How to Create an Omnichannel Customer Strategy

We walk through the steps involved with creating and optimizing an omnichannel customer engagement strategy.

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What is omnichannel customer engagement?

Omnichannel customer engagement refers to the interactions that occur between a business and a consumer across different channels. The goal of omnichannel engagement is to create a seamless experience for customers, even as they move between different devices and touchpoints. These interactions are meant to feel continuous.

For example, if a person is speaking with a chatbot on a website and is then transferred to a call with a service representative, that representative should already be up to speed on the context of the conversation (i.e., not asking the person to repeat the information and essentially “start over”). 

Omnichannel customer engagement examples

Netflix is a classic example of omnichannel engagement. When you start a show on your smartphone, you can stop at any time and switch to a new device to resume at the exact timestamp that you left off at.  

Another example of omnichannel customer engagement speaks to a new phenomenon with shopping: the hybrid of online and in-store browsing. For instance, a person can purchase an item online and then enter their zip code to see if it’s available for pickup in a nearby store (rather than wait on delivery). While checking out, the customer may show a QR code that the brand sent to them via email, offering a discount on their next purchase. The cashier is able to scan the QR code, and the customer completes the transaction with 10% off the original price.

3 benefits of an omnichannel customer strategy

An omnichannel customer engagement strategy is focused on reaching and recognizing customers at any phase of their journey, regardless of the channel(s) they use. A truly omnichannel strategy creates a customer experience free of friction or confusion, even when people switch channels during a single interaction.

Organizations that apply an omnichannel engagement strategy can expect higher loyalty, retention, and revenue through the improved overall experience. But research shows that only 24% of businesses have successfully invested in omnichannel experiences.

omnichannel-2021-report

Findings from Segment’s State of Personalization Report.

Here are three main benefits of an omnichannel customer engagement strategy.

1. Maintain consistency & personalization across different channels

With an omnichannel customer engagement strategy, every team pulls data from a single source of truth. In other words, teams aren’t operating with a siloed view of customer behavior (i.e., only accessing data generated from their owned channels).  

This interconnectedness means you always act on the most up-to-date information, rather than delivering stale or no longer relevant messaging. 

“Frictionless omnichannel experiences allow organizations to not only provide customers with more purchase and fulfillment options, but also enable customers to quickly switch engagement methods in case of channel disruption. This enables marketing leaders to better protect business-critical revenue streams.” Matt Moorut, principal analyst at Gartner Marketing

2. Engage customers on their preferred channels

Omnichannel customer engagement means people can interact with you on the channels they prefer at that particular moment. It’s not just that they can choose email instead of SMS notifications. They can also switch from a customer support interaction on social media to your mobile app mid-session.

As part of an omnichannel approach, you can continuously analyze which channels each target audience prefers and engage with them there. These insights can give early indications of emerging and popular modes of communication, allowing you to keep up with changing customer preferences.

3. Sync marketing, sales, and support efforts

An omnichannel engagement strategy benefits your internal teams as well as your customers.

Say a customer just started a return process for a pair of shoes after complaining about their quality to your service department. Without an omnichannel strategy, that person might receive an automated cross-sell offer from your marketing team, who were unaware of the issue. At best, this misplaced communication makes your company look foolish. But more likely, the customer takes their business to a company that gets their omnichannel engagement right.

6 steps to drive omnichannel customer engagement

Engaging customers across channels requires the right technology, infrastructure, and processes. Below are six steps for achieving omnichannel customer engagement.

1. Centralize your data in a single hub

All your customer data needs to be consolidated into a single repository to ensure consistency, compliance, and security. Twilio Segment allows companies to do this at scale, automating the collection, cleaning, transformation, and consolidation of data from a myriad of sources – along with offering built-in security and identity resolution features.

centralize-data

Twilio Segment can then send this consolidated data to hundreds of downstream destinations for activation. Another benefit is that teams (of all technical skill sets) can easily connect new tools to their larger tech stack using pre-built integrations.

2. Measure where & how customers interact with your brand

An omnichannel strategy doesn’t mean your brand should be active on every single channel that exists. Instead, it’s about understanding which channels your customers prefer, using both quantitative and qualitative analysis.

Twilio Segment helps you synthesize this information into real-time customer profiles (consolidating data from every touchpoint, whether it’s customer support chats, sales interactions, service requests, brick-and-mortar retail records, or more). Then, you can automate which channel you engage with specific users on based on their behavior.

3. Target customers with customized messages on their preferred channels

Beyond engaging with customers on their preferred channels, businesses also need to tailor these interactions. 

To personalize messaging at scale, businesses should incorporate some form of automation – like triggering a specific interaction based on real-time customer behavior (e.g., the third time someone views a product they haven’t yet purchased, they’re sent a discount code to encourage a conversion). 

With Twilio Engage, teams can design these kinds of multi-step experiences across channels.

Journeys-Segment

Twilio Engage lets you visually build customer journeys for different users based on their behavior, preferences, or other traits.

4. Integrate experiences across channels

A key element of the omnichannel experience is integration, or the ability to move between channels without encountering friction. Creating an integrated experience begins with your data infrastructure: connecting all tools and apps within your tech stack, and building pipelines to transfer the data generated in these tools to a central hub. 

5. Use live chat tools to drive engagement 24/7

Some customers will get stuck no matter how well-orchestrated your engagement strategy is. They might have a question you didn’t address or take an action you couldn’t foresee. Others might simply prefer chat over searching for answers themselves.

Under such circumstances, live chat tools are indispensable. Both humans and chatbots can operate them and be of tremendous help providing customers with answers that get them back on the engaged track.

To do so, a customer needs the ability to escalate issues from bots to support agents. They, in turn, need to be able to continue a conversation across channels and have access to the latest customer data. Your support team can then personalize their communication and avoid customers having to repeat information from previous interactions.

live-chat

6. Create an omnichannel company culture

An omnichannel customer strategy may require a culture shift within your organization – focusing more on cross-functional collaboration and data democratization. Typically, each department is concerned with their own KPIs, and the data in their owned tools. That mindset needs to change for an omnichannel engagement strategy to succeed. 

Sephora calls this new mindset “omnitude,” meaning their employees “do whatever we can to delight our consumer wherever she is shopping with us.”

Watch out for these omnichannel customer engagement challenges

Every industry understands the importance of delivering an omnichannel experience. But actually implementing it continues to be a challenge. From evolving tech stacks, to integrating different tools and data sources, ensuring data quality, real-time responsiveness, and adhering to privacy regulations, there is a lot for businesses to tackle.

Below, we list a few common challenges to watch out for when striving to implement omnichannel customer engagement.  

Preventing data silos

Data silos can create numerous headaches for your business, such as wrongly timed communications or duplicated and outdated data (which skews reporting and can undermine decision making). 

Since data is the foundation of a winning omnichannel engagement strategy, success is only possible when that data is centralized, synced, and up to date. Overcoming this challenge requires breaking down both technical and cultural silos within your company.

Maintaining data consistency and creating a single customer view

Data is versatile. Whether it’s structured, unstructured, or semi-structured, businesses have to think through the process of consolidation, cleaning, and transformation to ensure accuracy. To maintain data consistency, businesses should follow a universal tracking plan to create alignment on what’s being tracked and naming conventions. This will help prevent duplicate or incomplete entries from wreaking havoc on data sets. 

Businesses can then stitch together data points from the same user or account into a single profile.  Learn more about how Segment creates holistic user profiles which are synced to businesses’ data warehouses, to guarantee real-time updates

Dealing with mounting privacy and security requirements

In recent years, we’ve seen increased concern over data privacy and security. Evolving privacy regulations can be difficult to keep up with, but it’s paramount that businesses prioritize this for legal and ethical reasons. Always make sure that your organization is adhering to both local and global privacy concerns, depending on where you do business. 

To help navigate the data privacy landscape, check out our guide Cookies, Compliance, and Customer Data

“Make sure you have consumer consent, data governance, and are asking customers more about them to help personalize the experience over time.” - Rob Fuller, Managing Director of Consumer Data Orchestration at Accenture.


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Frequently asked questions

An omnichannel approach to customer engagement is when customers are able to switch between devices and channels as they interact with a business, without encountering any disruptions or points of friction.

Disney’s Magic Band program is an excellent example of omnichannel customer engagement. When you arrive at a Disney theme park, you get a wristband. This Magic Band allows you to unlock your room, skip the line for attractions, and make payments inside Disney properties.

Such functionalities are convenient for visitors. But the band also generates data, which Disney uses across all its offline and digital channels for personalized messages, recommendations, and tips to provide an unforgettable omnichannel customer experience.

First, you need to break down data silos and collect all customer information in a central hub. Then you need to understand how and where people prefer to interact with your brand.

With that knowledge, you orchestrate personalized messaging across channels to offer an integrated, seamless customer experience. Finally, you need to ensure your organization has the tools and incentives to collaborate across departments.

Twilio Segment’s customer data platform is able to unify data from various different sources, ensure its quality and cleanliness at scale, integrate data in a central repository (like a data lake or warehouse), and then activate that data in downstream destinations. This allows businesses to engage with customers on every channel based on real-time data. Specific Segment features include:

  • Connections: Create an integrated tech stack with custom and pre-built integrations.

  • Profiles Sync: This allows businesses to merge the complete history of their customers (across channels) into a single profile, which updates in real time. These profiles can then be synced from Segment to your data warehouse for further enrichment.

  • Reverse ETL: Extract data from your warehouse and sync it with downstream destinations.

  • Journeys: Design multi-step, personalized interactions with customers (at scale) using real-time data.