Australia’s eCommerce sector boomed through the early days of COVID, but according to predictions by GlobalData, we can expect a compound annual growth rate of over 10 percent for at least another three years due to permanent changes in remote work, an ongoing need to socially distance and buy online, and improved technologies that are refining the customer experience – from buy now, pay later platforms, to hyper-personalised shopping experiences.

But while the retail industry has been quick to adopt technology, when it comes to delivering a seamless, consistent omnichannel approach, there is still an opportunity for growth.

According to Gartner, an estimated 50 percent of large retail organisations will have failed to unify engagement channels by 2022. This likelihood is the result of many retailers relying on different platforms and channels that act independently of each other to reach their customers. Despite being a leader in many of these individual channels, not linking them together creates data silos, disjointed conversations, and inconsistent customer experiences.

Here’s how an omnichannel approach can help.

A seamless shopping experience

Customers today expect a cohesive experience. They want convenience, efficiency, and to connect with the brands they care about whenever, wherever they’d like on the digital channel of their choosing. Further, online shoppers today want the context of their requests to be readily available, regardless of whether they are starting a new inquiry or resuming an existing conversation with a customer service agent.

As we edge toward reopening in Australia, it’s likely that more customers will look for a ‘hybrid’ shopping model,  and the answer will be to push omnichannel customer engagement across brand channels. This synchronised, frictionless experience will help to create a consistent customer journey regardless of where an audience is located.

This also better serves the retail companies from the inside out. By using various sales channels for engagement, retailers can empower their teams to deliver a unified, seamless brand experience at any time, and on any channel regardless of where the customer initiated a conversation. Whether in store, via chat, or on the phone, when done effectively, omnichannel engagement allows users to move freely from one channel to another, building a trusting relationship that improves their overall experience and encourages brand loyalty. 

A better approach for customers and employees

An important point to note, however, is that many companies think they have an existing omnichannel approach when they only are offering multi-channel options. Omnichannel engagement is different from multi-channel engagement in how each channel is managed separately with a different strategy. 

An omnichannel approach allows agents to access any information about a customer’s previous interactions on a different channel, expanding the level of service they can provide and improving a customer’s overall experience.

For example, when a customer begins a chat session on a retailer’s website and then continues that chat into a video session or voice call with an agent, that customer is receiving a quality, seamless service. With this kind of omnichannel engagement, retailers can improve the speed of service, while offering contextual, personalised support.

From an employee engagement angle, an omnichannel approach also has massive benefits. By giving agents all the information available on a customer, they feel empowered to give informed support and prioritise their tasks through automation features that eliminate repetitive tasks and solve for simple tickets. 

Omnichannel engagement enables companies to also improve their bottom lines and increase customer retention. Marketing teams can ensure their content delivery strategy is successful, as sales teams can convert and nurture customer relationships more effectively, while operations teams can be more efficient in fulfilling orders. 

Why technology is so important

Integrating omnichannel communications and seamless context throughout the customer journey requires the right infrastructure. Omnichannel is difficult to achieve with ‘out-of-the-box’ solutions that don’t allow for scale, security, or customisation. Any system requiring a lengthy installation process, limited features, and restricted integration with other platforms will not provide the agility needed to deliver an excellent customer experience in an omnichannel world. A single interface solution that allows for scale and customisation is essential.

The world beyond COVID may still be unclear, but Australia’s eCommerce boom is not going anywhere. For retailers to ride the next growth wave, a true omnichannel strategy is essential to ensure the technology investments they have made until now are more than bells and whistles, and result in an improved experience for the customer, employees and positively impact the bottom line.

Kristen Pimpini is regional vice president for Australia and New Zealand at Twilio.