By Upinder Zutshi

L’Oréal made an inspired move when it launched ‘Makeup Genius’—an app that let women try out L’Oréal’s cosmetics by converting their smartphone cameras into a kind of virtual mirror backed by augmented reality. What made this more exciting was not just that they could share these images of their new looks on Facebook, but also that they could simply click to purchase the product they had tried on through L’Oréal’s linkup with an e-commerce platform, Priceline.

This is a great example of how technology innovations can offer an integrated customer experience. Today’s average customer is digitally connected and can access the information they seek at their fingertips. This connectedness offers several possibilities to businesses—new ways and channels to keep their customers engaged. Making use of these possibilities to cultivate consistent customer interactions can help businesses to improve their offering and strengthen brand loyalty.

A smorgasbord of technology conduits

The average customer uses multiple digital platforms, and providing touchpoints to help them interact with your business can positively influence their perspective and experience. This includes everything from various social media platforms, messaging platforms on social networks, mobile technology, smartphone apps, chatbots and virtual assistants, and automated customer services. These digital innovations are helping businesses stay connected with consumers through different stages of their experience—be it research and evaluation, purchase, delivery, consumption, or post-delivery, and usage. What organizations need to do well is to arrive at the right mix of channels and modes to engage customers, in keeping with their brand and their product/service, and the demographics of their customers. This must resonate with the brand image and values of the business and the typical expectations that customers have of it.

Technology tools enable not only multiple touch points but also reduce the time and effort that customers require at various stages of their experience. It is therefore very important for businesses to ensure that the customer’s experience across multiple touch points is seamless by integrating the channels. For organizations designing such an omnichannel strategy, it is also an opportunity to simultaneously build a distinctive digital identity and voice—one that their customers can identify with and feel connected to, across various platforms.

I believe what will really elevate such an attempt at omnichannel customer engagement is to set up every touchpoint so as to have the capability for service—whether it is through embedded support, context-sensitive responses, quick resolution options, supported self-service, or customized options, relevant inputs, and conveniently minimized actions.

Technology has got your back

Business growth in the future will be strongly influenced by the depth and reach of such omnichannel customer engagement. Technology is also ensuring that they are successful guided expeditions.

The benefits of data: While there are multiple conduits in an omnichannel strategy, each becomes a source of data on the customer. Big data analytics allows for a constant stream of information and insights on customer preferences, habits, and behaviors. This can not only help companies understand customers better, but also help develop products accordingly. Personalization is another key aspect of this customer experience. It is not just enough to reach customers in multiple ways, but it is also equally important to ensure that each such interaction is tailored to be effective, satisfying, and result-oriented. And data and analytics can facilitate such personalized interactions. Amazon, for instance, demonstrates this when it customizes its “recommendations” based on products you have been searching for—if you have been browsing for leather bags, Amazon would recommend to you more types and brands of leather bags. Thanks to this engagement strategy, in 2015 44% of consumers began their search for products on Amazon.
Efficient measurement: Further, it is possible to measure customer engagement along such technology channels with specific metrics to get the effort right. For instance, if time is a metric for customers on a portal, one can measure the time they spent on the entire process, the stages that took longer, those that needed improvements, the steps that could have been streamlined, and the touchpoints where the customer liked to spend time. Regular and effective monitoring and measurement of channels can strengthen customer engagement.
Reinforcing the technology framework to offer the best customer experience also means that businesses need to integrate their data, information, and systems behind the scenes, and ensure that the physical and digital realms are integrated. When this is done right, not only can customers easily jump between different touchpoints and minimize their actions businesses can also streamline operations and maximize what they derive from a customer’s journey.

Successful customer engagement has always been about keeping the customer’s interest through the highest levels of service. The same principles are important when designing a technology-led customer engagement strategy. Whether you are interacting with your customers via two touchpoints or with twenty, every single one of them should speak in a consistent brand voice and should be service-centered. Customers are bound to reward personalized service with positive feedback and loyalty.