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Expert opinion

Omnichannel or the promise of an ideal customer experience

Friday 23 November 2018 | 09:55 AM CET

Paul Lacroix, Limonetik: "An omnichannel strategy calls for a holistic vision. It should support business growth, ensure customer satisfaction, reduce fraud, and improve customer service."

By applying the omnichannel strategy, the holy grail of the perfect customer experience, the retail world has been undergoing a transformation. After multichannel and cross-channel content strategies, we have entered the era of omnichannel, which promises the ideal customer experience. This model is reinventing business.

The quest for a more uniform experience

Until 2015, multichannel was the order of the day: new contact channels with the consumer through ecommerce and the spread of social media. The focus was on gaining market share by targeting a maximum number of potential buyers and increasing a business’s visibility. It would incorporate the developments and innovations offered by information and communications technology (ICT) into its strategy. Conversely, the pure players, brands developed exclusively online, began to build warehouses and shops to get closer to their customers. The most striking example was when Amazon opened a bookstore in Seattle in 2015. This strategy was also adopted by VSEs and SMEs born with the internet that opened physical stores (like the French companies LDLC or Spartoo) as they grew successful. These businesses, which were only selling online, decided to establish a brick and mortar presence. Call it physical.

As a result, merchants started to offer user experiences that reflect the new habits of consumers who have decisively incorporated tablets and smartphones into their daily lives, according to a study conducted by Harris Interactive and BudgetBox in September 2018. 41% of the French reportedly do their shopping online. Cross-channel commerce, stemming from use of numerous online consultation channels that must interact as businesses cater to their customers’ personal preferences, has contributed to click-and-collect strategies and multiple delivery services.

What does omnichannel mean for merchants? Total ubiquity.

Omnichannel reaches everywhere! In other words, it contributes to unifying and harmonising the customer experience. Stores have had to go digital in order to be connected online. They must comply with standards and IT systems to be able to manage online and offline sales together. Data and processes must be standardised and centralised. This is a requirement for all types of customer transactions. In terms of pure logistics and inventory management, an IT department must cover all distribution channels: warehouses, outlets, etc. The same applies to shipping: the quality of service and delivery deadlines for shipping companies must be uniform whether the destination is a residence, store, or pick-up point.

Special attention to the four principles of an omnichannel project: organisation, supply, customer experience and logistics

While omnichannel has constantly relied on all the new modes of communication, it also faces challenges in terms of management and human resources (HR). The entire HR policy of a business is affected. In the supply chain, the cashier becomes consultant as well as warehouse worker, logistician, carrier or courier. Due to the upheavals caused by the digital industry, a business must develop strategies to support change and a coherent HR policy to meet omnichannel demands.

Now the omnichannel challenge is to push the envelope

Today, 88% of merchants say that omnichannel is a priority strategy. The goal is to route multiple customer journeys through a single channel and transform the visitor into a customer, who can be followed regardless of the channels. The omnichannel challenge is to meet the requirement of “any time, anywhere, any device, any content” (ATAWADAC). Omnichannel actually starts with the online shopping basket and finishes in the physical store.

Merchants are faced with pushing the envelope: erasing the boundaries between the online (internet) and offline (brick and mortar) world. The idea is to replace a complex, diversified customer journey with a unified, seamless experience. From this standpoint, the marketing of a brand must be reconsidered. Why should customer offerings differ according to the type of sales contact? The point of omnichannel is to create one single, consistent information source for all channels.

Payment should also be totally transparent

One point is clear: the purpose of omnichannel, by breaking the silo model, is to offer customers several points of contact to guarantee a fluid and pleasant experience. How does payment work in this ideal customer journey?

If omnichannel describes the ultimate full customer experience, payment methods must also fit the model and blend into the overall landscape of the journey. Payment represents the final step of the consumer buying cycle. But if this step in the cycle fails, the entire buying process collapses. Finance managers see this as the crucial objective that determines the profitability of a business. They must be sure that the payments match the sales and cash receipts. This puzzle gains complexity as a brand breaks into the international market, at which point it must offer payment methods adapted to a multitude of cultures and currencies.

An omnichannel strategy calls for a holistic vision. So does a payment strategy. It should support a business’s growth objectives, ensure overall customer satisfaction, contribute to the fight against fraud, and help improve customer service. The overall performance of the brand is at stake.

All customer contact channels should therefore be reviewed: websites, call centres, social media, physical stores, payment methods, etc. Together, they must provide a 360° view of the customer and maximise the experience with the brand. As an integral part of this model, the payment experience must also contribute to this positive dynamic. Inherently complex, unified commerce must appear simple and complete to the consumer, specifically adapted to an individual’s habits. This means hiding the complexity. Omnichannel therefore calls for a great deal of flexibility in all the processes that support it.

Clearly, if more and more connected stores and applications appear in the coming years, offering customers a unified and harmonised experience, then payment, the final step in buying, must also be integrated into the background strategy.

About Paul Lacroix

Expert in the Web ecosystem, Paul is Head of Merchant & PSP at Limonetik. Holder of a Master's degree in Computer Science and Information System from the Toulouse SUPINFO School of Engineering, Paul, before working at Limonetik, was head of IS at e-Logik in Toulouse and also project manager at Brands on Air.

 

About Limonetik

Limonetik is an online enriched payment platform (PaaS) which provides a unique ‘one stop’ shopping payment solution that connects international payment methods to marketplaces and merchants directly or through its PSPs. It delivers advanced services from collection and settlement management to reconciliation. Limonetik is the guarantee of regulation compliance.

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