It is clear. Consumers have become more empowered, more connected to companies and to each other, and even more globally diverse. You will hear words like multi-channel and omni-channel used to describe how business and marketers should effectively approach this new evolution of consumer needs and behaviours. But, these terms are now morphing into what I call the omni experience.

Omni experience goes beyond the operational view of multi-channel and views the experience through the eyes of the customer, orchestrating the customer experience across all channels so that it is seamless, integrated, consistent, and trackable. Think single channel specialised experience across multiple touch points.

Omni experience anticipates that customers may start in one channel and move to another as they progress to a resolution.  Making these complex hand-offs between channels effortless for the customer is a must for brands, as is keeping consistent messaging and meticulously tracking results.

The everywhere, anywhere consumer

Consumers do not consciously think about the channels they are using at the time they are using them. However, they do want to have a consistent and seamless shopping experience across every platform – both online and offline.

It harkens back to the day when marketing and technology had a wall between them and did not talk. Now the walls between the digital and the physical world need to come down and be integrated. Today’s customer expects there to be no channel boundaries. When customers want to make a purchase, renew a service, or resolve a problem, their preferred channels now include “all of the above” – physical stores, online e-commerce, social media, and call centers.

As expected, consumers continue to shop and buy more on their smartphones and tablets. In the second quarter of this year, Rakuten Marketing reported year-on-year (YoY) mobile phone orders in the affiliate channel had increased 87% in the U.S., 117% in the U.K., 197% in Canada, 32% in Japan, and 28% in Australia. The YoY increase for tablet orders was: 21% in the U.S., 37% in the U.K., 157% in Canada, and 55% in Japan. We also saw a phenomenal 600%+ increase in purchases made on tablets and smart devices YoY.

Further evidence of the everywhere consumer are these showroom and webroom statistics from a 2013 Accenture report:

  • 73% of shoppers have showroomed in the past six months;
  • 33% check mobile for competitor pricing and 31% check product reviews in store;
  • 71% purchase from a different company online after returning home;
  • 88% of shoppers have webroomed in the past six months;
  • 47% of webroomers want to avoid shipping costs, and
  • 46% want to touch and feel the product first.

Tracking and uncommon insights

It is critically important in the omni experience world to handle marketing, selling, and servicing, in an integrated manner across multiple channels, and to seamlessly track individual customers across the channels they prefer to use.

Consistent insight-driven personalisation should be embedded into all channels, including physical, web, and store. The mining of data from real-time analytics engines can give you powerful insights and let you intervene in the customer interaction funnel at the most opportune time.

One benefit of this level of analysis is gaining greater insight into the occurrence of overlap between channels. While traditionally thought to be an undesirable side-effect of channel marketing, in practice it is shown to be beneficial in some cases.

One recent Rakuten Marketing campaign beta-testing this analytics technology showed that consumers touched by only one channel converted at a rate of 2.7% vs. 5.2% for those touched by two channels, and 20.2% for those touched by three channels or more.

Understanding the customer is key

In order to really know the customer and offer them a personalised and contextualised experience, you need to have meaningful customer data extracted from a variety of sources, including traditional physical channels, digital and social channels, network data, and data based on the customer’s location. Recognising and acknowledging whom individual customers are, the products and services they have purchased, and their prior interaction history – regardless of channel – leads to a more intimate relationship with the customer.

Customer intimacy is a competitive strategy, corporate culture, and organisational design—all rolled into one—supporting multiple relationships. Deeper, long-lasting customer relationships can mean greater revenue, higher customer lifetime value, lower relative customer acquisition costs through lower churn, and greater share of wallet. Big data, the cloud, sophisticated algorithms and technologies, and a new generation of corporate and individual competencies, enable consumer intimacy to form the foundation for market leadership.

In my mind, the end goal is channel agnosticism. The individual pieces are simply building to a greater outcome. Overlap is no longer something to be prevented – if it works, go with it. Gathering data will carry us closer to this goal. In fact, any data freely given can be good data. Cross-channel data can be used to enhance the performance of a single channel. Understanding the data and understanding the customer who is tied to it empowers you to make better decisions, get intimate with your customers and create a true omni experience.