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Last Call for Omnichannel Integration - What is and How to Implement it?

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Last Call for Omnichannel Integration

According to the Gartner Report Omnichannel: Customers over channels, every year brands decide to implement an increasing number of selected on-site omnichannel features. Of course, they’re also more eager to promote them on digital marketing channels. What affects the popularity and, above all, the effectiveness of omnichannel? And why is it worth investing in it? Let's take a closer look at the (bright) future of this kind of solution!

Ever wondered what the buzz around omnichannel is all about? What’s so great about and how does it work? And what exactly does omnichannel even mean

As you can see in the statistics below, most companies implement it through solutions such as buy online/return in store, buy online/pick up in store or in-store pick-up during check-out. 

Omnichanel: Customers over channels, Chart from Gartner 2019
Omnichanel: Customers over channels, Gartner 2019 

However, as you probably guessed, these are not omnichannel’s only possibilities. 

Omnichannel - why do I need this?  

Let’s think a bit about the channels and what exactly we have in mind when talking about them. At Synerise, by “channel” we mean every point or place where you, as a brand, may have any kind of interaction with customers. Basically, a channel is a customer touchpoint and you need to have the possibility to engage your customer at every of them. 

Before you start working with omnichannel, you should ask yourself one important question - what kind of company do I represent? 

Types of companies based on AI usage and using of different communication channels

We can imagine companies of the first quadrant (usually simple e-commerce sites) as ones that have implemented one online channel of communication (such as a newsletter or social media platforms) or one channel of sales (website).  

The second quadrant includes companies using multiple communication & sales channels (for example online & mobile or mobile & pos – configurations may vary) but still have no AI solutions implemented.  

In third quadrant we may find companies who are running AI solutions but have them implemented in only one channel. The fourth quadrant seems like the Promised Land for brands that exist in multiple channels and with implemented AI solutions.  

The most “empowered” option for the company is to have AI implemented in more than one channel. It “unlocks” many use cases which cannot be accessed in any other way. Thus QDR2 & QDR3 have high potential to become QDR4 in order to implement Omnichannel AI.  

Important notice: if you have multiple channels, you’re on the right path and very close to where you want to be, but there is one last step you need to take—transforming the multichannel into omnichannel by the integration of customer data.  

This is where you have to define customer touchpoints where you want to engage customers with interactions. This will allow you to reach your customer in the most preferred channel and, using the data you collect, supply the algorithms and let them learn about customer preferences. You have to approach this step by step since implementation demands resources, time and of course data.  

Next step: defining the need 

You might be wondering why you still need to engage other activities when you already have an active POS channel and you’re communicating with your clients by email and SMS while selling your goods through a mobile app & ecommerce.  

There is quite a lot in your stack already, right? Why bother to go for more? Just take a look at the table below: 

Multichannel vs Omnichannel - comparison in the table

As you can see, the main issue in multichannel is the lack of consistency. Imagine the situation: you are buying a hi-end TV in retail store that also sells goods through an e-commerce platform. Do you want to receive information about an online-sale for hi-end TVs the day after you buy a TV in the retail store? Didn’t think so.  

Going for an omnichannel integration gives a brand advantages that allow it to understand the customer and make sure that the message the brand is sending is always accurate & consistent. 

Understanding an event 

Real-time data processing is the main factor behind this gap in communication. That is why we have decided to use events to determine the customer’s actions. These events include every possible action that customers can take within your ecosystem.  

Let’s take a look at an example:  

  1. John opened a mobile app.
  2. He found his loyalty card barcode...
  3. ...and scanned it during the transaction process in POS.
  4. Then paid for products...
  5. … and received mobile push message with transaction summary & calculated loyalty points.

In this case all the actions that John made are processed as events.  

Processing this data in real-time allows us to maintain a seamless customer experience & engage the customer at each step of this process if needed.  

Each event consists of an “action” parameter that allows you to mark the type of context and activity the customer is engaged in and other parameters that allow you to differentiate and describe in detail what exactly the customer did.  

After each customer action you have a chance to react. And when you see that there are no customer actions to record, remember that sometimes a lack of data is also an information

Reasons why these events are crucial 

Events describe all customer activities within your ecosystem, they are pieces of behavioral data that are transferred and power all communication channels while allowing you to run different kinds analytics. Each of them is “signed” by a unique customer identifier, which makes it possible to link or merge activities between channels and assign them to the right customer in your CRM.  

This is the step where your multichannel ecosystem is transformed into omnichannel!  

Let’s move on from omnichannel to a deeper level of understanding with event parameters. These are a feature of an event that allows you to analyze and understand exactly what customers have done.  

They should be as detailed and descriptive as possible. For example, if we have a “transaction.charge” action, it means that a customer made a transaction but if we dig deeper into the parameters we see that customer bought two products—one from each of two different categories.  

However, we decided not to do this every time a customer makes this kind of transaction, so we start prompting the customer after third transaction that contains sweets.  

Now imagine that we are able to do all of this in real-time. To process this kind of analysis and execution we need: 

  • Real time data processing
  • Events with proper parameters
  • Integrated channels in term of data processing
  • Unified customer identifier in all channels

Remember that data is the key. 
It’s crucial to keep the data consistent, if all the necessary information cannot be sent with current parameter configuration, then the parameters of an event need to be redefined. This is an easy process as schema-less databases allow us to easily add new parameters without changing the overall database structure. As a result, it’s easier to keep lower costs of the whole integration process. 

If you are interested in going deeper into events, you can learn more here. 

Placing the customer in the center of the process 

All the necessary integration between channels allows us to maintain data consistency. If we can reach this together with real-time data processing, then we have reached our main goal.  

One of the main requirements is to have a proper definition of the customer identifier that will be used as a KEY for all the customer merging processes. In Synerise the main customer identifier by default is an email address, but if needed it may be redefined into any other key that you require, like a phone number, a loyalty card, legacy CRM ID, etc.  

The schema below represents a potential technology stack that can be easily integrated with Synerise. As you can see, we integrate the online channels like a website, mobile app & traffic source platforms, DMPs all together with offline data sources like POS or Contact Center and other systems.  

We defined the customer main identifier that will allow us to merge the activities, we integrated the platform and we have the data stream transmitting the data properly. What are the next steps then?  

Synerise process of gathering data from different sources

Forget about the online/offline separation. This division makes no point in a connected world. The main idea is to put the customer in the center and supply the kind of customer experience that he expects. There are situations where the integration itself is not enough. There are situations where even customer touchpoints that are well integrated have issues when introducing real omnichannel.  

The last requirement is the company culture itself. Ecommerce silos, CRM silos and offline silos don’t make the omnichannel adaptation easier. It’s hard to act like an omnichannel company at customer touchpoints if each of them connects with separated silos in the company culture.  

That’s why, while thinking about the overall experience, you shouldn’t think about online/offline channel, think about the customer in the center of the experience that you, as a brand, provide. 

Summing Up 

So why should you invest in omnichannel and what is the goal of all of this? It’s the idea of providing a consistent customer experience based on data understanding. This should be a goal for all companies. Placing the customer in the center is possible thanks to real-time data processing and various customer touchpoint-data integration.  

It’s crucial to define the main customer identifier so all the data-matching processes can run smoothly. However, generally there is one main requirement that should be incorporated by everyone who wants to run omnichannel as a concept – once again, forget about the online/offline separation.  

Since all the technical requirements can be easily fulfilled, this online/offline division makes no sense in a connected world.