Omni-Channel User Experience: 12 Best Practices to Increase Customer Engagement

Omnichannel UX

Let’s be bold and make an assumption: You want to service your customers in the best way possible.

You want to engage your customers fully, offering them a fluid, personalized user experience that takes into account the time and place they are in and the digital devices they use the most. You want them to be seamlessly aided by contextual, specific information which helps them make the best choices, and to leave them with the feeling that ‘this company really gets what I genuinely care about’. Right?

That is what we aim for when creating omni-channel user experiences. A successful UX strategy makes it possible for customers to access your app via mobile. They can then transition to their tablet or laptop to finish their task, without having to start the process over again. Data and inputs are collected from these individual channels. When combined and shared throughout all channels, they create a complete, multi-faceted customer journey, focused and personalized around your customers and their specific needs.

Read on for best practices to consider when making smart, context-aware applications for clients across all industries.

How Different Devices Impact Omni-Channel Applications

Customers are more digitized than ever, with 85% of Americans now owning a smartphone. These devices offer quick access to media, entertainment, and communications, but are also valuable channels through which your business can interact with them. This makes well-designed and well-implemented omni-channel UX aimed at maximizing customer engagement, highly valuable for both you and your users.

Creating engaging omni-channel UX starts with understanding the different characteristics of the main devices customers use and the contexts in which they are used. Most devices fall within one of three main categories: Desktop, tablet, and mobile.

Each of these devices has its strengths and weaknesses when it comes to meeting your customers’ needs. Understanding each device can help you create an omni-channel user experience that is seamless and pain-free.

Desktop: Best for complex tasks and rich content

The large amount of screen estate available on desktops enables more complex tasks and processes to be performed on these devices. Larger screens are also more suitable for rich content such as high-quality video and images, full-scale maps and custom front-end functionality like JavaScript widgets. On a large screen, full texts can be presented to customers instead of minimal text snippets that would be shown on a small screen.

Tablet: Best for media consumption and creativity

Tablets offer a large amount of screen estate like desktop devices, but with more portability. The large screen makes the tablet a great device for rich content consumption, like:

  • applications with video
  • long text reads
  • statistics
  • dashboards
  • event timelines
  • process overviews

The tactile and visual aspects of touch-based gesture inputs enable creativity, drawings, entering and ordering layered information, etc. Tablets usually have additional device features built-in, like location awareness, speech recognition, and a camera, which add new layers of information input for your applications.

Mobile: Best for functionality on the go

Mobile devices are the most portable of the three. Mobile screen resolutions are improving, so visuals and text are getting easier to read, but capturing lots of input remains cumbersome due to on-screen keyboards with small keys which take up a big part of the small screen.

Focus on pushing information or providing functionality that is needed ‘in the spur of the moment’ rather than pulling lots of information from your customers. As with tablets, mobile phones have built-in features that help personalize the user experience, even more, adding calling, authentication based on facial recognition, or fingerprint scanning as great assets to build your personalized customer journey.

Now that you know how each type of device contributes to omni-channel UX, you can focus on process best practices.

6 Process Best Practices for Creating the Best Omni-Channel Customer Journey

It’s not enough to simply offer an omni-channel application to customers. You must also make sure that it is addressing their needs and creating the best omni-channel user experience. Here are six best practices to consider when developing an engaging omni-channel app.

1. Center users in your design process

It might seem like common sense, but we’ll still mention it: Do your research. Consider these questions as you begin your research process:

  • What devices do your customers use?
  • What way of communication (media formats, tone of voice, etc.) do they prefer?
  • What style is aesthetically attractive to them?

Make it a priority to know and understand your customers. Are they digital by lifestyle? Digital by choice? Defining personas is a good first step to achieve this. Analytics may also offer insight into your customers’ needs. Tailor your customer journey to the information they need to make decisions, and present them with the actions to take that don’t involve a heavy amount of effort.

2. Make user experience an important part of your process

Designing and developing the visual part of a customer journey is a vital part of increasing customer engagement and really understanding your customers. You can do that by collecting feedback on new UX patterns and refining your customer journey throughout the process until it satisfies all of your customers’ needs

3. Converge digital and physical aspects of your process

Integrate digital and physical aspects of the user experience as a single process, rather than separate processes. For example:

  • Send an email or text message when the item is ready for pick up at a physical store.
  • Send a receipt via email when a customer picks up an item in-store.
  • Print a scannable code on the item’s packaging for follow-up actions, like suggestions of compatible accessories or a story about how the item was made through environmentally friendly processes.
  • Combine this with IoT sensors and apps to provide your customers with location-based promotions or automated restock notifications.

4. Design for seamless handoff

Anticipate situations in which a customer switches devices during a workflow or process and make that handoff seamless. This means that your customer can pick up just where they left off, no matter what device or operating system they switch to.

5. Incorporate work baskets in your process for better handoffs

There’s nothing more frustrating than performing work on one device, then switching to another, just to discover that your previously completed work hasn’t been saved or isn’t available on the new device.

This can be avoided by creating work baskets in your process, where users can store items that they are currently working on or ‘pause’ their workflow. Practical examples of this are ‘Save as Draft’ and ‘Send hyperlink/QR code for this work item to [insert media]’ functions.

6. Think in advance about which parts of processes should run on which devices

As mentioned before, different devices have different strengths. Creating an insurance claim, for example, could require basic input like personal details, date of birth, etc. from a mobile device. Scanning bills could also be done through the camera of a mobile phone. However, making annotations on an uploaded bill is part of the process that is done more easily on a device with a larger screen and input by mouse and keyboard, like a desktop.

3 Design Best Practices for Omni-Channel Applications

1. Use responsive app design

Customers don’t want to install single-purpose apps for each of their devices just to interact with a single company. They get app fatigued. They just want a single app that works well.

Use responsive app design to offer responsive web apps instead. These are web applications with similar functionality as native apps from an app store, but run in a web browser, without required installation. The app can determine which type of device it’s running on. Leverage this to provide your customers with the graphical user experience and functionality best tailored to the device, context, and situation they are in, without the need to install new apps.

2. Maintain visual consistency throughout devices

Establish a strong visual identity and make sure that it’s consistent throughout each device that a customer will use during his/her customer journey. It should incorporate recognizable layouts, graphical elements, and text.

3. Determine device information priorities

Smaller screens have less room for UI elements, like headers, images, and text blocks. Therefore, it’s important to prioritize information that is shown on screen by adding or omitting elements according to the available screen resolution and screen estate.

3 Technology Best Practices for Creating the Best Omni-Channel Customer Journey

1. Integrate your systems to maintain consistent customer data

Integrate your back-end systems and let them synchronize data on the fly. When you engage a customer, make sure you have all the up-to-date information and data from previous contact moments at hand so the customer experiences consistency throughout his/her journey.

2. Make use of smart digital helpers

Leverage smart concepts like smart recommendations by intelligent chatbots, next best action prediction based on Big Data analysis or IoT data, Artificial Intelligence (i.e. recognize current customer emotion based on chatbot input) to increase customer engagement and serve them in the best way possible.

Related reading: How to Improve Customer Experiences with AI & Chatbots

3. Optimize loading times

Take into account that loading times affect the customer experience. According to Unbounce, loading times longer than three seconds can cause customers to leave a site. On a mobile phone, customers expect similar performance as on a desktop, so limit sizes of media used, only call web services when absolutely needed and make use of smart browser caching to optimize your loading times.

3 Examples of Successful Omni-Channel Applications

1. Amazon

Amazon is the master of converging digital and in-person elements. Shoppers can order a product from home by speaking to their Alexa. They can then have the package delivered or pick it up at an Amazon locker or grocery store Whole Foods, which is owned by Amazon. If they need to return an item, they can go to a range of locations and return a package with a QR code sent to their email. Shoppers then receive an email follow up when their return has been processed.

2. Netflix

Netflix offers a great example of a seamless handoff with great visual consistency with its omni-channel UX. It keeps track of what series and movies you are watching in a personal list. That list is presented consistently across all devices, with similar UI elements, color schemes, and screen layouts. This makes pausing a series and continuing watching it on another device seamless and without any overhead or extra user interaction needed to do so.

3. Rabobank

Rabobank, a Dutch banking company, utilizes a simplified UX when customers are interested in opening a new account. The bank is required to ask its new customers over 20 questions before they can open a bank account. They saw that many of their potential customers were abandoning midway through the process; it was too easy to get overwhelmed by the process. Rabobank changed its process, requiring that new customers answer a few questions when opening an account and letting them complete the remaining questions after.

We hope these best practices will help you set up your customer journeys and create engaging, unique omni-channel user experiences. Some of it might seem very logical and common sense, but that’s exactly the point of it; the entire process should feel very logical and designed with common sense!

This post was originally published on August 22, 2017 but has been updated.

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