Omnichannel Customer Experience: a new lifestyle for Italian Brands

Italian consumers are increasingly omnichannel, or rather, they move extremely naturally from physical to digital channels and vice versa. The data provided by the 2017 Multichannel Observatory of the School of Management at the Polytechnic University of Milan highlight a current reality in which Internet is increasingly “accompanying” the Italian consumer in one or more phases of the purchasing process. Indeed, we are talking about a quota of 31.7 million, the equivalent of 60% of the 14+ Italian population, of which 20 million individuals are e-shoppers, or rather, they also make purchases online. Among these, of particular note are the Everywhere Shoppers, otherwise known as the most advanced consumers from an omnichannel point of view. These individuals favor e-commerce channels that guarantee a particularly gratifying experience. They appreciate personalized content and demonstrate a deep relational/social dimension. There are 6.3 million Everywhere Shoppers in Italy, an increase of 14% compared with 2016 (it is the segment that is growing most).

Among customers, therefore, there is a perceived demand for increasingly complex and structured omnichannel brand experiences.

In this context, the Polytechnic University of Milan’s School of Management with the Observatory on the Omnichannel Customer Experience” aimed to “shine” a spotlight on the importance of “omnichannel management”. More specifically, it wanted to highlight the opportunities for companies to manage their relationships with customers from an omnichannel perspective, with the aim of obtaining increasingly relevant and specific interactions with the consumer.


Are italian companies “mature”?


One of the questions that the Observatory asked itself in its first edition was as follows: In a reference context in which the number of multichannel consumers is very high, what is the level of maturity of Italian brands with regard to these requirements? The Observatory’s “Omnichannel Customer Experience: tra il dire e il fare” (between saying and doing) report, based on an analysis conducted through interviews, literature sources, surveys on 124 large and medium-large Italian companies, as well as discussion forums between supply and demand companies, seems to suggest an urgent need for an increased understanding on behalf of brands of the impact of an ever more customer centric approach.

Indeed, within companies, there is much talk of being omnichannel and top management commitment is generally high: in 63% of the cases analyzed, it was considered a fundamental path for strategic development. However, its implementation is still in the initial phases within the majority of companies, as demonstrated by the numerous maturity indicators revealed during the research. Only 10% of the sample of companies analyzed, for example, already had a discreet maturity in the integrated management of contact points and in the creation of a single customer view. On the other hand, a good 53% of the responding companies had not yet even implemented a unique CRM system, integrating all the customer registration data, including those relating to multiple products, brands and/or channels.


Those who start well are already halfway there


In order to guarantee an omnichannel experience, companies must start by adopting a strategy based on data (data strategy) along the entire relationship process with the customer. Therefore, first of all, it is important to understand how data are collected. According to the Observatory’s research, almost all the brands taken into consideration collect and store data from customer registration (98%) and purchasing history (86%), but also use data collected from analytics systems on owned channels (79%), from market/customer satisfaction surveys (76%), from online advertising (74%), loyalty cards (58%), and from one-to-one interactions (56%).

However, the sole collection of data is not enough without an accurate analysis phase: this information should be integrated into a single customer view logic. 78% of the companies integrated at least two kinds of data, 38% managed to reach 4 or more kinds, and only 17% more than 5 kinds. This means that the majority of companies limit themselves to combining customer registration and purchasing history data – the easiest, for the record – and only a small percentage of brands are able to integrate more complex data.

Once analyzed and integrated, the data can give rise to rules and triggers, such as CTAs, DEM, content personalization and product suggestions, that are able to provide a return on more relevant and specific interactions with the consumer. The final result (whose efficiency can also be measured in real time) coincides with an excellent content selection that becomes personalized, with the ability to predict future behavior (predictive analysis), and with a better understanding of the customer (data enrichment).


How is Omnichannel Customer Experience measured?


The benefits obtained from an omnichannel and data-driven approach are countless and can be both tangible (such as an increase in sales and lead generation) and intangible, such as a more personalized (and therefore more appreciated) communication, an improved engagement and loyalty, and the opportunity to receive useful feedback for the creation of new products/services.

To this regard, in only 25% of the companies interviewed was there a complete measurement system for all the main objectives linked to the customer experience. Meanwhile, for 64%, measurement was partial and related only to some of the objectives. Finally, the remaining 11% claimed not to have an adequate measurement system.


What are the supporting technologies?


In Italy, companies use different data collection technologies. These include unique CRM systems that integrate all the customer registration information (present at 46% of the companies interviewed); data hubs that integrate and combine data of a different nature from multiple sources by selecting those that are useful (21%); management and content creation technologies, such as DAM systems (19%); and data lakes, or rather, repositories for large volumes of unstructured data (38%). As far as insight generation from the data collected is concerned, advanced analytics tools were present at 21% of the companies analyzed. Meanwhile, Content Intelligence technologies, to analyze content semantics and profile the interests demonstrated by individuals, are still not widely taken advantage of, therefore, missing out on their potential. In terms of execution, tools that allow for the management of a specific channel are widespread, while automation marketing tools were encountered in 38% of the research cases.


Stepping into Changing Culture


To achieve a mature approach to the omnichannel customer experience, brands must innovate with a deep and pervasive corporate culture that affects the entire organization, through the designation of a well-defined team and a clear, shared performance measurement system. It is also necessary to work on overcoming a silos organizational structure, on the involvement of different BUs/departments, on formal coordination logics, on assigning explicit roles and on sufficient incentive systems.

Looking at the relationship between being omnichannel and top management commitment in the Observatory’s report, we can see that the omnichannel customer experience is a priority for only 8% of the companies, while, for 55%, it represents one of the paths for strategic development. There is no shortage of voices that state otherwise: for 23%, it is important but less of a priority than others; for 9%, it is not a priority; and there are those who believe that it is important for only one Business Unit (5%).


The Start-Ups Supporting Transformation


Finally, the Observatory’s report aimed to identify current trends and the main innovation levers linked to being omnichannel, through the analysis of 300 start-ups financed on an international and Italian level over the course of the last two years. From the data collected, it emerged that 22% of these oversee the collection and integration of data, and the creation of single customer views/relevant insights. Meanwhile, 19% focus on the management of a single touchpoint (compared with the 16% that create, organize, analyze and manage content in an integrated manner across different touchpoints). 17% focus on marketing automation techniques and, finally, a further 19% manage the entire omnichannel customer experience process.

This research has been able to give clarity to the opportunities and areas of improvement for a full adoption of the omnichannel customer experience management. Therefore, a loud and clear invitation to innovate emerges: brands must keep up with their consumers.

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