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With COVID-19 impacting businesses and operations on a global scale, organizations across industries need to adapt faster than ever to meet changing consumer behavior and new dynamics of the market. Both B2B and B2C customers are finding new ways to interact with organizations. In a way, COVID-19 has created a unique, level playing field for organizations in every market. Nimble and agile organizations are coming out stronger with an ability to provide unified omnichannel experiences, while incumbents are having a harder time keeping up with the accelerated pace of change.

The customer journey map has evolved across most industries over the last few decades. The customer interaction touchpoints have increased significantly, such as mobile, social, call center, store kiosks, and much more — providing more ways for a customer to interact with a business. Organizations can look at these increasing touchpoints as a strategic opportunity to create a connected omnichannel experience for their customers. However, for some organizations, the omnichannel experience is tactical and limited in scope — such as building a mobile app in addition to the website. Organizations that take a holistic approach to their omnichannel strategy with a 360-view of their customers will be the ones to succeed through COVID-19 and emerge favorably to continue to meet changing customer expectations.          

What is an omnichannel strategy?

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An omnichannel strategy is an organization’s roadmap to provide a consistent and seamless experience across all points of contact with the customer. Organizations that define their omnichannel strategy more holistically to be future-proof are in a better position to serve customers in the long run than those that approach it tactically to address a short-term need for a single customer transaction. Just creating an additional channel is not the solution. Rather, building an architecture that supports easy and seamless integration of not only today’s channels but future channels that will set the business up for success to quickly adapt to changing customer needs, for example, during and after COVID-19. 

According to the Connectivity Benchmark report, a typical enterprise has 900 applications and systems on average. These hundreds of different systems contain important information, such as order status, customer data, real-time inventory, payment information, pricing, and more. But this data is often siloed – which makes it difficult for companies to create connected customer experiences. Organizations face the challenges of modernizing the IT architecture to seamlessly connect to any application and system of choice. In addition, mergers and acquisitions over time have made this increasingly complicated there are multiple systems with similar purposes across different regions and functions. Organizations with a defined API-led strategy to seamlessly allow the data to flow through these systems set a foundation to easily integrate new digital channels to continue to provide unified omnichannel experiences.

The future of omnichannel experiences across industries

The retail industry is going through a tremendous amount of stress during COVID-19. Many physical stores are closed, or for essential businesses, in-store traffic has dramatically shifted. There is a heavier emphasis on eCommerce to meet today’s needs and serve customers safely from a distance. Each organization may have its own goals and approach to implementing an omnichannel experience for its customers. Some of these strategies include increasing store foot-traffic through programs such as “buy-online and pick up in-store.” However, these measures have now taken a hit, whereas retailers who have integrated with third-party delivery channels or established a credible reputation in an online marketplace have seen a surge in demand. 

And it’s not just the retailers that are impacted. Supply chains and logistics are also stretched thin. The frequent surge of demand for certain items coupled with the acute shortfall of demand for other items have left distributors trying to find efficient ways to manage capacity shortfall and customer expectations. Some financial services and banks have closed physical retail branches for more than a month and now depend on contactless experiences, like online channels and ATMs, to serve its customers. Banks and credit unions with a robust omnichannel strategy can now differentiate themselves as a partner of choice to merchants looking to set up business relationships virtually. For B2C transactions, such as applying for a credit card or mortgage refinance, customers now rely on organizations that have a completely online process to address their needs. In addition, the healthcare industry has seen an unprecedented surge in demand for virtual transactions. The demand to provide a secure online payment gateway or to integrate a remote doctor visit through a video call is pushing healthcare providers to innovate quickly.

How ASICS leveraging API-led connectivity to deliver connected experiences, faster

Here is a specific retailer successfully leading digital transformation to create amazing customer experiences and forge stronger customer relationships at every touchpoint. ASICS’ goal was to provide a seamless and connected omnichannel experience for its customers globally, irrespective of the channel through which they serve. In order to do that, they had to integrate Salesforce Commerce Cloud with other siloed systems, such as their order management system (OMS), payment processing system (PPE), and product information system (PIM). One of the most challenging aspects to this initiative was creating connections between these technologies, many of which were legacy software systems, for not just a single customer touchpoint but also for any new touchpoint they would add afterward. This would require several hours to reconnect the same systems each time a new touchpoint was added.

With an API-led strategy, ASICS sped up the process and met customer demands faster. API-led connectivity is a way to connect data through a series of APIs that each have a specific function, such as unlocking data from systems, unifying data into processes, or delivering an experience. These APIs are reusable and become building blocks in an application network, so ASICS can leverage the same APIs used to build their eCommerce platform as their first project for the next project that requires secure connectivity to the same backend systems — without building those integrations again from scratch. As a result, ASICS increased its productivity by more than 2x and expanded its channels in less than two months of development time for customers to reach them — providing a true omnichannel experience and increasing five percent of the overall retail sales in Europe during the first quarter of 2019. 

A future-proof approach to your omnichannel strategy

With organizations needing to connect to more internal and external systems than ever before, the key will be for these organizations to set up the foundation for change — enabling them to achieve business continuity through any disruption and adapt to new consumer behavior. With an API-led approach to integration when building out the omnichannel experience, retailers can easily change any underlying system — including systems of record – without impacting other dependent systems, apps, and data. That means these retailers can easily plug in new technologies to address new touchpoints of the customer journey, future-proofing their business in the face of change.

Learn the key to developing an API-led omnichannel strategy and continuously improve customer engagement across industries.