Conversational Messaging

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Omnichannel Messaging: A New Era of Connected Commerce

Jenna Alburger

April 9, 2021

Messaging is redefining what it means to be omnichannel. It enables seamless customer journeys, deeper brand relationships, and connected experiences at scale. 

As we quickly approach a new era of commerce, omnichannel messaging is critical. With it, brands are closer than ever to delivering on the promise of a seamless, unified, customer journey. 

The standards for omnichannel experiences are evolving

The goal of an omnichannel strategy is to provide a singular, unified, and contextual experience at every touchpoint. How that looks in practice is much different than looked just a few years ago. 

In retail, for example, people often point to the American department store chain J.C. Penny as an example of omnichannel success. As recently as 2019, it received praise from TotalRetail for its ability to deliver the following "omnichannel" experiences:

  • the ability for customers to buy online and pick up in-store
  • the ability to search for in-store products on a brand’s digital properties including stock availability data
  • shared cart across channels for logged-in shoppers (e.g., mobile to desktop)
  • the ability for loyalty points to be earned and redeemed across channels
  • cross-channel product returns (e.g., return online purchases in-store)
  • The ability to ship from store/endless aisle
  • Pricing consistency across channels

While these are all positive, they are experiences that most of us expect from retailers today. They are no longer differentiating factors, only standards for good customer service. 

As more brands embrace digital-first mindset, what we consider "omnichannel" is changing--and it's changing fast. Having an e-commerce website with logistic capabilities to get the product to a customer is no longer an omnichannel success story. 

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Omnichannel messaging moves us closer to a zero-friction future

It's a misconception that omnichannel means that you have to be on every channel. Instead, the idea is delivering an "omni," all-encompassing experience.

Right now, most business have a website, communication channels, and maybe a branded app. As such, it's necessary to unify those experiences in a way that makes them contextual and relevant for the user. 

But in search of truly omnichannel experiences, leading global players are consolidating their channels into one digital hub. Instead of requiring customers to bounce between their app,  website, and other channels, they are aggregating them all through messaging apps

Messaging brings brands to get closer to the definition of omnichannel, serving as a singular interface for all of the customers' needs. It simplifies all aspects of a transaction, from discovery to purchase to fulfillment. Shopping becomes virtually effortless.

COVID-19 strengthens the case for omnichannel messaging

The new demand for omnichannel experiences is being accelerated by COVID-19. The pandemic is rapidly changing our behavior toward online channels, and the shift is likely to stay.

As customer behavior changes, the approach to customer-centricity changes with it. This comes with a new set of challenges for sales, customer support, and marketing teams alike. 

According to Shopify's 2021 Future of Commerce report, over half (54%) of consumers shifted more of their spending to online shopping since the pandemic was declared, compared to earlier this year.

New stores created on the Shopify platform grew 71% in Q2 2020 compared to Q1 2020, with a record number of merchants added to the platform in Q3. The impact of this rapid shift is felt across departments.

Support teams need to control costs and retain customers 

For support teams, omnichannel messaging helps meet two urgent needs: the need to control costs, and the need to keep customers. In the aftermath of the pandemic, customer support volume increased and has yet to level off. 

Long hold times have rendered phones irrelevant, live chat systems are overwhelmed, and email support is not meeting expectations. At the same time, brands cannot afford an uptick in customer churn. 

Omnichannel messaging provides better experiences, and is proven to impact customer retention. Companies with omnichannel customer engagement strategies retain on average 89% of their customers, compared to customer retention rate of 33% for companies with weak omnichannel customer engagement.

Automation, a key component of omnichannel messaging, helps brands meet higher support volumes without hiring more workers. It gets customers immediate answers to routine questions, freeing up human agents for higher value work. 

Marketing teams face increasingly high customer acquisition costs (CAC)

The cost to acquire new customers was already climbing, especially in the financial services and retail sectors. The pandemic has only made it worse. Major advertisers with deep pockets are shifting their budgets to digital channels, effectively driving up the price of digital ads. 

As a result, marketers face pressure to invest in activities with higher returns. Omnichannel messaging has predictable returns and offers a deeper level of engagement with prospects. 

Sales teams are finding it harder to clearly define sales stages, implement CRMs, and strengthen relationships with potential customers

Lastly, the lines between marketing, sales, and support are not as clear as they once were. The shift online requires more cooperation between departments as the roles of each team blend together. 

Omnichannel messaging breaks down the silos between departments to create a truly unified experience. Empowered by data and automation, sales teams have knowledge and tools they need to move prospects through the sales funnel. 

When businesses are able to listen, overcome objections, and make personalized suggestions, the experience is more likely to turn into a sale. Omnichannel messaging is what makes this possible at scale.


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