enable consistency by design through reuse of integration assets across channels
Additionally, organizations must ensure that customers have a variety of online and offline channels to leverage. It is not enough to build an offline channel, such as a store (or any off-site space), and an online channel, such as a website, and expect an omnichannel strategy to magically fall into place.
To execute omnichannel properly, organizations must not build multiple channels but, rather, understand their customers’ journey, then develop an omnichannel strategy around those channels and build new channels accordingly. In the process, organizations must build and balance the relevant online and offline channels, ensuring that they maintain a relevant offline presence (e.g. banking center), and leverage the relevant online channels (e.g. text messages), devices (e.g. mobile), while – most importantly – incorporating the latest touchpoints (e.g. digital tellers).
3. Future-proof your business – with the ability to support different integration patterns and deployment models for each channel
Interestingly, the aforementioned steps to developing an omnichannel strategy share one common theme: data integration. If an organization has multiple offline and online channels, they must ensure that customer data across the organization is integrated. After all, a customer does not want to withdraw cash from a local ATM and log into their mobile application, only to see that the interaction or the amount is not recorded.
Also, in order to achieve a single view of the customer, organizations must ensure they can integrate data from multiple channels, applications, systems, and devices––from mobile purchases to social media activity. In this case, similarly, a customer does not want to be told that the shirt they saw online is available in their size and color at a nearby store, and make the trip only to arrive and find out that is not the case. In fact, 63% of consumers said they would switch retailers if they felt that they had a disconnected experience.
Get started building omnichannel experiences
The above scenarios demonstrate that omnichannel is really a data integration problem. Businesses must have an IT architecture that is built for omnichannel. They must be able to create a link not only between their offline and online channels (e.g. in-store and website), but across their online channels (e.g. mobile app and social media) and beyond.
What we found is that businesses that are building successful omnichannel strategies share one attribute in common: their IT architecture is built for connectivity, agility, and flexibility. The question is, how do these organizations create such architectures when all the channels that we have discussed exist in silos?
Using MuleSoft, companies like New York & Company are building better omnichannel experiences through Anypoint Platform. The integration platform enables businesses to develop a holistic experience for their customers more quickly. This can be achieved by leveraging the platform’s 200+ out-of-the-box connectors for ERP, CRM, social, and eCommerce systems, as well as using pre-built templates to implement common process logic, such as product availability, to ensure customers have real-time experiences.
With MuleSoft, organizations can enable consistency by design by reusing approved assets within Anypoint Exchange––a repository for pre-built templates, assets, and APIs. These assets can then be used and reused for future projects, enabling organizations to have a consistent way to access data and deliver customer experiences (check out ASICS’ story on how they reused APIs).
MuleSoft also enables organizations to better future-proof their applications and systems using Anypoint Platform. The platform gives organizations the ability to build solutions and integrate in an architecturally sound manner. For example, Mule runtime can be deployed on-prem, in the cloud, or in a hybrid environment––this provides organizations with the flexibility to support any configuration required and support different deployment patterns for each channel.