Today, commerce is platform agnostic. Consumers—particularly young consumers—prefer to shop from anywhere: on websites and in-store, via chat apps and social networks. They don’t stick to individual channels, either. Modern customers use three to five channels during a purchase journey.
When you align your customer experience strategy with your customers’ channel preferences, the impact is immense.
Purchase frequency is 250% higher on omnichannel strategies than single-channel alternatives. Order values are 13% greater, too. Customer retention improves. Lifetime value spikes. Strong omnichannel strategy drives an average 9.5% revenue growth—significantly higher than the 3.4% uptick for weak performers.
Despite the strong motivations and potential gains, few omnichannel strategies “have truly succeeded in building a comprehensive eCommerce experience for the customer,” according to McKinsey. “The perception that the effort would require an insurmountable amount of time and resources has been daunting enough to keep some companies from ever making the attempt.”
But managing an omnichannel D2C brand doesn’t need to be endlessly complex or costly. When they’re executed well, even small projects can deliver outsized results. Greg Tucker, a long-term customer experience executive turned award-winning advisor at Tucker & Company, believes his simple approach can help organizations strip away the complexities and deliver the essence of omnichannel.
1. Understand your customer’s experience across all channels
Virtually all consumers switch devices during the day. Seven in 10 in-store shoppers use their phones for research. Something as simple as making a reservation at a restaurant now involves six switches between a website and a mobile channel. These statistics illustrate a surprising fact: All companies, even those that have never heard of the term, are delivering an omnichannel experience.
“Everyone used to say, ‘We’d like to map our retail channel and online channel,’” explains Tucker. “But it all changed starting two years ago. People are realizing that it’s all one channel. It was always one channel. Every journey is omnichannel.”
Before making any changes to your strategy, you first need to understand what you’re already delivering.
First, define your segments or persona. These audiences represent a major homogenous user group for your business. They think, act, and shop in largely the same way. For eCommerce businesses, persona development is also relatively simple and quick, typically taking no more than a couple of weeks. However, it’s essential you get it right as it lays the foundation for what comes next.
As Bansri Desai, a Freshworks’ CX solutions strategist explains: “Understanding your target customer segments gives you the key to understanding how they will want to interact with your company.”
Next, exhaustively map out the journeys associated with each persona or segment. For example, you might have journeys for acquisition, new shoppers, subscriptions, refunds, and more. These describe the interactions a consumer is likely to have with your organization.
Crafting customer journeys is a mix of art and science. Tucker advises companies to pull from a variety of sources. For D2C omnichannel research, he starts with qualitative data. He’ll even go to the extent of jumping on a Zoom call with a consumer and letting them go through the whole journey.
“We look at where they go first,” he explains. “How do they search? What’s their path? We’ll have them dictate their journey, too. Why did you do this? Why did you do that?”
Each call is labor-intensive but you don’t need many to collect fantastic insights. After about 20 conversations, you won’t have seen everything, but you’ll be well over the 80:20 rule, according to Tucker.
Qualitative work is descriptive, telling you what your different segments are doing. But it doesn’t evaluate or measure them. Quantitative research solves that. Say an online D2C brand has five segments. One segment may be worth 50% of the market and another 5%. Those insights are invaluable for prioritization, remarks Tucker.
2. Determine what parts of your brand are most important
Customer experience is a broad discipline with hundreds of levers. Looking at all your customer journey maps, it can be difficult to know where to start. Faced with endless choices, leaders often delay decisions or select the latest buzzword.
Tucker recalls a restaurant chain that obsessed over the specifics of their customer experience. After commissioning a research study into 29 different customer experience elements, they discovered that 85% of the elements didn’t matter to consumers. This is a common trend.
Generally, consumers expect a lot from D2C brands as standard—things like strong self-serve knowledge bases, flexible subscription models, referrals and loyalty programs, one-click checkout across channels, personalized shopping experiences, and so on. But what moves them towards making a purchase are a handful of factors that make the brand stand out.
The restaurant Tucker mentioned identified four key differentiators: healthy food, taste, restaurant cleanliness, and friendly associates.
“The other 25 factors they studied—WiFi, power outlets at the seats, electronic ordering, specialty menus—didn’t matter,” he explains. “People were going in for four things. When they delivered on just those four things, their net promoter score was high.”
Most D2C leaders will have an inclination as to what sets them apart from their competitors. Eco-friendly deodorant Wild, for example, grew on the back of its personalization. Meanwhile, Dollar Shave Club built a business on pricing. The specifics of differentiation are less important. What matters is that businesses identify the brand elements that are most important to their customers and invest in customer journey improvements that augment them on every channel.
3. Identify what data you have and what data you need
One of the biggest blockers to customer experience (and wider customer-centricity) initiatives is that they exist within a product-centric legacy. Leaders still design company hierarchies along outmoded functional lines. Tooling exists to promote products and services, rather than experiences. And data is often transactional.
“Every system out there is set up to provide only a certain amount of data,” says Tucker. “That’s typically what people operate on because it’s easy to get.”
Operating on the wrong data can have disastrous consequences. Consider shopping cart abandonment data. Most eCommerce platforms will tell you how many users added products to their baskets and left before converting. That data appears to illustrate lost purchases, but it doesn’t. Today’s consumers use baskets as shopping lists, notepads, and calculators. Just adding a product to their basket doesn’t mean they ever intended to buy it.
Attempting to build new experiences without the right data to evaluate and guide your efforts is foolish. Instead, Tucker advises companies to audit their data. Start with your desired experiences and determine what data you need to execute. For example, if you want to provide an order status page showing precisely where someone’s package is, you need location data from your shipping provider.
The simple exercise brings their data deficiencies (and therefore their experiential deficiencies) into sharp relief. For example, if a traditional retailer wants to offer in-store pickup, they need store-specific inventory data and an understanding of how to apply it. Without that, the experience design grinds to a halt.
Broadly, organizations must delve into data generated at key-value generation points like chat conversation, shopping cart additions, payment, and loyalty point redemption. You must interrogate the why behind customer actions to understand what motivates them and what prevents them from progressing further in the value chain.
Tucker recommends CX leaders step into the role of data architect, suggesting they audit their current data sources, highlight the feature/experience deficiencies, and find a way to plug the gaps by working with the right teams.
Supercharge your customer centricity
“When people say everything’s an omnichannel experience, they’ve walked through the door of customer-centricity.”
According to Tucker, that’s a very good thing. Omnichannel aligns your business to what your customers want to achieve. While it’s rewarding for your customers, it’s a boon for shareholders and employees, too. It puts companies on the path to success. Omnichannel and customer-centricity support and reinforce each other, creating a virtuous cycle of improvement.
“Omnichannel requires a customer-centric mindset,” he says. “Otherwise, you will be efficient in your channel management, but you won’t be effective in transforming the customer experience. To me, they go hand in hand. Omnichannel is how you supercharge your customer-centricity.”