Understanding omnichannel as a customer experience strategy

Diego Lapegna

Integrated Marketing Manager

Customer experience has become a complex topic for many businesses today. Customer needs and expectations have taken a turn, and it seems the only winning strategy is an omnichannel one.

We sat down with Francesca Graziano, a Researcher at the Polytechnic University of Milan, to uncover the findings from the Omnichannel Customer Experience Observatory Survey conducted in 2021.

Read on to learn about current trends related to omnichannel customer experience, technologies that can support your strategy, and how to stay ahead of the curve.

About the study

Every year, the Observatory surveys state-of-the-art companies in the omnichannel sphere.

The matrix is built on two axes:

  • The first is the strategy and organization axis, which reveals the approach to omnichannel customer experience (OCX) – including systemic or single projects, how ownership of the OCX is managed within the company, and what skills have been gathered.
  • The second is the axis of data and technology, which explains what data is collected and integrated with Single Customer View logic, what analysis is done, and what technologies support it.

The arms race of last year has seen, on the one hand, an increase in the awareness of the importance of adopting an omnichannel approach. On the other hand, we’ve seen an increasing commitment to activating concrete projects in this area. In fact, this year there has been both an increase in the number of companies approaching the subject and in the number of mature companies in the OCX sphere. However, there are still many companies that are only at the beginning of this transformation.

The adoption of an omnichannel approach

Omnichannel has become a key strategy for all companies regardless of sector or business model.

There is no clear evidence about sectors that are more mature than others, but we can detect areas in which the omnichannel approach is more familiar than in others. These include:

  • Energy, Utilities, as well as Oil and Gas
  • Banking, Financial Services, and Insurance
  • Retail and eCommerce

However, we can confirm that the maturity of these sectors is rather diverse, being developed on both axes of the Observatory’s matrix.

The companies that present a lower level of maturity belong to the Fast-Moving Consumer Goods and Consumer Durables sector.

Technologies that support an omnichannel strategy

Businesses wanting to adopt an omnichannel strategy can leverage today’s advancements in technology, including:

  • Collection and enrichment which consists of the collection and enrichment of data about the company’s customers and prospects.
  • Integration of the data collected with the aim of creating a unique view of the customer.
  • Analysis which is necessary to support business decision makers in moving from a mere description of a past or present situation to the prediction of their customers’ needs and requirements.
  • Execution to personalize and optimize the company’s customer relationship in terms of marketing, sales, and customer care.

The spread of these technologies outlines an evolving scenario. Platforms that focus more on data collection are still widely used:

  • CRM is adopted by 74% of companies and Data Lake by 38%
  • The spread of Customer Data Platforms (CDP), capable of integrating and managing different sources, is still limited (26% of cases)

This figure explains the difficulty for companies both in integrating external data and in building a 360° view of the customer.

Specifically in the Analysis phase, only 28% of the companies analyzed carry out advanced analysis (predictive, prescriptive, or automatic) on the data collected. In this regard, if on the one hand, we see a wide diffusion of figures dedicated to a descriptive analysis of the data (60% data analysis), on the other hand, there is still a timid diffusion of figures, such as the Data Scientist, able to develop deeper and more complex analyses (35%).

The most virtuous sectors in this area are those that have felt the need to activate evolved actions on data – for example, actions to prevent churn, next best offer/action etc. – namely the Finance, Telco, and Utilities industries.

However, as far as the execution phase is concerned, there are many technologies available and they deserve an ad hoc in-depth study.

It’s important to point out that technology is an important enabling factor to consider when implementing an omnichannel strategy, and that a series of actions such as the following cannot be ignored:

  • embedding the implementation roadmap of an omnichannel strategy within multi-year business plans
  • defining clear OCX Ownership (e.g. cross-functional team or dedicated BU)
  • spreading a customer-centric and data-driven culture
  • introducing an OCX-oriented measurement and reward system

The future of communication in numbers

Research tells us that:

  • 91% of customers prefer to buy from companies that offer experiences that are personalized and relevant to them
  • 71% of customers feel frustrated when they receive massive and impersonal communications

Companies must therefore structure themselves to meet these needs – and they can do this in three ways:

  • The first involves customer base profiling. This means relying on the reprocessing and analysis of data collected on individual customers or prospects with the goal of creating buyer personas or targeted audiences for personalized marketing actions.
  • The second concerns content management and personalization. This refers to the creation, development, and management of content related to the touchpoint and the reference target.
  • Lastly is the delivery of initiatives, with the activation of cross-channel marketing and communication actions triggered automatically by specific actions along the customer’s journey. To support this phase, marketing automation technologies can be used to personalize business-to-consumer (B2C) communication. Today, these technologies are adopted by 46% of the companies surveyed by the Observatory.

Let’s look at an example in the retail sector to understand what it means to create personalized, data-driven B2C communication:

Imagine a company operating in children’s clothing and pregnancy apparel. Not only is the company able to create ad-hoc content to accompany mothers-to-be throughout their pregnancy, but thanks to its data-driven campaign, the company can predict the week of delivery of its customers and send time-sensitive alerts to remind them to prepare their delivery bag. Additionally, the campaign proposes two options: The first offers ready-made bags based on the tastes and needs of the customer – and the second offers a personal assistant who can remotely support the mother-to-be in creating an ad-hoc bag.

Today, less than one company out of five has structured or started to structure a data-driven marketing strategy. The most mature sectors in this area are Finance & Retail.

Consumer behavior paves the way

The push for change comes from changing social needs and the emergence of new types of consumers.

What we are witnessing today is that the profile of the new digital consumer is growing more in the direction of what Gartner calls the “everything customer“: a customer who wants everything quickly. This includes instant access to personalized support, high-level user experiences, and above all, smooth, seamless interactions.

The expectation of these customers is to encounter the same level of support, interactions, and personalization at every touchpoint with a brand. They expect to have experiences that are unique (specifically designed for them) – but also predictable, standardized, quick, and easy to use.

The good news is that today’s technologies make it possible to deliver such a customer experience that satisfies the new digital consumer.

Excellent digital CX gives a competitive advantage that companies in today’s hyper-competitive markets can’t do without. In some industries, where perhaps the service is a commodity, providing a high-level CX is a more important aspect of the service itself.

What we know and what we have seen in the last 5-10 years is how technology has changed the way consumers approach brands. So, an analysis that wants to try to interpret future trends cannot disregard looking at the way the younger generations approach digital.

In our recent study, we uncovered trends among 400 boys and girls of the Alpha Generation in Italy. We found that:

  • WhatsApp is the most used communication channel when talking to parents, friends, and relatives
  • More than half (52%) say they don’t use voice assistants or chatbots – while 10% use it daily.

So, while digital interactions will become more central than ever, the evolution of the complex dialogue between consumers and machines is still evolving and will depend a great deal on the degree of maturity that technology manages to assume in the coming years.

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Diego Lapegna

Integrated Marketing Manager