Evolving from Multi-Channel to true Omni-Channel experiences

Evolving from Multi-Channel to true Omni-Channel experiences

By Lynette Hundermark, managing director of Useful & Beautiful

The term omni-channel is on everyone's lips today – across all sectors - yet no brand in
South Africa has managed to execute on a true omni-channel strategy. Look to the
international market, however, and you'll find many examples of companies that have
gained a real competitive edge from omni-channel approaches, including the likes of
John Lewis, Tesco, Marriott International and Starbucks.

Starbucks stands out in the competitive coffee shop landscape partly because of how it's
able to deliver a great customer experience across a range of platforms and channels.
When customers want to check their loyalty point balance, they can do so at any shop,
on the Starbucks website, using the phone, or on the Starbucks app. Each time they
earn points or redeem rewards, the changes to their accounts are reflected across every
channel in real-time. Thus, Starbucks gives consumers a truly customer-centric and
consistent experience at every touchpoint.

Multi-channel versus Omni-channel
The Starbucks case study is a good way of setting apart omni-channel and multi-channel
strategies since there is some market confusion about how they differ. Multi-channel
strategies are commonplace in South Africa, where most customer-facing companies
offer you a range of choices about how you interact and transact with them.
Thus, practically every bank, telecom operator and retailer uses a range of customer
channels from mobile apps, email and web front-ends to stores, call centres, and
television to communicate with customers. Yet their presence across these channels isn't
integrated in the same way Starbucks has connected its loyalty scheme across all
touchpoints.

The result is a fragmented and inconsistent experience across different channels - for
example, the call centre seems oblivious to the new promo running on television. In
banking, you might find serious gaps between the service and messages you'll get from
the team on social media, the contact centre, and the manager at your local branch.

Disconnected experiences
These inconsistent experiences frustrate consumers, who see each brand as a single
entity. They don't know or care that there are different teams putting together the
advertising, working in the call centre, and looking after the mobile app. They want a
consistent experience from each of these touchpoints.
Increasingly, they demand a seamless and connected experience that uses the mobile
phone as the hub of communication. Financial firms, especially, face competitive threats
from digital disruptors such as Google, PayPal, Apple, and South Africa's Snapscan.
Such companies are masters of personalisation and are unencumbered by legacy, so
they're able to deliver rich customer experiences across a range of digital channels. To
remain relevant in the face of such competition, South African brands must evolve from
multi-channel to omni-channel organisaitons.

A starting point
A good place to start is by understanding the customer expectation and situation across
a range of contexts. For example, if my card has been swallowed at an ATM, I want to
be able to report this emergency quickly using the mobi site or a mobile banking app.
In insurance, if I'm anxious about a claim for a car accident, I should be able to track the
progress by phone, on an app, or on the Web site, and get consistent, up-to-date
information at each of these points. Even better, the insurer should be able to use my
channel of choice - be it email, SMS or the app - to keep me up to date with the latest
developments.

A good mobile strategy can help fill the gaps in the customer experience.
It's an essential tool for customer retention in today's competitive market, given how
central it is in consumers' lives today. Businesses, brands, marketers, and content
providers must ensure they offer the best possible connected experience across mobile
channels such as their mobi site or apps.

No mobile solution is an island
Unlike a multi-channel approach, mobile should not be viewed as a silo by a brand that
is committed to omni-channel experiences. With a sound mobile strategy integrated into
an omni-channel approach, brands can use push messages effectively within their apps
to send personalised messages to customers if they have their permission.
Brands should review their business goals as well as how different customer segments
use their devices to make mobile work well in an omni-channel strategy. Mobileconnected
CRM is also a potential gold mine of information about consumers' path to
purchase, so it's a good idea to collect customer data where possible.
If this customer profile data is linked to information from legacy systems, it can help
create the "smart" customer record that is so vital to providing a truly connected
experience.

Closing words
Many South African organisations are talking up a storm about executing omni-channel
strategies to increase customer engagement, but few are actually moving beyond the
talk to deliver a truly seamless connected experience.
Those that take omni-channel customer experiences seriously and execute well could use
it to gain a serious edge over their competitors by providing something invaluable to
their end user.

ENDS
About Useful & Beautiful
Useful & Beautiful is a fast growing mobile solutions consultancy built on 15 years of experience in the digital
and mobile technology space. With a passion for enabling businesses to leverage mobile technology to drive
better value and relationships with their customers - Useful & Beautiful specialises in mapping out intuitive and
seamless user experiences that benefit both the business and the end user. Mobile strategies and bespoke
mobile products (including design and development and mobile enterprise solutions) have been completed for
a diverse clientele spanning the media, financial services and IT sectors. For more info visit
www.usefulandbeautiful.co.za

About Lynette Hundermark - managing director of Useful & Beautiful
With over 15 years of experience in the tech, digital marketing and mobile solutions space, Hundermark cofounded
specialist mobile solutions consultancy Useful & Beautiful. With a passion for developing mobile
products that are aligned to business goals, Hundermark’s appetite for keeping abreast of the latest industry
trends is fast establishing her as an expert tech commentator and opinion leader in South Africa.

Former apps business director and head of product strategy at Prezence Digital, Hundermark developed some
of the most successful mobile web and apps solutions in the country, such as the popular Ster-Kinekor booking
app.

She was the mobile product manager for Kalahari.com and earlier in her career she served as an enterprise
programmer analyst for 8 years the UK. Hundermark’s experience spans the retail, financial and entertainment
sectors, where she has developed a myriad of different mobile solutions for the likes of bidorbuy, Hollard, Old
Mutual and EyeWitness News, to name a few. She speaks regularly at a variety of local tech and mobile
conferences and is frequently quoted in South African media.

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