Posted on February 2, 2015 by

Designing and Managing a Multichannel Architecture

2014 was the year when digital became a significant priority for organisations, for the first time customers were becoming more advanced in the use of technologies and with this came a greater level of expectation. Customers (Including me) expected things in digital to be quicker, and just work. However most were left disappointed (including me) when trying to achieve something using their preferred mode, only to be told you need to visit our store or when in store, that’s only available online

Digital commerce has changed the way we shop forever – it’s no longer enough for brands to limit themselves to one channel when it comes to attracting and keeping customers

The growth of mobile

To compound things the growth of mobile has brought another challenge for organisations. With more of us owning and using smart phones as our every day “go to” device, there is a greater expectation that our online life should also extend to our mobile life. In a working day it is more likely that a customer will interact with their service provider with their mobile rather than the traditional desktop.

However here is the catch, most customers also expect to be able to move from one device to another with no interruptions.

So very quickly it became obvious to organisations that being digital is just an entry point.  Customers don’t view it as a digital experience; they view it as a whole experience, and expect to fulfil their needs regardless of how many channels they use.

Customers do not split their dealings with a brand into experience by channel, they just experience ‘the brand’ as a whole

The only thing that matters is the customer can achieve what they need and it meets their overall expectations.

We need to be multi channel

To meet these needs most companies have moved away from the mind-set of being digital first. It became apparent customers wanted the same experiences across all their channels.

Out of this need, multi channel became the new imperative.

Before we jump in and understand the issues with this, we should attempt to answer what is multi channel, and why it is becoming crucial in this digital economy we now live in.

What is multi channel?

Multi-channel is a strategy that offers your customers a choice of ways to buy or get support for products and services offered by brands. A true multi-channel strategy covers awareness through to support.  For example purchases could be from a store, a website, telephone ordering, mail orders, interactive television, catalog ordering and comparison-shopping sites.  The aim of a multi-channel strategy is to maximize revenue and loyalty by offering your customers choice and convenience.

“A successful multi-channel strategy offers your customers a consistent quality of experience, whichever channel they use”

Seems fairly straight forward, but why do some organisations fail, or in cases struggle to know where to start?

To understand this we need to take a step back and understand the struggles some organisations have faced making their first steps into digital.

Initial approach to digital

The move to digital over the past couple of years has been met with varied levels of success.  The ones that succeeded were the companies that viewed digital as an opportunity to think outside the box, and evaluate the way they delivered services through the eyes of their customers. However there were cases where this thought process was not applied, and as customers we tended to suffer.  Older capabilities were simply transferred online, without asking if these are the capabilities our customers actually needed.

These assumptions resulted in a negative experience, and in the long term could affected how customers valued their service provider and often led to customers moving to service providers who got digital correctly..

Where should we not be digital

Out of these assumptions organisations also lost sight of the capabilities that did not fit in the digital life of the customer. There could be a variety of reasons for the lack of suitability, such as regulatory and of course there is complexity.  This list is not exhaustive, but the point is that not every capability is a candidate for digital. With no view of the capabilities and their current abilities, decisions were made based on demand rather than what is possible.

Don’t be Distracted by just digital…it’s the Human connections that ultimately will create moments of magic and longer lasting relationships in the digital economy.

Traditional measures applied to digital

Historically organisations measured capability performance and usage based on a simple set of metrics, which usually led them to an overall cost reduction or a possible uplift. The advent of digital has changed this mind-set, and requires a whole different set of measurements. While most organisations accept this, knowing what to measure in this new world is often not understood.

A new way of thinking is required

Moving to digital is not an easy task, and bringing into the mix the concept of even more channels brings a new level of complexity. Clearly old schools of thought need to change, and a more holistic approach is needed.  Existing capabilities must now be viewed from the eyes of the customer, but importantly aligned to the areas of the organisation, which need to change.  The Business Design discipline provides the opportunity to not only identify these areas, but also build a joined up picture of the areas involved in meeting customer needs.

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 21.45.40

This full customer picture sharpens the focus on where the key capabilities are being used, and what the impacts would be for the customer i.e. a significant change

A customer and business aligned viewpoint also helps spot possible channel improvements, which will not only improve the customer experience, but also the internal delivery aspects too.

Modelling new futures

A cohesive approach brings a new perspective on how new offerings are created and implemented into the business. Using new viewpoints and models we slowly build a picture of where, and when it is appropriate to introduce capabilities across specific channels.  Using familiar viewpoints stakeholders can finally start to explore potential futures, and understand the customer, and business impacts prior to making decisions.

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 21.46.00

Through incremental modelling and design, organisations can eventually align all the various moving parts to deliver things customer’s want, when they want, but in ways they never thought possible.

Is about evolution not revolution

The customer is clearly going to continue to play a bigger part in the way organisations deliver their offerings.  Being able to define the various models and viewpoints, which align the needs with the capabilities that need to change enables organisations to plan, but also evolve their existing capabilities.

Clearly this is a significant benefit, but there are some others worth calling out

  • Investment focus – Management can focus on the customer needs, which the organisation must fulfil.  This also allows for the selection of appropriate channels, related cost and impacts.
  • Prioritise projects – We know which initiatives will create the most value.
  • Focused areas of opportunity – We know where the appropriate channel opportunities are, which create the most customer value
  • Pull rather than push – We provide the channels, which attract customers to our organisation due to an understanding of their needs.
  • Business capability gaps – Focusing on the channels customers need to access allows us to identify gaps in our capability delivery i.e. do our capabilities align to customer needs.
  • Technology Impacts – Full view of customer impacts if and when technology changes occur.
  • Transformation Full Picture – The full 360 picture of the business is considered which removes the chances of customer value added resources being removed or impacted.
  • Customer driven change – Understanding your customer motivations and their experiences will lead to more customer-focused initiatives.

Moving to a multi-channel architecture is not an easy exercise, but having the ability to build a map towards real value, ensures impacts are understood, but also the right outcomes for customers are prioritised in the right channels.

Organisations who get their multi-channel strategies correct, will have a better chance of not only retaining and attracting new customers, but also creating moments of magic. This can lead to deeper human connections, which will result in longer lasting customer relationships; ensuring organisations remain relevant in the customers new eco system.

Sources:

  1. Organisation Image, Milan Guenther / Intersection