How to Create an Omnichannel Customer Strategy in 2022

We walk through the steps involved with creating and optimizing an omnichannel customer engagement strategy.

Why you need an omnichannel customer engagement strategy

An omnichannel customer engagement strategy lets companies reach and recognize customers at any phase in the customer journey regardless of channel. A truly omnichannel strategy enables a customer experience free of friction or confusion, even when people switch channels during a single interaction.

Organizations that apply an omnichannel engagement strategy can expect higher customer loyalty, retention, and revenue through the improved overall experience. Despite such benefits and the ones outlined below, our research shows that only 24% of businesses have successfully invested in omnichannel.

Omnichannel data from Segment’s 2021 State of Personalization Report.

Maintain consistency & personalization across different channels

A multi-channel approach keeps customer data siloed per channel. With an omnichannel customer engagement strategy, all your channels pull their data from a single source of truth.

This interconnectedness means you always act on the latest information wherever a customer interaction occurs. You can also switch seamlessly to a new channel and continue from whatever happened before. It’s the difference between starting a support interaction with a solution to someone’s problem versus asking them to repeat information they’ve already provided earlier.

This frictionless traversing of channels means your customers feel valued and understood. Personalized messages are always relevant and up to date, and you improve the efficiency of interactions like customer support inquiries.

“Frictionless omnichannel experiences allow organizations to not only provide customers with more purchase and fulfillment options, but also enable customers to quickly switch engagement methods in case of channel disruption. This enables marketing leaders to better protect business-critical revenue streams.” - Matt Moorut, principal analyst at Gartner Marketing

Engage customers on their preferred channels

Omnichannel customer engagement means customers can interact with you on the channels they prefer at a particular moment. It’s not just that they can choose email instead of SMS notifications. They can also switch from a customer support interaction on social media to your mobile app mid-session.

As part of an omnichannel approach, you also continuously analyze which channels each target audience prefers, so you can engage them there. Such insights give you early indications of emerging new, popular platforms, allowing you to keep up with changing customer preferences as they happen.

Sync marketing, sales, and support efforts

An omnichannel engagement strategy benefits your internal teams, as well as customers. All departments can access the single customer view and use this information to improve their processes and actions.

Say a customer just started a return process for a pair of shoes after complaining about their quality to your service department. Without an omnichannel strategy, that person might receive an automated cross-sell offer for socks from your marketing team, who are still unaware of the issue with the shoes. At best, such misplaced communication makes your company look foolish. More likely, the customer takes their business to a place that gets their omnichannel engagement right.

Challenges of constructing an omnichannel customer engagement strategy

Gartner predicts that 50% of large organizations will fail to unify their channels in 2022. The overarching obstacle to delivering omnichannel customer engagement is making sense of mountains of data.

Companies need to combine all the information they collect across the customer journey into an accurate picture of each person. They need to recognize and remove outdated data from such profiles while adding new insights in real time, all amidst mounting privacy regulations and security threats.

Preventing data silos

Traditionally, each department within an organization collected – and sometimes hoarded – their own customer information. Sales managed acquisition interactions and orders, Marketing email and advertising campaigns, and Customer Support questions and complaints. Such data silos lead to all kinds of problems, for example:

  • Wrongly timed communications – Sales and Marketing both send out a different offer to a customer on the same day.

  • Duplicated and outdated data – Both Marketing and Customer support store a customer’s email address, but only one department becomes aware of a change in that contact info.

  • Inappropriate messaging – The example we saw earlier in which Sales sent out a cross-sell offer based on a product that Customer Support knew the client was returning.

Since data forms the foundation of an omnichannel engagement strategy, success is only possible when the underlying information all teams work with is centralized, synced, and up to date. Overcoming this challenge requires breaking down both technical and cultural silos within your company (as we’ll further discuss in the next section below, “How to drive omnichannel customer engagement”).

Maintaining data consistency and creating a single customer view

You need to make data in various formats from many different places consistent before turning it into customer profiles. This process involves dealing with issues like:

  • Discrepancies in names, fields, or prefixes across sources

  • Arbitraging which data is correct if different information has been provided for the same data point

  • Transforming data that are completely unstructured into information you can analyze because it might hold important clues about your customers

Once you have consistent data, you need to apply identity resolution. This process attributes customer behavior and interactions from across touchpoints to a single unified customer profile.

Twilio Segment can handle data in many formats from almost any imaginable source and automate identity resolution. Once those essential steps are done, the consolidated information feeds into real-time customer profiles with a feature called Personas. This single customer view can be the hub for all your sales, marketing, product, and service initiatives.

Dealing with mounting privacy and security requirements

Unifying disparate data streams is hard enough but gets even more complex because of security and privacy considerations.

You must keep all customer information safe from theft and unauthorized manipulation. Your omnichannel practices also have to follow international privacy regulations like the GDPR and local ones in any market you operate. Such laws often restrict how you can collect, process, and store data.

“Make sure you have consumer consent, data governance, and are asking customers more about them to help personalize the experience over time.” — Rob Fuller, Managing Director of Consumer Data Orchestration at Accenture

How to drive omnichannel customer engagement

Engaging customers across channels requires the right technology and processes. You need a technical infrastructure that can handle and automate most of the challenges we’ve discussed earlier. But company departments also have to collaborate to harness the possibilities of such a tech stack and create a true omnichannel customer experience.

1. Centralize your data in a single hub

All your customer data needs to arrive in a single location to enable consistency, compliance, and security. Twilio Segment can act as such a central hub because it handles structured and unstructured data from many sources. Our platform also has built-in and automated security and identity resolution features.

Twilio Segment can send the consolidated information to hundreds of downstream destinations for activities like further analysis, omnichannel marketing campaigns, or product personalization. Another benefit is that your teams can connect their tools without in-depth technical knowledge or help from engineers.

2. Measure where & how customers interact with your brand

An omnichannel strategy doesn’t mean your brand should be active on every platform that exists – a mission impossible even for the largest companies. Instead, understand your customers’ communication channel preferences through ongoing quantitative and qualitative analysis. Then, make sure to offer a personalized, exceptional, and seamless experience in those places.

Twilio Segment helps you synthesize all information you collect about customers in profiles using the Personas feature. You can even do so from atypical sources like customer support chats, sales interactions, service requests, and brick-and-mortar retail records.

3. Target customers with customized messages on their preferred channels

You can only engage customers with messages that address their specific needs at a particular moment through a channel they use and, ideally, prefer.

Such personalized messaging should mostly rely on automation, triggered by data synthesized in your customer profiles. You can use demographics, actions on your website or product, and even predictive analytics about customer behavior to tailor and launch messages or campaigns.

Segment’s new Journeys feature lets you design such multi-step experiences across channels, using triggers based on customer behaviors and context.

Journeys’ user interface (UI) lets you visually build customer journeys for different customer profiles, campaigns, and contexts.

4. Integrate experiences across channels

Even when you know your customers’ preferred channels, they likely switch between those often or engage you through a new one unexpectedly. To keep a consistent experience, every channel you operate needs to pull its information from the same data source in real time. That way, a customer hopping from one touchpoint to another poses no challenge and has a seamless journey.

Besides building a single view of each customer, your engagement platform must be able to connect to as many data sources and destinations as possible. This interoperability ensures you use the latest customer data regardless of where that information has to travel to or from.

5. Use live chat tools to drive engagement 24/7

Some customers will get stuck no matter how well-orchestrated your engagement strategy is. They might have a question you didn’t address or take an action you couldn’t foresee. Others might simply prefer chat over searching for answers themselves.

Under such circumstances, live chat tools are indispensable. Both humans and chatbots can operate them and be of tremendous help providing customers with answers that get them back on the engaged track.

To do so, a customer needs the ability to escalate issues from bots to support agents. They, in turn, need to be able to continue a conversation across channels and have access to the latest customer data. Your support team can then personalize their communication and avoid customers having to repeat information from previous interactions.

6. Create an omnichannel company culture

Beyond technology, an omnichannel customer strategy requires a shift within your organization. Typically, each department stores its own data with its own tools to hit its own KPIs. That mindset needs to change for an omnichannel engagement strategy to succeed. Sephora calls this new mindset “omnitude,” meaning their employees “do whatever we can to delight our consumer wherever she is shopping with us.”

A platform like Twilio Engage democratizes data across the company, giving everyone access to the latest customer information and tools. But you’ll also need to create cross-functional teams instead of siloed departments and encourage collaboration through appropriate KPIs.

Instead of having a Sales team track leads and a Marketing team focused on conversions, you might, for example, let one cross-functional team focus on metrics like Net Promoter Score and Customer Lifetime Value.


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