In many ways, the evolution of multichannel to multiexperience runs parallel to the digitization of the modern world. Prior to the 1990s, multichannel from a retail perspective meant selling products through a limited number of channels – in-store, through a mail-order catalog or door-to-door salesmen. Today there are a dizzying array of touchpoints a retailer can have with a customer, ranging from in-store to mobile apps to social media and more. And it’s not just retail. The COVID-19 pandemic has compelled every industry to re-think how they can engage with their customers. Ensuring a glitch-free, seamless experience requires IT infrastructures that can support real-time interactions between people, applications, data and clouds at the edge.
451 Research - Digital experiences are front and center in coping with coronavirus
This 451 Research report looks at the growing importance of digital services and how businesses can be well-equipped to provide better customer experiences.Read More
Defining the rise of multiple channels
Digital technologies such as cloud, mobile, social media, artificial intelligence (AI) and the internet of things (IoT) have paved the way for organizations to reach their customers in multiple ways. And, as these technologies advance, the focus is shifting from the channel (inside-out) to the experience (outside-in). In the words of entrepreneur and tech journalist Taylor Davidson, “The best technology fades into the background, because people don’t care about tech, they care about what it does.”[i] At the same time, they expect a fast, smooth experience. A slow app response may soon drive them to look elsewhere because “slow is the new down!” In fact, according to research by Microsoft, the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds to around eight seconds.[ii]
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the progression from multichannel to multiexperience:
Multichannel: Focuses on multiple channels to reach customers such as a physical location, website, mail-order, social media, etc. that are typically siloed and managed independently. For example, stores will have their own inventory separate from the website and sometimes items purchased online cannot be returned to the store. Or clicks from social media content are not tracked to website sales.
Omnichannel: Focuses on not just having multiple channels but also connecting them to work together for better customer insight and experience. This means that if the customer switches channels, their information travels with them for a more personalized experience. Omnichannel also extends the idea of channel beyond just physical and digital destinations to include emerging experience formats such as augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR). For omnichannel to work, organizations must integrate customer and inventory information to work across all channels.
Source: Fit Small Business[iii]
Multiexperience: Multiexperience was named by Gartner in their “Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2020,” and is defined as replacing technology-literate people with people-literate technology. In this trend, the traditional idea of a computer evolves from a single point of interaction to include multisensory and multitouchpoint interfaces like wearables and advanced computer sensors.[iv]
Designing for a multiexperience world
Moving from multichannel to multiexperience is no easy task. It goes beyond integrating data from multiple channels to ensuring the user experience is seamless and consistent, regardless of when, where and how the interaction takes place. OutSystems describes multiexperience as a shift in focus from channels (inside-out) to customer experience (outside-in) and notes three characteristics to consider when designing for a multiexperience world. It should:[v]
- Feel native to the device and interaction modality – the experience needs to cater to each device and touchpoint in a way that feels natural.
- Enable seamless switching between touchpoints – for example, you are watching a Netflix movie on your smart TV and stop it to go to a doctor’s appointment. You can then pick up where you left off on your smartphone in the waiting room.
- Be consistent, no matter the touchpoint – the brand’s digital touchpoints should feel and behave consistently, no matter the device or interaction method.
This design approach is like using touchpoint-agnostic LEGO bricks or “micro-jobs” that can be reused in and combined to make up a multiexperience customer journey. Each brick can be re-used in different touchpoints in different modalities, carrying their own user interface, behavior, logic and/or data. For example, a “micro-job” of paying with a credit card on a website could then be combined into a larger job such as ordering dinner and splitting the bill on a mobile app.
Looking ahead to a multiexperience future
While some companies have made inroads toward a multiexperience strategy, widespread concerns about data privacy have also slowed down progress. But the COVID-19 pandemic is beginning to strip away these barriers as governments, businesses and organizations are increasingly compelled to deliver their products and services through socially-distant digital experiences. And those that don’t are at risk of losing out.
As a case in point, since we are stuck at home these days, I decided to move up a home improvement project I’ve wanted to do for some time. As part of this project, we planned to purchase some new furniture from a store that has amazing in-store experiences. We thought ordering from their website would be as slick as going to the store but it was not. It was difficult to order from the website, the products took a long time to arrive and were mislabeled when we received them, which diminished our perception of this company.
In contrast to our furniture shopping experience, we are seeing many local eating establishments and other retailers have great success in quickly adapting to mobile ordering with curbside pickup, delivery or drive-through, as well as integration with other apps such as Uber Eats or DoorDash.
Why interconnection is a basic building block
All of these trends underscore the reality that customers expect a seamless, convenient, pleasant experience regardless of how, where or when they need a product or service. They don’t care about the channel. Providing this kind of experience depends on the fast, secure data exchange between businesses, users, digital ecosystems and IT providers. By leveraging an interconnection-based approach, organizations can securely integrate and exchange data with partners and harness deeper insights to deliver faster, trusted, more personalized multiexperiences. Interconnection improves performance and response time, helping to create the kind of mulitexperience that will maintain user attention in today’s digital attention deficit world.
Download the 451 Research white paper, “Digital experiences are front and center in coping with coronavirus,” to learn more about why digital experiences are growing in importance.
[i] Taylor Davidson, The best technology fades into the background, Jan 2012.
[ii] Digital Information World, The Human Attention Span [INFOGRAPHIC], Sept 2018.
[iii] Fit Small Business, Omnichannel vs Multichannel Retailing: The Ultimate Guide, Sept 2019.
[iv] Gartner Ebook, Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2020, Edited by David W. Cearley, 21 Oct 2019.
[v] OutSystems, Defining the Experience System: Going Beyond Design Systems, Mar 2020.