Elements of Omni-Channel User Experiences

The main idea of Omni-Channel is a synchronization of all services that you let your customers interact with. All service channels must be connected, integrated, and consistent because your user should think about your company, service or product as a holistic, integral and unique object.

In fact, it is a plan that is used to deliver content optimally and in high quality on all channels (1). So what is E-commerce Omni-channel, to which elements of Omni-channel User Experience we should mostly pay attention and how should we use them in Product development - we will find out in this article.

What is Omni-Channel?

The customer is acting in different ways, he can interact with a product or service by web and mobile app, kiosk, supermarket and so on. Also, the customer can interact in different ways - by talking, viewing, touching, swiping, scrolling and clicking. Each  of those ways of interaction has a relation to some channels, it relates to channels. Some customers are buying a product immediately just from the first visit to your site. But commonly, this is just a happy exception from rules of marketing. It is possible and very welcome as a long-awaited gift from Santa, but strategical thinking aims marketers to use a design thinking approach to drive customers to buy a product.


Short history of buying

Let's check a relation of the consumer to retail which changed for 10 years from Single Channel Commerce to Omni-Channel User Experience. We will follow how the mechanism of influence on the potential client has changed. And maybe we will find out the answer - Is it nowadays really harder to sell than before?

So, in 1995 we had the Single Channel Commerce which consisted of store and warehouse. The customer didn`t have so many possibilities to interact with a product, just calling to a warehouse and ordering or shopping. That`s all. In 2000 with a gigantic growth of DOT.coms this relation becomes more interesting as civilization got basic features of e-commerce and could buy stuff with a personal computer, so we named it Separate channel commerce.

In 2008 everything started to change so quickly as we got a lot of gadgets and mobile apps where we could buy a product just sitting on a bus on our way home, so it was a Multi-Channel Commerce. Approximately in 2011, almost all the channels were connected except for the shops that remained the traditional physical place to purchase the product with the sellers, counters, and queues. And starting from 2015 we can observe the process of rebuilding stores with all other channels of influence on the buyer. From now on the store is not just a place where a product is placed on the counter. This is a multimedia space with the ability to test the product and to get in touch with all the other channels. If we take into account the extremely popular “early adopters” programs from the year 2017 - we can imagine how fast the channels of influence on the client should be developed in very close future.

5 elements of omni-channel User Experience

There are 5 elements of omni-channel UX, each of them should be considered as a necessary component of one whole, because of the whole essence - in unity and integrity.

  • Consistency
  • Availability
  • Channel-Neutrality
  • Context-Optimisation
  • Seamlessness

Consistency

Roughly speaking consistency is an adaptive design. And it consists of the following:

  • Buttons that we are used to (visual recognition)
  • Same shape and color of basket on site and in the application
  • Content and tone of voice
  • Same quality of features at any channel

When marketers are building a brand - they are making a theory of omni-channel User Experience and the main and most complicated task is to implement theory into reality (2). Keeping the quality of consistency is a deal for professionals, it is not just a manual, but a really deep understanding of nature of the brand. Especially when new possibilities appear and new platforms are available for marketing.

Availability

“It’s not enough to offer multiple channels or even to create a great experience in each” (3).

It is important that the user has a reasonable choice. This concept is very much related to the segmentation of the target audience. Different people use different devices at different times, under different circumstances. The company's mission is to enable users to freely choose how to interact with the product. Sales figures depend on this direction. There are of course cases in which this does not need to be done, there is a lot of work that is absurd to carry out, but accessibility - in any case, is necessary. Also if your brand lets user surf from one channel to another - it means that you respect your user and you have foreseen the various ups and downs of life he might face on the way to your product.

Channel-Neutrality

None of the channels should drag the blankets onto themselves. The coherence of the channels in their neutral (equal level) intensity will make your business much more successful than in a situation where one channel is most active.

The slower you go - the further you will get.

But not only this matters here. Uniform distribution of strength is the best strategy for good development. Plus, you will save yourself from the risk of losing a lot of money when one of the channels just does not cope with the job. if it is your main channel, where you dropped all the resources and all the money - it might be easy to lose the game.

Context-Optimisation

Leveraging the specific technological capabilities of each channel will let you maximize the result of each channel. It seems like a contradiction, but the thing is to keep the same “temperature” and effectiveness for every activity.

“Being aware of these device strengths and common contexts of use will help teams understand each device’s role in the customer journey and will enable them to design experiences that include practical and easy-to-use elements which meet users’ needs and expectations on each device and channel and at specific points in their journey.” (4)

We should understand the contexts of use and to do something like a SWAT-analysis, that will consist of such criteria for each device:

  • Common Channels for the device
  • Device Strengths
  • Context Assumptions

Seamlessness

The ease of switching from a shared channel to another is a seamlessness. If your user is not overworking while changing channels - your design is seamlessness. Companies are making a lot of efforts to make user path with zero efforts. And if stop-signal will appear while the user is changing the channel - it is unkind and losing of time. Switching from web browser to mobile app should be like coming from one room to another.

“Seamless customer journeys allow users to interact with organizations on their terms, resulting in great customer experiences and lasting relationships.” (5)

Only in case of strong collaboration all these elements can affect well on E-Commerce channel, that business is most interested in.

The next article will be about Informational Architecture and ways of organizing a content of the website or mobile app.


References:

  1. Enterprise Content and Search Management for Building Digital Platforms.Shailesh Kumar Shivakumar. More info here: https://books.google.com.ua/books?id=dlK9DQAAQBAJ&dq=omni-channel+user+experience&hl=uk
  2. Consistency in the Omnichannel Experience.Kim Flaherty. More info here: https://www.nngroup.com/articles/omnichannel-consistency/
  3. 5 Elements of Omni-Channel User Experiences.Danny Bluestone. More info here: https://uxmag.com/articles/5-elements-of-omni-channel-user-experiences
  4. Optimizing for Context in the Omnichannel User Experience. Kim Flaherty. More here: https://www.nngroup.com/articles/context-specific-cross-channel/
  5. Seamlessness in the Omnichannel User Experience.Kim Flaherty. More info here: https://www.nngroup.com/articles/seamless-cross-channel/