Multichannel this & multichannel that

by Yeevon Ooi on 16 September 2011

Terms like multichannel marketing and multichannel business strategy have been cropping up a lot in articles, industry news, board meetings, brainstorm sessions, presentations, workshops … you name it. This prefix has been going around for a while now and has become a must have strategy for most businesses.

What’s interesting though is actually seeing it being put into good use. Having recently completed a few multichannel e-commerce projects for high street brands, I realised that there’s much room for improvement in making multichannel shopping a better experience. We know that a lot of businesses have multichannel offerings (e.g. website, high street store, call centre, catalogue, magazine) and a lot of consumers are multichannel shoppers. For example a persona we created for a client (based on real user research) called Sally. She has a tendency to read an email on her mobile devise that sparks a desire to buy something, she then browses through a selection of products online on multiple websites, checks out the products in a store, compares store prices with online prices, then goes home and purchases the product(s) online and waits for it to be delivered.

It all sounds pretty straightforward, but what can a business do to improve this process to create a truly seamless multichannel experience?

  • Remember the whole customer life-cycle:

The first step is to really understand how your brand interacts throughout the entire customer life-cycle. Understanding consumers’ buying behaviour via different research methodologies (e.g. ethnographic studies, interviews, diary studies) can provide rich insights into the details for the design that will make a big difference. In short, putting yourself in your customers’ shoes and listening to what they have to say (in a structured way) and watching what they do is a great way to glean insights into how to develop a multichannel experience and get it right.

  • Design each interaction properly:

There are several structured processes and tools from multidisciplinary fields (…pun not intended) that can be used to improve multichannel customer experiences. Starting with the concept of designing for multiple touchpoints taken from the field of service design is a good plan.

As consumers usually come in contact with a brand from different points (or channels in relation to this article), which you can pin down with good user research, it is important to identify and focus on each interaction to ensure that the customer experience is designed for its purpose every time. Following that, the challenge is to ensure a seamless transition from one touchpoint to another and a consistent brand representation throughout. More about the topic of service design can be found in this brilliant bookThis is Service Design Thinking.

The most important aspect however is that different businesses have different priorities, so always adapt and apply these concepts so they fit with the business strategy and target market. I’m sure there are more ways out there that have been successfully implemented to make this work, it’ll be interesting to know what you think in the comments below!

By the way, if you are involved in the retail sector or are interested to learn which brands have created the best multichannel customer experiences and how to do the same, then join up for our newsletter on our homepage or follow us on twitter to make sure you get your hands on our Retail Multichannel Report first!

Picture from New York Times Fashion&Style: Next step for fashion label – Cyberboutiques

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