Multi-channel has been the customer experience mantra of the past few years – Designing and building the capabilities for customers to engage and transact with retailers through a variety of channels.  Now that multi-channel is increasing in maturity, the next step being discussed is the All Channel Experience.  However, opinion is divided – what really is the difference? 

Is it out with the old and in with the new?  No, it’s more about deciding whether to get the matching handbag. 

In the blue corner, we have those who say the All Channel Experience (sometimes referred to as omni-channel) is just a passing phase and will be forgotten along with our new year’s resolutions (January wasn’t intended for salads, anyway).  Multi-channel provides retailers with the strategy they need to win.However, in the red corner, there are those that believe, in order to succeed and maintain customer loyalty, retailers need to build on the multi-channel experience and offer an All Channel Experience.  

Drawing on the many definitions out there, the All Channel Experience is about taking multi-channel a step further to deliver a seamless customer experience across all relevant channels simultaneously, with data and insight at its core.  No matter which channel the customer uses, or if they switch between channels during the purchase, their experience of the brand is consistent.  Based on this, there seems no need to choose sides, for some retailers All Channel is the obvious next step – for others the challenge of multi-channel is sufficient at present.

But before we declare it a draw, let’s delve a little deeper into what an All Channel Experience really means.  We, as consumers, are changing – more and more of us research what we want to buy online, go into store to make the purchase and then comment about our purchase through social media.  At the same time we expect the experience to be more than just having the same name above the door/on top of the web page.  I think an All Channel Experience is about:

  • Providing real-time interaction and service between Social, Mobile and Local channels throughout the customer’s journey, including a knowledge of the customer’s previous interactions with the brand via any of these channels
  • Offering consistent products, prices, promotions and content across all channels
  • Enabling customers to research and reserve online before collecting in store – click and collect
  • Joining up internal systems and processes – for example with fulfilment, if an order cannot be fulfilled from the distribution centre can a store or a partner deliver it at a time and location convenient to the customer?
  • Consolidating data about consumer’s intent, emotion and journey to provide  holistic and relevant

John Lewis and Argos are examples of two retailers leading the way – they were some of the first to tackle multi-channel, moving from traditional bricks and mortar to online offerings and are now embracing All Channel principles. Argos’ click and collect service was highlighted as a success in the press last week, customers order online or through mobile and then collectin store – a seamless brand experience across a number of channels, that puts the customer in control of their shopping experience. 

In addition, John Lewis has recently expanded its click and collect network to include Waitrose branches – opening up this experience to all those customers who don’t have a John Lewis in their town but do have a Waitrose.  In a week where we have seen more retailers go into administration after struggling to fight off competition from strong online retailers, it’s evident the necessity for an All Channel Experience is growing.  (Click to read more about Argos and John Lewis’ journeys with blogs from James Bowers and Emma James.)

Having spent the past 6 months working within a multi-channel programme, I think it is obvious that you need a solid multi-channel platform before embarking on the All Channel Experience.  However, to say that All Channel is a passing phase would be negligent.  As always, usinesses need to think about what is right for their customers and relevant to their brand: All Channel may not be for everyone.  However, if retailers can push the financial and organisational headaches to one side, the All Channel Experience can bring additional benefits – joining up the way the channels work behind the scenes (from Facebook to fulfilment to feedback) and providing greater visibility of customer behaviour.   

When investing in multi-channel and the future of your business across people, process and technology, a solution that will extend to allow the All Channel Experience should be at the forefront of your mind.

Maybe it’s a woman thing, I want the shoes AND the handbag, but I’m erring towards the red corner – today’s best in class retailers should be striving for an All Channel offering.  ROUND 1: Master the multi-channel strategy… ROUND 2: Investigate the All Channel Experience for a truly joined up and relevant brand experience… ROUND 3: Who knows, but I would think twice before calling it a passing phase.

To find out more about Capgemini’s All Channel Experience, click here.