Today, for customer journey optimization matters more than ever, especially in the context of ecommerce development and omnichannel retail. An average customer is likely to be at equal ease shopping from a website as from an app. The customer is very likely to hop channels multiple times before a purchase is made. And so, it’s for businesses, of course, to figure out how this process of constant transition during various stages of the customer journey is made seamless. It’s the biggest challenge for businesses to offer instant gratification (especially through personalized experiences) to the customer on all channels.
While most businesses may now be focusing on creating flawless mobile app experiences, there is no escape from the reality that there is still a considerable population worldwide, that uses laptops, if not desktops, along with more than one mobile devices, every day.
A forecast from Statista reveals that, by 2020, the average number of connected devices per person is expected to be 6.58, a whopping spike from 3.47 in 2015. These are not just mobile devices, though. That simply implies that it’s not only wise, but also imperative, to direct efforts in the direction of creating a great omnichannel experience. Optimizing the customer journey for omnichannel retail is exactly what will be pulling ecommerce businesses through.
But, just what does the omnichannel reality mean for businesses?
What the Omnichannel Reality Means for Businesses
First, What is Omnichannel Retail?
To be able to understand how omnichannel customer journey optimization can be instrumental for businesses, it is rather important to understand what omnichannel retail is in essence.
Plainly speaking, omnichannel is an approach that aims at ensuring a seamless shopping experience on all channels, whether the customer chooses to shop on their laptop, smartphone, tablet, or even by telephone, or at a storefront.
Speaking rather technically, omnichannel integration essentially means that all the channels of distribution, promotion, as well as communication must sync at the back end.
While it aims to bridge the gap between different channels of purchasing, whether online or offline, the challenge is to create a smooth, flawless experience and consistent engagement for customers across all these channels.
What Challenges does Omnichannel Retail Present Businesses with?
While one customer may be shopping from a business on, say, three different channels, the customer is still one single entity; one single customer interacting in different ways on three different channels.
So, these interactions, which happen over multiple channels, cannot be seen as coming from different customers because that will fragment the customer journey for you. They must, therefore, be unified as coming from the same customer.
When customer journeys are not tracked and analyzed, this fragmentation is an evident result, leading to faulty conclusions about customer behavior.
And then, because of the tendency of the customers to keep on hopping from one channel to another (usually between mobile devices and laptops) during the entire course of the purchase, the risk of incomplete or even abandoned purchase always lurks large. To keep the customer coming back to you and still find things as they had left them, is the challenge that businesses have at hand.
How Omnichannel Retail and Customer Journeys Optimization are Related
The precise challenge for omnichannel retail is to optimize the customer journey on all channels. And to tackle this challenge, here are the two concepts that are indispensable for customer journey optimization:
1. Customer Journey Mapping
Customer journey mapping, simply put, is laying out a visual representation of the end-to-end customer experience across multiple channels as well as touch points. It starts right from the first point of contact when a potential customer becomes aware, to making choices and decisions, adding the product to the cart, buying, feedback, and even referrals.
Every step in the customer journey – awareness, consideration, purchase, advocacy, loyalty – is crucial and must, therefore, be mapped to figure out how the user interacts, what their preferences are, what their emotions, motivations, and concerns are like; even to making predictions about future purchases.
2. Customer Journey Analytics
While it may seem very similar to customer journey mapping, the essential difference lies in the fact that customer journey analytics, as Gartner makes it clear, is a process that tracks and analyzes the patterns in which customers use a mix of channels to interact with a seller. Not just that, it also takes into its scope, the present and future channels that offer a direct interface with the customers.
This is exactly the kind of support a business needs to personalize interactions at scale. This way it is possible to analyze millions of data points and touch points in real time, thus offering businesses, the advantage of prioritizing the most important journeys and using them achieve the larger goals of improving user experience, omnichannel customer experience, and revenue.
Now, as customers interact with your business through various touch points (social media, email marketing, product pages, and even through the kind of products in their shopping carts), they leave a treasure of data for businesses to map and analyze their journeys.
Customer journey mapping and analytics are able to present facts about what is going well and what not; what is bringing in business and what is causing loss of business. As omnichannel retail becomes the new ecommerce reality, optimizing the customer journey is an essential process in the way of integrating digital experiences for customers across multiple channels.
How to Go about Omnichannel Customer Journey Optimization?
With omnichannel retail becoming the new ‘normal’, the pressure of optimizing customer journeys is immense on businesses. Here are five great tips to optimize the customer journey for omnichannel retail:
1. Collate a Unified View of Customer Behavior across Channels
Across multiple channels, your customers (potential customers) constantly create data about their product preferences, likes, dislikes, digital behaviors, and the like. However, this data lies dispersed throughout different channels – website sessions, social media, email opens, forms, cart, app searches, purchases, returns, and more.
To be able to optimize the journey, it is important to first collate this data into a unified, coherent whole. Looking at the entire journey across all the channels gives you an organic view of what your customer’s journey is actually like, where you are succeeding in your efforts, and where you are going wrong. Omnichannel integration calls for cross-channel data integration.
Looking at these sets of data individually can be misleading more often than not. For example, looking at low sales through social channels may lead one to believe that social media channels are ineffective, which may be the wrong conclusion, given the fact that social media could be just one of those crucial touch points that act as influencers, which may be increasing the conversion rate on another channel.
2. Focus on the Most Important Journeys
Once you’ve mapped and analyzed your customers’ journeys, it becomes extremely important to focus on the important ones rather than on each case. As you proceed to analyze these journeys, you will be able to differentiate between the important ones and the trivial ones.
In the case of omnichannel retail customer journey optimization, you are likely to analyze millions of data points at one and the same time. With so much data, it is easy to lose sight of priority. So, the trick is to know your KPIs and quantitative metrics well. There must be hard facts in numbers that correspond to the journeys.
You need to figure out the costliest mistakes you are making during your customers’ journeys. Focus on glitches as well as opportunities that have the highest potential effect on your business. That way, you will know where to put your money to reap the maximum return on investment.
3. Track and Analyze Omnichannel Journeys in Real Time
As your customers access your channels, they prefer having relevant information that is customized to their needs in real time.
But, how do you provide that? By tracking and analyzing customer journeys in real time.
It is important to identify what the customer needs right there, right then. If not, you stand the risk of losing business. By connecting the dots among customers’ previous interactions, you land at creating a personalized experience for your customer, no matter what channel they are using at that moment.
Analytics will be able to help you with instant feedback on whether the personalized real-time improvisation has been well received by the customer. You will be able to draw meaning out of customer interactions and behavioral patterns in real time, giving you a chance to engage them with tailor-made experiences.
Customer journey optimization is all about ensuring a fruitful journey for your customers every time, everywhere they interact with you.
4. Predict Buying Intentions Earlier on
Prediction is part of the process when it comes to crafting a well-thought-out path for your customers. Customer journey mapping and analytics offer the immense advantage of making informed predictions.
From what analytics suggest, customers start exhibiting buying intentions through behavioral patterns right from the very initial points of interaction in their journey. With mapping and analytics, this data makes these intentions visible, thus enabling you to tap into their buying intentions and give stimulus at an early stage.
Waiting for a later stage to do this, brings with it, the risk of losing customers to competitors who have already exploited the situation by anticipating the buying intentions of the same customer.
5. Obtain Feedback to Decipher the Journey’s End
Feedback is one important tool that ecommerce has been using profusely. The value of feedback, however, is maximized when it is well-timed.
While the place for standard surveys and reviewing options (rating the experience, product, service, and the like) will always be secure, surveys based on customer journeys work even better.
Acting upon feedback comes as a staple part of customer journey optimization. Remember that the journey does not end with a purchase. It continues to advocacy and loyalty stages.
Feedback forms a part of the advocacy stage and reveals all the good things and the goof-ups that you made, and the customer witnessed as a part of their journey. Feedback will thus, lead you to discover if your journey with that very customer will continue or stop right there. This is how it will help you decipher the customer journey end.
Understanding customer journeys is the key to tackling an omnichannel setup. The way the customers interact and deal with digital channels is not only dynamic, but also highly demanding. The idea is to meet their needs right when, and, more importantly, where they need.
Using data from various channels and touchpoints to create an experience that the user will appreciate, is imperative to survive and thrive amidst the reality of omnichannel retail.
In a scenario where switching digital devices, is not only normal but almost inevitable, omnichannel customer journey optimization leads the way to create flawless digital shopping experiences across channels.