Successful omnichannel strategies depend on consistent experiences across all interactions. These can provide many benefits to both the internal and external sides of your organization, including the back-end processes that inform how day-to-day operations occur as well as the many ways in which your target audience can interact with you. By having a well-defined and effective strategy in place, a brand’s omnichannel goals can be more fully achieved and effective in their implementation.

Whether you have yet to develop an omnichannel strategy or are in the midst of executing one and looking for improvements, the following eight practices can help avoid unnecessary complications and keep your strategies on target.

1. Emphasize Fluidity and Consistency

Harvard Business Review reported that 73% of those who participated in their survey switch between multiple channels during their customer journey. When designing or updating your mobile presence, making sure that users can easily shift between devices without losing important information will avoid stall points during the customer journey. Ensuring data continuity on the back end will help make these smooth transitions possible. No one wants to start their shopping progress all over again when they change devices or become unable to find what they need due to drastically changing layouts. Consistency can lead to frustration-free experiences. Many older companies are built on software that keeps customer data contained within a single or a few departments. However, this can prevent other departments from using said data to provide more useful information and create a consistent profile. By breaking down silos, this data can be used to its greatest degree by all relevant aspects of a company.

2. Provide Real-Time Updates

In order to have a true omnichannel experience, everything from order status to search history must be updated in real time so that what is done in one location is reflected in all others. According to Accenture research, 71 percent of customers expect to be able to view store inventory online and 50 percent expect to be able to order online and pick up in store. Improving the continuity of business data through integration between online information and retail inventory can avoid frustrations for customers caused by going through an entire journey, only to find that the services they want are not currently available.

3. Allow Internet of Things Connectivity

The Internet of Things (IoT) and its role in both everyday life and business continues to grow every year. Studies show that this form of connectivity will only continue to grow in usage over the coming years, with Gartner predicting 20.4 billion IoT enabled units in use worldwide by 2020. As such, enabling your software, devices and applications to be able to communicate and connect with others in order to access the Internet of Things will not only allow today’s customers to have a unique omnichannel experience, but allow future IoT integration to be implemented smoothly as its role in everyday life continues to grow.

4. Consider How Your Channels Are Used

While every channel, both internally and externally, should be given proper attention, your channels may be used in different ways. Analyze user behavior to see how your audience more commonly uses mobile, apps, desktop, social media and more. In-depth analytics that measure time of use, use frequency, users paths, bounce rates, referral sources, user profiles and more will allow you to see how different types of audience members frequently navigate through your company’s online presence, including moments of truth along the way, which determine whether they will continue toward making a purchase or leave for a competitor. In addition, consider how your company internally communicates and what processes can be refined to prevent redundancy and complications.

5. Digitally Supplement In-Person Experiences

Not only should online interactions inform in-person experiences, but the two should blend together for new, unique experiences. For example, augmented reality can allow customers to experience virtual aspects of a store when visiting in person for new and unique interactions. In doing so, a brand can embrace all aspects of the omnichannel experience instead of completely foregoing in-person interactions in favor of an online-only presence. Pottery Barn recently introduced an AR app that allows customers to overlay furniture onto their living space through their smartphone screen to see how the brand can fit their real world needs. The blending of these types of experiences will help further blur the lines between channels for a more cohesive experience.

6. Map Out Customer Journeys

You will need to know the path that customers take from their first interaction with your brand to the close of a sale in order to ensure that they are able to move from point to point smoothly. Keep in mind that there are many possible journeys, so you will need to ensure that many different points of entry and paths are addressed. Today’s customer journeys include mobile searches, desktop purchases, in-person customer service, app downloads and more, which all come together to empower customers to find what they want. A successful map adapts to many different points of entry and interests.

7. Leverage Messaging to Meet Audience Needs

More people than ever are using messaging to communicate with businesses, such as Facebook Messenger. Rather than calling a customer service representative or getting their questions answered in person, audiences are using messaging apps to communicate directly with representatives in order to receive answers to questions and even order products or services. While these messaging needs can be met in several ways, including the growing use of chatbots, incorporating messaging within a larger omnichannel strategy provides yet another channel of communication and prevents audiences from feeling like their overall experience with a company is missing an element.

8. Empower Your In-Person Representation

Many brands who embrace omnichannel are only focused on their online experiences, but if you have brick-and-mortar locations, they can play a huge role in omnichannel. As many sales are closed in person, employees will need to be equipped with devices that can see a customer’s history, interests and reasons for visiting a location in order to quickly meet their needs and value their time. Doing so will make in-person interactions a powerful aspect of your company’s sale, rather than a weak point.

Successfully Implementing Your Omnichannel Strategy

While there will be many specific actions needed for your own unique needs and goals, creating an actionable timeline, potential budget and employee roles when determining how to best implement these eight practices into your brand’s needs will help get you started. In doing so, your company will be better equipped to improve their omnichannel experience and stay on target in both short- and long-term strategies.

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There’s always more to learn when it comes to effectively applying an omnichannel strategy to your unique goals as a company.

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