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Omnichannel: A Bad Strategy in Post-Apps World

By Abinash Tripathy October 17, 2016

The word omnichannel was derived from the Latin word, omnis, which means “all”. It was a term that developed during the proliferation of brand touchpoints in 2007 with the release of the first iPhone – companies began making Facebook pages, websites, apps, Twitter profiles; had call centers, chat, and email; and were suddenly faced with the need to track users across all of these channels. The omnichannel emerged as a result, the business model that offers a deity-like insight into the overall cross-channel journey of the customer. But that was all in 2007; ten years later, omnichannel is no longer a good business strategy.


Omnichannel describes an overarching strategy that covers marketing, sales, and customer service. The problem is, when customers are trying to interact with your company-- to ask a question or learn about your product-- if they’re being tossed from web, to email, to phone, the experience becomes not of an omnipresent brand, but of an asynchronous, disjointed experience.

When you have users bouncing from channel to channel, the experience is inherently asynchronous. Omnichannel was a strategy to try and mitigate the asynchronicity of this multi-channel reality; but it was a band-aid on a larger wound. Today, users have their preferred channels for each brand, and rather than spreading your resources across every single touchpoint, brands need to streamline their communication. This decision should be made based off of unit economics (which channel yields the most for the least cost), and user preference.

If 80 percent of your users contact you via in-app chat (as would be the case with a mobile game), it’s time to shut off phone contact, which costs $4-7 per call. If you’re a retail outlet with 75 percent of your contact coming from phone, you’re probably getting fewer Help requests than a mobile game, but those requests come from people who prefer phone contact. You then have to decide how to balance CSAT with the cost of a call center (Airbnb, for instance, has made efforts to educate users before they call so that their phone support is not taken up with questions that could have been answered with an FAQ).

Whatever vertical you’re operating in, there’s a primary channel that your customers want you to double down on. By funneling resources into only one medium for communication, you’re both saving money, streamlining user experiences (how confusing is it when a customer reaches out on all three channels for help?), and creating a synchronous brand.

Finding Synchronicity

Each channel of communication should be synchronous with how your users are interacting with your product. If you’re a mobile gaming company, keep your users in the app with in-app chat. If you’re a web-based company, keep your users online with web chat. If you’re a brick and mortar store, have your in-store reps take phone shifts so you can use them for remote support, as well as in-store assistance. The bottom line is, the best user experience will be a single line: from app, to in-app chat; from web to web chat; from in-store to talking with a live person.

In a post-apps world, omnichannel is like spreading too little butter on too much bread. It’s time for companies to choose just one channel, and funnel all of their resources into it to make it as synchronous as possible for the customer.




Edited by Maurice Nagle

CEO and co-founder, Helpshift

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