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Art thou Omnichannel-ing?

Amongst an insane number of challenges, hardships, awakenings, and self-realizations, the 2020 pandemic also brought about an 84% increase in consumers' digital engagement with online retailers and e-commerce platforms. Those that had rarely engaged with brands online, or at all, found themselves trying to communicate with their favorite product and service providers from the comfort (debatable, we know) of their homes.

Suddenly, online businesses were seeing an exponential influx of customer queries and complaints and spent a good chunk of their time directed toward providing satisfying online customer service. In 2020 between April to August, companies experienced an increase in customer chats by 23% compared to January to March of that year.

Due to this, in the time that followed, companies started to realize the importance of delivering an exceptional customer experience to their online shoppers. The key was to provide a personalized experience to the online consumer as if they were being assisted in a typical brick-and-mortar store. So much so that when 1,920 businesses were asked, what their number one priority for the next five years would be, 46% of companies stated that it would be customer experience and not their products, services, or pricing. Imagine the significance of this dynamic shift in selling when the products or services firms are selling and the price they are selling at is no longer their most significant concern.

So what is Omnichannel?

Omnichannel places the customer in the center, unlike the multichannel approach, where the product is the main focus. With the main aim of providing a seamless online experience for consumers, Omnichannel allows products and services to be sold through multiple "access points" such as laptops, tablets, and of course, the mobile phone. The key is these "access points" are personal to the individual user and the stage they're at of the customer lifecycle. It merges the boundaries between marketing and sales channels to approach customers in a more personalized manner, taking into account the stage they are at in the customer lifecycle.

We are all aware of how much WhatsApp changed our lives and how it has become an essential personal communication tool, allowing us to plan and schedule a dinner with friends or even organize professional activities with colleagues. This is also becoming more and more the case for customer/brand relationships. But we have to look further and understand that it's not only about the device that the customer might choose but also the platform.

Suppose we were to remove ourselves from the technical challenges. In that case, Omnichannel should mean Everywhere, Anywhere, and Anytime, and always with the same capability to deliver optimal service, support, and sales no matter where a customer's conversation may begin. Also, our goal must be to exceed the customer's expectations, be truly helpful, and create a lasting experience whenever possible. This is a goal in itself already highly ambitious, and how we go about being able to build such an experience will ultimately dictate our success.

HQF Inc. provides a personalized touch tailored to Sarah and her online shopping journey. HQF Inc., through its omnichannel strategy, anticipates its customer's requirements and proceeds to not only meet them but provide a memorable customer experience leading to increased brand loyalty from Sarah.

This displays the difference between the omnichannel strategy method, which puts the consumer at the forefront of their sales, compared to the multichannel strategy, which focuses primarily on the product or service itself. Multichannel relies on mass marketing, i.e., putting the product/service out there and seeing who it attracts. On the other hand, Omnichannel is more focused on identifying the customers' needs based on where they are on the customer lifecycle.

So, art thou omnichannel-ing?

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