A guide to creating
an omnichannel

Author: Rose de Fremery

An omnichannel strategy can be an important part of a growth strategy. According to research from Salesforce, 64% of customers use multiple devices to start and complete single transactions and 80% of customers value the experiences companies offer as much as they value the products they're looking to purchase.

Creating an omnichannel strategy can be an important step toward improving customer retention and boosting bottom-line growth. It also can help future-ready your business in an era of continued digital transformation and market uncertainty. Here are the steps to developing an omnichannel strategy that sets your business up for even greater success.

How to create an omnichannel strategy

Creating an omnichannel strategy involves getting closer to your customers, understanding their tastes and preferences, and designing a customer experience centered squarely on them. The more effort you invest into this process at the beginning, the more likely you are to see the results you seek.

1. Discover your customers' favorite channels

Developing an omnichannel strategy begins with understanding where your customers invest their time and attention. This discovery phase should include the channels and devices they most often use. It should consider how they engage with your brick-and-mortar locations, if applicable, as well as some competitive analysis of how your competitors are already engaging customers in the same market.

You may be surprised to discover some gaps between the channels your business uses to engage your customers and the channels they most enjoy using. You may also find your customers are using those channels in ways you might not have expected—for example, they may be researching and initiating purchases on their mobile devices for pickup at a physical location or vice versa.

2. Identify your customer personas

Personalization can be one of the most compelling benefits of creating an omnichannel strategy. Accordingly, the next step in creating an omnichannel strategy involves identifying customer personas (or buyer personas, if you're in the B2B space) for the customers you already have and personas for the potential customers you hope to gain. Once you've defined all of your customer personas, you can segment your customers into groups for future omnichannel personalization.

3. Map your customers' journeys

Next, begin mapping out customer journeys. In this stage, you're essentially putting yourself in your customers' shoes, walking through the process of using your store’s resources to locate desired goods as if you were a customer from pre-purchase to post-purchase. For example, you might start on social media and follow a link to a specific product. Search for points of friction or missed opportunities to make the customer experience more satisfying or convenient by minimizing steps to purchase.

As you complete this step, you'll likely discover key gaps in the customer journey that you can improve. For instance, when making the jump from social media to your online store, did a customer have the opportunity to browse for other products they might also be interested in purchasing? Although it's intuitive to begin your customer journey mapping using the channels where your business already has an active presence, like social media outlets, also factor in any channels—like an email newsletter— you might not yet have embraced. This way, you can fully visualize your customers' ideal journeys.

4. Prioritize the right channels

As you develop an omnichannel strategy, prioritize your customers' favorite channels. One customer may find SMS messaging ideal, whereas another may respond especially well to social media or even push notifications. So, whether you're defining workflows for purchases or marketing campaigns, you'll need to define which channels take priority among different customer groups. It's well worth the effort to craft unique journeys for each of these customer types so the resulting experiences are personalized.

5. Integrate experiences across all channels

As part of the work you've done to envision your customer journeys, you may discover instances where you need better integration between various channels to provide that omnichannel experience. For example, you may want to make each of your channels as shoppable as possible, streamlining the purchasing process so it's convenient and quick wherever the customer happens to be active at a given moment.

6. Maximize your network performance

A high-quality omnichannel customer experience depends on a strong underlying infrastructure and a secure, high-performing network. This will be especially true if, in the course of developing an omnichannel strategy, you discover that bandwidth-intensive channels like video and voice are priority channels to pursue. Network performance will also be crucial if your omnichannel strategy anticipates leveraging future avenues of customer engagement like augmented and virtual reality.

Some businesses find network technologies like a software-defined wide-area network (SD WAN) beneficial for maximizing network performance in an omnichannel context. These technologies can also ensure the necessary redundancy to achieve business continuity—and maintain a smooth customer experience—in the event of an unexpected outage. 

Create an effective omnichannel strategy

Customers no longer make a meaningful distinction between various channels when engaging with a business—in their minds, those exchanges are all part of the same conversation with a company, and they should work flawlessly regardless of the context. Businesses that satisfy their customers' desire for seamless omnichannel experiences are rewarded with increased customer loyalty and a healthy bottom line.

Building an omnichannel strategy is a crucial step that must be performed with special care. If you haven't attempted this before, or if your business considers omnichannel engagement a priority but is also juggling other high-priority initiatives, it might be worth tapping the expertise of a trusted partner. A partner can assist you in crafting an omnichannel strategy, anticipating any challenges you might encounter and successfully weaving your customer experience technologies together.

Discover how Verizon's Contact Center and Customer Experience Solutions services help you build brand-defining customer experiences.

The author of this content is a paid contributor for Verizon.