Is an omnichannel application right for your business?

Frank Zinghini

Founder & CEO
Is an omnichannel application right for your business?

Nine out of 10 people want an omnichannel customer experience. Since most customers are expecting an omnichannel experience, you will want to give some serious thought as to whether an omnichannel application is right for your specific project and business.

Let’s take a closer look at what really goes into omnichannel app and what you need to think about should you decide it is the right move.

The basics: Defining a truly omnichannel application

The term “omnichannel” is probably not new to you, but it is often lumped together with a similar term—multichannel. Both approaches address the fact that the “customers” of your applications (whether they be end users or internal employees) expect to be able to interact with your business across multiple technologies, platforms, and devices. They want to engage with you on their desktop, tablet, smartphone, and in-store kiosks, as well as via voice, chat, text, and social media.

In a multichannel approach, you make most or all of these channels available to your customers, so they can choose the most convenient method for them at any given time. An omnichannel approach, however, takes this a step further with seamless integration between channels. In an omnichannel application, a user can start a process in your mobile app and continue the process later on, right where they left off, on their desktop, without skipping a beat or losing any information.

A truly omnichannel application allows you to communicate and nurture your relationship with customers across all possible channels. A single, fluid relationship improves the customer experience, increasing loyalty and, of course, revenue.

Deep dive: What to consider when creating an omnichannel application

Despite all of the benefits of an omnichannel application, we don’t recommend assuming it is always the best choice. It is an architectural challenge that can’t be addressed by one specific tool.

It is an entire collection of software that lets your customers and users interact with you. It may include such items as a website, a web app, a mobile app, a tablet app, and even an Alexa app. It may also include your customer service department if you have one, and the channels or applications they use to communicate with and assist customers. It encompasses every part of the digital relationship you’re trying to build with your end users.

To accomplish this, you have to build your application in such a way that you can operate it from any of a variety of channels. It has to be “stateless,” so users can perform actions on one channel and then pick that same action up in another channel. There is a lot of technical work that goes into building an omnichannel application, such as proper use of the cloud, service-oriented architectures, microservices, and application programming interfaces (APIs).

Before you take on this challenge, you’ll want to be sure it is going to pay off, either through increased revenue, improved customer satisfaction scores, or some other desirable business benefit.

There are some things to keep in mind when trying to make this decision. Think about how your customers want to interact with you, and how you want to interact with them.  What kind of devices do they expect to be able to use to interact with you? Is it desktop-only, mobile-only, mobile-first, or omnichannel? Answer this question before you start designing or building anything, because the answer will determine what you build and how you build it. 

Remember that once you choose a path, it’s hard to backtrack. In other words, don’t assume you can easily switch over to an omnichannel application once you’re deep in the weeds of a mobile-centric approach.

If you do decide that an omnichannel application is the way to go, keep the following best practices in mind.

Align your goals and messaging across all channels 

It’s important to make sure that you establish consistent and clear messaging across all channels. This goes beyond the technical team building the application infrastructure. It requires the inclusion of stakeholders across the business, including sales, product development, product management, marketing, and customer support. 

Everyone should be informed early on about the goals and objectives. Create a unified, single strategy to implement across all channels.

Focus on the omnichannel customer journey and experience 

It’s not enough to simply provide access to multiple channels. Think about how users will work in each channel and how they will move from one channel to another. We have always placed a heavy emphasis on the customer journey, and it is even more important when creating an omnichannel application.

Users have high expectations. Movement from one channel to another should be seamless and consistent. This means design, navigation, and even the wording and messaging in each medium should match. The user shouldn’t have to think or change their behavior as they navigate across channels. 

We recommend conducting user interviews to make sure you find out how actual users will move around the application, rather than assuming you know what they will do. Build customer journey maps to visualize how users will move from one channel to another.

Make mobile a priority 

While it is true you want to offer many channels to your customers, mobile is one that we think deserves some extra attention. (Before you make this decision, though, check the analytics for your site and app to see which channel your users are using most.) 

As a general rule, people spend more than 2 hours per day using mobile apps, so they are likely to spend the bulk of their time in this channel.

You can highly personalize the mobile app experience through in-app messages and information on product/service updates or promotions that are pertinent to that individual. You can do this by leveraging customer data you may have in your CRM or derived from social media. 

Given the time people spend in mobile apps, a little extra investment in this channel can go a long way toward increasing user retention and conversion rates. There are certain steps you can take to increase the success rate of your mobile app, which we have shared with you in a handy checklist. We recommend using this as a guide to make sure your mobile app stands out and gives your users what they want.

Use customer data wisely 

As users engage with your business across channels, you will gather quite a lot of data about them. Just as you need to give your customers a single experience in an omnichannel application, you need a single view of your customers.

Data from all channels should be gathered and analyzed to give you a holistic view. Then, you can maximize the ways in which you can personalize interactions and make effective plans for the future as you continue to refine and improve the omnichannel experience. You also need to pay attention to the privacy and security of that data; regulatory bodies are becoming more strict about the management and auditability of customer permissions and confidentiality.

Be sure you have the right business expertise on your team 

You will need a team with a high degree of business expertise and analysis to identify the right channels to support and effectively develop navigation between channels, consistent with branding and messaging, and delivering a single user experience across all mediums. This effort will require more than a traditional team of coders and developers. 

Don’t try to “go it alone” if you don’t have the in-house expertise. You will risk spending even more time and money having to fix things that weren’t done properly the first time around. The challenge of an omnichannel application requires a deep team comprised of varied technical and business knowledge.