As is generally known, many roads lead to Rome – and to customers too. Today, the customer journey is a complex process; many touchpoints guide the digitally networked buyer during the decision-making process. Holistic coordination is needed so that all channels can be optimally used in the course of integrated overall communication – or in other words: omni-channel management. The objective is for the customer to no longer perceive changes between the individual channels at all.
Today, the customer journey is considered the starting point for all questions concerning digitization of customer interaction. In this context, omni-channel management is considered to be state of the art. But how do we actually understand this term? How is omni-channel different from multi-channel and cross-channel management?
To put it plainly, the fact that products today are presented and sold across diverse channels is 'old hat'. Multi-channel strategies have long been established in the corporate landscape; they were learned by the customer. “Multi-channel” describes parallel distribution across several channels that are largely self-sufficient. There is usually no interaction between the channels; in this model, it is not possible for the customer to perform the process across channels from the information phase to the purchasing phase. So he or she is usually bound to the path they initially choose. In multi-channel management, the accumulation of individual elements does not provide any added value for the provider of products or services.
Identical Information Across All Channels
Cross-channel management represents a significant further development when compared to multi-channel management. Companies also usually serve several sales channels in parallel with cross-channel methods. The critical difference in comparison to multi-channel approaches is that the customer can change information and sales channels during his or her customer journey. Because cross-channel strategies always present identical information about products, whether the platform is the website, brochures or catalogs, or a salesperson in a store. During the purchasing process, the buyer can easily switch between different information and communication paths.
This can be illustrated with an example: An advertisement in a magazine generates the customer’s interest in a product. As a result, he turns to the Internet to inform himself about the object of his choice and to compare it with other products. As a locally connected person, he finally visits the retailer he trusts and buys the item there. In cross-channel management, the challenge for the provider is to ensure consistent information about the products across all channels. Central coordination of product information is essential for achieving this. However, sales channels often continue to remain separate, both technically and organizationally.
Omni-channel management requires sound
analysis and evaluation of the customer
journey. Identical information across all
sales channels must be ensured.