Spotlight on omnichannel experience, Part 1

Aug 03, 2023
CX Thought Leadership

This is the first blog in a multi-part series presented by the CMA CX Council. Three CX leaders share their perspectives about omnichannel marketing initiatives. Read on to get each of their takes.

Meet Scott D’Cunha

Scott D’Cunha is a marketing and digital executive with almost 30 years of experience across multiple industries in the Canadian landscape. Scott, a Chartered Marketer, is the VP of eCommerce at the LCBO and has played a large role in the recent transformational efforts of its online business. 

Q&A on omnichannel perspectives

What does omnichannel mean to you?

That’s almost a loaded question! Because channels are emerging and evolving so rapidly in the global marketplace, it’s hard to lock down on a straight definition. But I would argue that today, omnichannel is the ability to leverage multiple channels in harmony to create easy and frictionless experiences for the customer and allow organizations to meet customer needs in ways they’d like to be served. 

What is a good example of omnichannel?

There are so many great examples out there. If you think of how the grocery industry is evolving with multiple formats, and now layering on the value of online, customers have multiple relevant ways to shop. Consider the value that Sobey’s Voila concept brings to the market – the ability to shop a full assortment and deliver within a scheduled delivery window sounds easy, but once you factor in the way that products are kept chilled, ambient or frozen on the journey, you better understand how logistics and planning are so critical to the experience. Or, how customers are kept updated so that they are available to receive their products. The pandemic encouraged customers to at least try this type of shopping experience. But the other mechanisms to service customers never went away – they were just enhanced by digital technologies. Shopping in-store, for example, can be made more expedient with click and collect, so you have a blend of solutions that are combined to bring fresh value – pardon the pun!

How are metrics and KPIs changing due to omnichannel programs being introduced?

Well, the metrics that are typically used for traditional channels are still important and the metrics used for online have been around for more than 20 years now. But from an omnichannel experience perspective, we have “combo metrics” evolving – like how online traffic converts to in-store purchase, how online returns contributes to overall returns at retail, or how online lead generation translates into business development opportunities. The other interesting one that organizations seem to have latched onto is delivering an optimal mix of online chat and in-person service in call centres, for example, looking at how to balance throughput and efficiency with personable service. To some degree, the nature of different omnichannel mixes derives different metrics. But essentially, the goal is still the same – to serve the customer to maximum effect with minimum effort. 

What are some good examples of offline platforms supporting online adoption and vice versa?  

If you think of click and collect, there is some really exciting work being done by Best Buy, especially in the U.S. They really do make it easier for customers to shop and buy online, then leverage a broad retail network for fast collection. Their store footprints are evolving to better deliver this service and they are looking to drive more efficiency continually. 

On the flip side, many organizations are recognizing the value of using stores to promote online offerings. A great example is Walmart. Something as simple as assigning online sales targets to stores based on geographic proximity, and reinforcing the “endless aisle” as a means to serve the customer simply encourages staff to drive the customer to explore online for products currently unavailable in-store. The massive investment – in the billions of dollars – in converting the stores to better allow omnichannel transactions tells you how much they believe in this approach.    

What is a lesson you would share with marketers embarking on a new omnichannel program?

It sounds simple, but just focus on the customer. Look for current pain points that a combination of channels can remove for customers, perhaps increasing convenience or broadening assortment, or allowing better scheduling for a service. For example, my local Honda dealership has removed many pains for getting winter tires replaced, simply by launching a low-tech scheduling tool online for customers. The service of booking a time has suddenly produced an alternative to calling in during business hours to get an appointment, or turning up to make an appointment.  

What are some of the key differences between multi-channel and omnichannel?

Multi-channel is a set of channels that serves customers in a defined but siloed kind of way. Every step of the journey in the channel stays in that specific channel.

Omnichannel is a lot more exciting as the customer can cut across channels to build experiences that are more meaningful for them. They gather loyalty points across channels, enjoy promotions across channels and can use customer service functions across channels as needed. 

How the practical differences manifest themselves is in the customer complaints and issues, such as “Why is the pricing different in one channel from another?”, or “Why can’t I return a product through the channel I didn’t buy it in?” Customers don't care about the hierarchies, structures, P&Ls and targets that an organization may have. In the customer's mind, they are dealing with one entity – and so should the organizations that are serving them. 

What are some lessons for organizations starting new in their omnichannel journey versus those with legacy?

The path to building omnichannel experiences isn’t easy. Not because the technology isn’t available, because it is. The larger issue is the challenge of thinking beyond the confines and structures that organizations have in place on what customers could really want and benefit from, and how the combination of solutions can be used to drive relevancy and stronger experiences and remove customer pain points.

It's worth remembering that during the pandemic, we realized that organizations who hadn’t invested in omnichannel had a harder time surviving the challenges compared to those that did. We also know that organizations that provided the customer with multiple ways to shop enjoyed better revenues and more loyalty. So, the prize is apparent – it helps futureproof your business and sets you up for a closer, more lucrative relationship with your customers. 

How can organizations mentor and develop talent for omnichannel?

Move people around. You need to have people work in different areas of a business to understand their potential. If you have strong talent in a channel, like retail or wholesale or online, play musical chairs, at least for a portion of a person’s career. They will learn a lot and have a better understanding of your organization and how things work in the context of omnichannel. The same is true in functional areas like sales, finance and HR – move strong people across functions, even if it’s just for a couple of years. It will open their eyes and give them fresh context of how a function works, and what can be applied where. And you now have people that can combine organizational parts to create new and exciting experiences that take advantage of all the great things being done. 

Read Part 2

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Scott D’Cunha

Vice President, eCommerce | LCBO




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