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Customer Experience, Design, Ideas

Optimizing for an Omni-Channel Experience

4 minute read | By: Patrick K. Donnelly

Users encounter your organization across multiple channels every day: desktop, mobile, offline, and back again. Supporting this (cross-channel or multi-channel) reality is critical to doing business in a world where digital runs deep in most people’s daily experience, however providing a brand experience that spans these channels is not enough. Today, brands must strive to support their customers using an omni-channel user experience strategy that provides a continuity of experience. It’s not about optimizing each channel. It’s about providing an experience that feels seamless as you move back and forth between them. Because that’s what users do. They pogo stick between and across channels and your brand must support that reality.

Why Users Pogo Stick

Why do users pogo between channels when completing even a single task?

Why don’t users just stay put and finish what they started where they started? There are many reasons, but these three will give you a foundation for trying to understand this ecosystem:

  1. Users choose the most convenient device for the task: Users decide and you can’t control their preferences and habits. They choose the platform that is most convenient—the one at hand—or they choose the one they prefer. Some users don’t like doing complicated tasks on tiny screens or typing much more than a text message on glass. Younger users many have forgotten the desktop even exists and will dive into just about anything on a mobile device because immediacy matters most to them.
  2. Users run into a roadblock on the initial channel: Ever start something on your phone and quickly realize you’ve reached a dead end because that company’s product or service doesn’t support that particular set of tasks on that particular device? The moment the user feels stuck is the moment your brand fails. An omni-channel UX strategy aims to eliminate this from happening, by identifying possible roadblocks and finding ways to open up the road.
  3. The task workflow requires them to switch: Sometimes the roadblock is by design. A company has decided that this particular task should not be done on a phone/tablet/whatever-comes-next so they simply don’t support it on that platform. This is a risk but at least it’s a calculated risk, so make sure you take care to ease their transition from one platform to the next if you force them to switch mid-stream.

Omni-channel in the B2B Space

And according to Forbes, optimizing for an omni-channel world is just as critical to B2B companies as it is in B2C:

“Omnichannel is not just a buzzword: Buyers are demanding it. Almost three-quarters of B2B buyers told us that they look-up product information online and expect it be consistent across any channel. Sixty-eight percent also highlighted that it is important or very important to be able to view all their activities across all channels. Buyers today expect an omnichannel experience where they can view product information, analyze activities, account history, take delivery, return and exchange across all channels. Two-thirds of B2B companies told us that their customers are expecting omnichannel capabilities from them, with a further sixty percent of respondents expecting to see a rise in customer satisfaction metrics due to omnichannel initiatives. Over half of respondents anticipate that omnichannel customers have higher lifetime value.”

How to Support an Omni-Channel User/Customer Experience

Nowhere does user experience matter more than in an omni-channel world. Delivering an optimized omni-channel experience means you have to be sort of omniscient. You must have a deep understanding of where and when users might switch and how they will continue as they experience your product or service across channels. And the only way to get that done is to map and analyze touch points.

Supporting an omni-channel experience comes back to the user journey.

Standard UX methodology must be applied across the channels, with a special emphasis on identifying jump points, places where the user might be tempted or forced to change the channel and where they might fail because of that shift. If you want to optimize for the omni-channel world, start with fundamentals:

Map the user journey: Understanding each point along the customer journey is never as important as it is in an omni-channel world. Brands must map and identifying each touch point on the journey, with the context of multiple channels in mind: What happens if the user switches channels at this point? How do we support them if they do? How do we make that switch seamless? We’ve discussed this before, but it’s worth repeating. Mapping and optimizing the customer journey is a critical component of brand strategy and CXM.

  • Create a continuous, seamless flow: When a user takes an action in one channel, that action must be reflected in all other channels.
  • Identify and clear the roadblocks on each channel: You can’t be sure which platform a user will choose to enter any particular task flow or when they might switch. Not only should their actions be reflected across channels, your team must anticipate and clear roadblocks. Testing matters more than ever. Have users walk through task flows and have them do so starting on one platform and moving to another, and back again.

If you want to win at customer experience you will take omni-channel user as a high priority, serious pursuit. There are no quick workarounds and this challenge isn’t going away. It is getting more critical each and every day so make it an integral part of your planning, design and test strategy.