In a market full of multi-screen, multi-device, multi-channel customers, in which digital technologies and applications constantly offer new channels, organizations work hard to design and implement their channel-mix strategy, omni-channel, integrated marketing & communication, unified commerce -or whatever you prefer to call it- strategy.
Observing business practices across sectors and in a time perspective, I’m sharing with you five stages of progress I’ve identified in how companies deal with the omni-channel challenges.
- Stage 1. The company adds new channels, looking at what the trends are and what competition does: brick-and-mortar retailers opened e-shops, e-shops opened physical points-of-contact, added various social media, call centers, mobile apps, chat bots and so on. The need at this stage is to decide which new channels add, to find the resources to set them up and to manage them.
- Stage 2. The company works on connecting all these channels so that it gathers the information coming in from each of them, trying to create the “single customer view”. The needs to handle this stage comprise platforms, systems and APIs, to solve problems of compatibility, of data management, of organizational silos. These are mainly internal issues and reflect an internal view.
- Stage 3. The company works on providing a seamless customer experience across channels, a channel-agnostic customer experience. It experiments in designing hybrid channels, mixing physical and digital media, means and infrastructure. Crucial needs now include an outside-in view, a full understanding of customers’ journeys; eventually a re-design of business processes; and the development of a customer-centric organizational culture across all levels and functions.
- Stage 4. The company starts working with its third-party channels, trying to align its own channels with those of its partners: from loyalty program partners to influencers and from agents, re-sellers and franchisees to suppliers and logistics partners. The challenges are front-end CX and back-end order/product/service fulfillment integration; internal-external data integration; and definitely aligning, educating, supporting, negotiating with partners.
- Stage 5. The company has an explicit and clear channel and CX strategy: it has set objectives and assigned roles to each channel (own and third-party), it has processes and a channel-mix that align with customers’ journeys and expectations under business’ objectives and resources; it has reached full data integration and exploitation. Now, it needs a permanent channel and CX monitoring procedure, a periodical channel orchestration review and a good BI (Business intelligence) for the next challenges coming.
The evolution through these stages is certainly not linear and some stages may be overlapping; yet, I think it’s useful to position an organization along them and have the vision of the total journey to integration.
*Το άρθρο πρωτοδημοσιεύτηκε στο προφίλ του αναπληρωτή καθηγητή του Οικονομικού Πανεπιστημίου Αθηνών, Σέργιου Δημητριάδη στο LinkedIn.