How to improve your omni-channel user experience: a practical guide

Before we start, I think it is helpful to give the omni-channel user experience a clear definition. “Not more buzz-words!”, I hear you cry. Well you may be right, but before you skip on to the next buzz-feed/Daily Mail “Which celebrity are you?”, this is worth a few minutes of your time. Hubspot.com provided a really helpful definition of the omni-channel user experience:

… a multichannel approach to sales [that] seeks to provide the customer with a seamless shopping experience whether the customer is shopping online from a desktop or mobile device, by telephone or in a bricks and mortar store.” Hubspot.com

It is also worth noting that omni-channel should not be confused with multi-channel.

All omni-channel experiences will use multiple channels, but not all multi-channel experiences are omni-channel.
If the different platforms you use don’t work together, it’s not omni-channel. Let me explain what I mean by that. Most e-commerce businesses, at the very least, have a website, a blog, a Twitter feed and a Facebook page. Do all of those different channels deliver one integrated message to your customer, regardless of device or platform? The answer is often no! 

If that is the case, what can you do today, to provide a more seamless customer experience? Here are three great tips (plus some excellent examples thrown in for good measure) to ensure your business is providing an omni-channel experience.

1. Consistency

Every detail on each platform should look the same and work perfectly together. Disney does this extremely well. They have a website, a mobile site and a trip planning site. All the sites look identical and are very user friendly. Once you’ve booked your trip you can easily map out your itinerary, book restaurants and fast passes etc. On arrival there is an app on your phone or tablet which allows you to easily find attractions and can even give you the queuing times for rides. Nifty, hey?

2. Communication

I think we would all agree that there is little more distressing in life than being stuck in some sort of automated, press 1 for x, purgatory. I am not an angry person by nature, but being passed from pillar to post, in an auto-queue rabbit warren, is very likely to make me see red. If you say you provide a ‘personalised’ service then there are occasions when it won’t work to fob someone off with the main customer service number or e-mail address. Sometimes you have to reach out across all channels of communication to provide exactly that, a personal contact.
Your team, your website, your app, and everything you do, need to reflect your brand values and your message. If that is a personalised service, then that is very much part of your omni-channel user experience.

3. Cash register

This may be stretching the alliteration a little far…however, a growing number of retailers both big and small are now giving their shop assistants iPads/tablets. This allows staff to bring up real time information on stock levels and availability. They can also become an alternative payment method to the traditional cash register. I recently experienced this in a large national sportswear shop and I was very impressed with the results. There are a range of iPad/tablet based point of sales systems, including Vend, Square, and Revel. Some will work better for smaller businesses, but there are lots of solutions out there to suit any size of business. It is my feeling that stores using iPad or tablets, within their bricks and mortar stores, are better able to seamlessly integrate their website, mobile site, app and their physical shop.

If you are a small e-commerce business or someone just starting out, some of this may seem unmanageable or out of reach. However, it is something that all businesses need to consider and work on in order to be successful. When the omni-channel user experience is working well, customers may not notice or identify it, but you can bet they will enjoy the experience of engaging with you much more. Happy customers usually equals increased sales!