How to deliver true omnichannel engagement in retail

Customers expect consistent experiences across all touchpoints — retailers must be able to offer the same level of personalization, regardless of whether they are shopping in-store, on their laptop, mobile device, or on their social media apps.

How to deliver true omnichannel engagement in retail

To deliver on this, brands are making omnichannel and engagement strategies interconnected and interrelated across the shopping journey.

Read this guide and you’ll learn:

  • The elements of an omnichannel engagement strategy
  • Key considerations when building an omnichannel solution
  • The importance of omnichannel context

Read this article to learn how to deliver cohesive, personalized experiences for your customers, and what you should know when choosing an omnichannel customer engagement platform, regardless of whether they’re shopping online or in-person.

Content Summary

Introduction
The move to omnichannel engagement — why now?
The elements of an omnichannel engagement strategy
The importance of omnichannel context

Introduction

Customers expect consistent experiences across all touch-points — retailers must be able to offer the same level of personalization, regardless of whether they are shopping in-store, on their laptop, mobile device, or on their social media apps. To deliver on this, brands are making omnichannel and engagement strategies interconnected and interrelated across the shopping journey.

Providing an omnichannel retail experience requires integrating all sales approaches into one seamless method of communicating and engaging with your customers. This is not the same as offering multi-channel experiences, where multiple channels run independently from each other. Omnichannel engagement is an integrated approach to multichannel.

As consumer adoption of new shopping habits grows, so do the expectations of smooth, seamless shopping experiences. Companies with strong omnichannel customer engagement retain, on average, 89% of their customers, compared to 33% for companies with weak omnichannel customer engagement. Brands that are prioritizing digital shopping modalities and engagement will continue to pivot faster and grow revenue faster than those whthatre not.

Given its inherent ability to scale quickly and inexpensively, the Twilio customer engagement platform is increasingly at the heart of these new solutions. In this guide, we’ll explore the areas where we are seeing our customers most successfully leverage omnichannel engagement to consistently deliver on these retail priorities and customer preferences.

The move to omnichannel engagement — why now?

The retail industry is shifting toward a concierge model that focuses on customer experience. With the rise of digital platforms, brands of all kinds are striving to create unified commerce experiences that offer on-demand, channel-agnostic shopping.

With over 80% of customers reporting that the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services, retailers are trying to add efficiencies to their operations and gain competitive advantages through buying online, pickup in-store (BOPIS), clienteling, and hyper-personalization. However, these efforts may not necessarily result in better customer experiences, increase product demand, or customer loyalty without the proper customer engagement strategy and platform to deliver content.

According to Gartner, by 2022, 50% of large organizations will have failed to unify engagement channels, resulting in a disjointed and siloed customer experience lacking in context. Customers want a cohesive experience and they don’t need to discern whether they are connecting with a brand through a “platform” or a set of “channels.” Companies are experiencing an average increase of 63% in several digital touchpoints with customers during the pandemic, so delivering personalization at a consumer scale is crucial for business success.

Beyond engagement with customers, businesses of all sizes have dealt with other pressing issues, like employee engagement. As their teams were forced to work from home, relying on legacy systems quickly proved impractical and businesses turned to cloud-based digital engagement platforms to increase employee safety. However, it also increased cyber security risks as employees working remotely are exposed to more vulnerabilities. Luckily, omnichannel platforms have security features that keep your company’s data safe from cyber-attacks. Twilio’s customer engagement platform is one of the most secure platforms that manage information security based on the ISO 27001 framework, so you have the confidence to move communications to the cloud. It ensures compliance and safeguards against system-level failures so that all conversations remain intact no matter where customer support agents are located.

As companies continue to use digital communications to reimagine their frontline engagement for employees to support customers from anywhere — and under any circumstances — they are also seeing record query volumes from customers. This makes chat one of the important components of an omnichannel engagement strategy to help agents tackle increasing query volumes. Live chat is the #1 channel businesses plan to add in the next 12 months since it’s the perfect tool to handle massive volumes and aid agents to manage accordingly. Robust live chat systems include typing indicators, chat history, read receipts, and integration into third-party software (e.g. ticketing support issues, collecting and analyzing data, or routing customers to the most appropriate representative), all of which improve the chat experience for both the agent and the customer. While we often think of live chat as a tool for websites, it is also widespread in mobile applications.

Similarly, omnichannel engagement can also rely on self-service chatbots to automate routine interactions to promise better service at less cost. Research tells us that if given the option, customers prefer to solve their problems without human intervention — and they increasingly want to do this over digital channels. Moreover, customers are more demanding when it comes to response times outside the 9-5 window. An AI chatbot is a great tool to offer 24/7 support since chatbots can handle queries at any point in time. Speech recognition has evolved into natural language processing that can communicate naturally and automatically on any channel and is now a fundamental part of an automated self-service experience that is tailored, conversational, and effective.

Giving your customers the ability to seamlessly switch between channels is what makes the omnichannel experience truly seamless. Customer support agents can follow a customer conversation wherever it goes, without being boxed into one channel or spread across dozens of tabs. For example, when your customer begins with a chat session on your website and then rolls that chat into a video co-browse session or voice call with an agent, that customer is receiving personalized, quality service. The very best omnichannel platforms help companies bridge the brick-and-mortar and digital experiences with audio and video chat. They establish face-to-face relationships with clients, and it also allows for agents to offer specific support to sometimes complicated issues; it’s also the best way to showcase or demonstrate products in this “influencer” market.

The ability to connect remotely has been increasingly important for both businesses and consumers. And in today’s climate, the need for social distancing means that seamless remote connection is no longer a nice-to-have. It’s a must-have. – John Federman, CEO, Jrni

The elements of an omnichannel engagement strategy

Companies with the strongest omnichannel customer engagement strategies enjoy a 10% Y-O-Y growth, a 10% increase in average order value, and a 25% increase in close rates. This leads retailers to adopt a customer-centric approach with a focus on building omnichannel experiences that integrate marketing and sales goals and improve overall customer experience.

In order to provide a positive customer experience and build great relationships, any approach to building omnichannel engagement should be comprehensive in supporting sales, marketing, operations and fulfillment channels.

Sales

  • How are my prospects finding my products?
  • Channels should make it easier for customers to find what they need from you.

Marketing

  • How do I optimize advertising and content delivery?
  • Channels drive action at any stage of the marketing funnel from awareness, to conversion, to customer retention.

Operations

  • How can I offer customers visibility into inventory?
  • Channels keep customers in the loop about important information on their orders, inventory availability and more.

Fulfillment

  • How can I ensure last mile delivery is seamless and effective?
  • Increase operational efficiency by using new channels to mobilize workers and serve customers faster.

Integrating omnichannel communications and seamless context throughout the customer journey requires the right infrastructure. Omnichannel is very difficult to achieve with “out-of-the-box” solutions. Any system requiring a lengthy installation process, limited features, and restricted integration with other platforms will not provide the agility needed to deliver an excellent customer experience in an omnichannel world.

Fundamentally, aligning and interconnecting engagement strategies along these four areas will set your business to create smoother back-end processes for you and your team — which directly translates into positive shopping experiences for your customers. The aim should be to build an omnichannel solution that provides flexible, high-quality communication channels to give businesses options to communicate with their customers and employees on the most effective channels. Other key considerations include:

  1. Choose a solution that is a single interface for multiple channels: SMS, phone calls, in-app chat, email, messaging apps, video, and more. This will save you the effort of maintaining separate integrations.
  2. You want to add new channels to your contact center as they become popular and create custom channels easily to meet your customers on their preferred channel.
  3. Make sure the solution gives you complete ownership of your customer interaction data across all channels while providing a single omnichannel desktop to set your agents up for success.
  4. Identify and understand customers based on their past interactions with your brand regardless of the channel they use.
  5. Break data silos and operate as a single brand across channels to deliver a consistent omnichannel customer experience.
  6. Offer the same level of a personalized experience, regardless of the channel, to make your customers feel valued.

The importance of omnichannel context

Today’s customer engagement platforms support multiple channels of customer engagement, and most importantly, they are the emotional connection between your company and your customers. Sentiments strongly influence buying decisions, and customers who actively engage with a business tend to be more loyal and spend their money supporting brands they feel connected to.

In the past, only the largest brands had the resources to offer truly personalized customer experiences. Today, with the rise of communications APIs, businesses can build their own customized communications experiences that are tailored to meet the unique needs of their customers. The choice to use APIs isn’t just a technical decision, it’s also a business decision to prioritize agile development, A/B testing, and quick software iterations while integrating feedback from contact center agents into communications improvements. Moreover, these integrated omnichannel platforms allow companies to centralize the data from all their channels, and no matter what channel hosts a conversation, the entire history of interaction is available, giving agents the information needed to deliver a seamless, effective and efficient experience.

Since customer interactions take place on multiple channels, the level of friction and redundancy increases along the shopping journey. They may have started a conversation via in-app chat, email, or Facebook messenger before picking up the phone to call for customer service.

But often, the information — or context — gathered from the time these customers spent online is completely invisible to the agent.

High-value customer engagement increasingly takes place through social media, proactive notifications, and chatbots — so giving customers and agents the ability to communicate seamlessly across channels is key to providing the best customer experiences. When an agent understands what product a customer is looking for, what problem the customer is trying to solve, or what that customer has recently done on a social network, that information helps the agent make better decisions and arrive at a solution more efficiently. When the context is seamlessly blended into the experience, customers move down the path to resolution very quickly.

Providing context to your contact center agents, however, isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Transferring context from one communication channel to the next doesn’t work with just any contact center technology: legacy and siloed software systems can’t handle such hand-offs. That’s why it’s critical to choose a customer engagement platform designed for true omnichannel communications.