Spotlight on omnichannel experience, Part 3

Aug 18, 2023
CX Thought Leadership

This is the third blog in a multi-part series presented by the CMA CX Council. Three CX leaders share their perspectives about omnichannel marketing initiatives. Read Part 1 and Part 2.

Meet Wayne Carrigan

Wayne Carrigan is senior marketing executive and digital transformation leader with more than 25 years of leading customer engagement strategies for a wide variety of industries. He is currently the CRO for retail innovation firm, Kinetic Commerce, which brings leading driven customer experience solutions to some of the world’s top retail brands.

Q&A on omnichannel perspectives

What does omnichannel mean to you?

I think of omnichannel more as a cultural and strategic initiative for organizations and less of a tactical practice. A common definition of omnichannel refers to a comprehensive approach that aims to provide a seamless and consistent experience to customers across multiple channels and touchpoints.

In an omnichannel strategy, customers have the freedom to interact with a brand through their preferred channel at any given time, where they can expect a consistent – but channel appropriate – experience regardless of the channel they choose. This means that they can start an interaction on one channel and seamlessly transition to another without any disruption or loss of information.

Omnichannel goes beyond merely offering multiple channels for customer engagement. It focuses on delivering a cohesive and personalized experience throughout the entire customer journey. This requires a deep understanding of customer preferences, behaviours and history, which is used to tailor interactions and provide relevant and timely information.  

What is a good example of omnichannel?

A good example meets the key goal to enhance satisfaction and engagement by making it convenient and effortless for customers to interact with a brand. It acknowledges that customers expect a consistent experience across all touchpoints and recognizes the importance of meeting these expectations to build long-term customer loyalty.

For retailers with an ecommerce website, a mobile app, and several physical stores across different cities, a good example is unified inventory, in which inventory is synchronized across all channels. Whether a customer checks product availability, the information is consistent and up to date, preventing disappointments like out-of-stock items or conflicting information.

How are metrics and KPIs changing due to omnichannel programs being introduced?

Omnichannel programs have prompted a shift in metrics and KPIs towards a more holistic and integrated approach. Here are some ways that metrics and KPIs have changed due to the implementation of omnichannel strategies:

  • Cross-channel customer journeys: Metrics such as conversion rate across channels, time spent on each channel before making a purchase, and cross-channel customer behaviour analysis help businesses gain insights into how customers move seamlessly between channels and where they encounter friction points or drop-offs.
  • Customer Effort Score (CES): CES has gained prominence as a metric that measures the ease of completing a desired action across different channels.
  • Channel integration and switching: Metrics like channel-switching rate, online-to-offline conversion rate, or vice versa, provide insights into how effectively channels are integrated and how well customers can transition from one channel to another without disruption.
  • Attribution and influence metrics: The use of models such as multi-touch attribution plays a role in driving and understanding desired outcomes.

While these are just a few examples of many new metrics and KPIs, perhaps the biggest change is driven by the need for organizations to absorb, understand and act on them. 

What are some good examples of offline platforms supporting online adoption and vice versa?  

Here are a few examples:

  • Online-to-offline:
    • Canadian Tire – Buy Online, Pick Up In-Store (BOPIS): Customers can make purchases online and collect their items from a nearby physical store, leveraging the convenience of online shopping while also benefiting from immediate access to products.
    • Great Clips – Online reservations and check-in for in-store services: Customers book appointments online and check in via mobile, streamlining the process and reducing wait times upon arrival.
    • Ikea – Showrooming: Customers visit physical stores to experience products in-person before making a purchase decision, and then go online to find the best deals or complete the transaction.
  • Offline-to-online:
    • Aldo Shoes – In-store kiosks or tablets: Retailers place interactive kiosks or tablets within their physical stores, enabling customers to browse their full product catalog, check inventory availability, or place online orders if an item is out of stock.
    • Sobeys/Safeway – Loyalty program integration: Stores encourage customers to create online accounts and download mobile apps to join their loyalty programs. This allows customers to earn and redeem rewards, access personalized offers, and receive targeted notifications both in-store and online.
    • Telus – QR code integration: Physical stores incorporate QR codes in their displays which customers can scan to access additional product information, appointment check-in, or online-exclusive offers.

These examples illustrate how offline and online platforms can complement each other, bridging the gap between physical and digital experiences. 

What is a lesson you would share with marketers embarking on a new omnichannel program?

Prioritize customer perspectives and the employee experience throughout every stage of the program.

While it may be tempting to focus solely on the technology, data integration, and operational aspects of an omnichannel strategy, it is essential to remember that the ultimate goal is to create a seamless and exceptional customer experience. By keeping the customer at the centre of your strategy, you can build a program that truly resonates with their needs and expectations.

What are some of the key differences between multi-channel and omnichannel?

While each company should define this for themselves, I see the core strategic difference this way: Multi-channel strategies typically involve separate channels operating independently, while omnichannel strategies integrate channels to provide a seamless and consistent customer experience. Furthermore, omnichannel places a stronger emphasis on the customer journey and prioritizes the customer's convenience and preferences.

I suggest thinking about omnichannel as an evolution from multi-channel, where a greater focus is on the holistic view of the customer and brand versus siloed channel excellence.

What are some lessons for organizations starting new in their omnichannel journey versus those with legacy?

There are some valuable lessons that can be passed along, including:

Organizations starting new in their omnichannel journey should embrace a customer-centric mindset from the beginning. Prioritize understanding your customers' preferences, behaviours, and needs across various channels. Build your omnichannel strategy around delivering a seamless, personalized, and convenient experience that exceeds their expectations. Being new to the omnichannel landscape gives you an advantage of agility and flexibility. Embrace innovation, stay updated with evolving customer trends and technologies, and be open to experimentation and iteration. Adapt quickly to changing customer demands and market dynamics to stay ahead of the competition.

Lay a strong foundation for your omnichannel capabilities with a scalable and integrated technology infrastructure. Invest in robust systems that support seamless data integration, customer insights, and cross-channel interactions. Leverage cloud-based solutions, APIs, and modern CX platforms to enable scalability and adaptability as your omnichannel program grows. Establish a unified data strategy from the outset, ensuring that customer data is collected, integrated and analyzed cohesively across channels. Implement a robust customer data platform (CDP) or data management system to create a single customer view. Leverage analytics to gain actionable insights into customer behaviour, preferences and journey across channels, enabling data-driven decision-making.

Organizations with legacy should undertake a comprehensive assessment of the existing customer journey across channels. Identify pain points, inconsistencies and gaps in the experience. Use this insight to design an actionable customer journey that seamlessly connects touchpoints and addresses customer needs. Focus on bridging gaps between legacy systems and newer channels to provide a cohesive experience. Legacy organizations often have disparate systems and data sources. Invest in integrating these systems and unifying data to create a centralized view of the customer. 

Introduce comprehensive employee training programs to ensure teams understand the omnichannel vision and are equipped to deliver a consistent experience. It is critical to implement change management strategies to drive cultural and operational shifts, aligning the organization's mindset with customer-centricity.

Whether starting new or with legacy, adopt an incremental approach to implement an omnichannel strategy. Start with key touchpoints or specific customer segments and gradually expand. This allows for testing, learning, and making adjustments based on real world feedback, mitigating risks associated with large-scale transformations.

How can organizations mentor and develop talent for omnichannel?

Besides focused training, there are two initiatives I suggest organizations consider:

  1. Foster a culture of cross-functional collaboration and knowledge sharing. Encourage employees from different departments, such as marketing, sales, customer service and IT, to work together on omnichannel initiatives. This collaborative environment allows employees to gain a broader understanding of the customer journey and fosters a more integrated approach to delivering exceptional experiences.
  2. Align employee experience with customer experience objectives and give your employees the tools they need to succeed. As omnichannel landscapes and customer expectations evolve, encourage employees to stay agile. Foster a culture that embraces change, experimentation and continuous improvement. Encourage employees to contribute ideas, provide feedback on processes, and collaborate on innovative solutions to enhance the organization's omnichannel capabilities. Performance evaluations should incorporate criteria related to customer-centricity, cross-channel collaboration, and the ability to deliver a seamless experience.

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Wayne Carrigan

CRO Kinetic Commerce




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