In a recent search for the perfect smartphone – a complex product with many options and features – I found it difficult to gather all the facts I needed for a fully informed purchase. Information varied from one Web site to another, and sales and marketing information of smartphone purveyors lacked consistency.  The Web sites did have flashy videos and clever marketing content, but it was not easy to find local retail outlets where I could buy the smartphone I wanted!

Given the multiple avenues through which sales and marketing teams can connect with customers today, providing clear and timely information can be a challenge. But some companies are doing an excellent job. The most successful are delivering consistent messages and information across online channels. They personalize the customer experience through individualized discounts, the manner and frequency of contact, promotions, loyalty benefits, or service offerings.

Consistency Across Channels

The customer experience defines your brand. More and more, that experience takes place online. It may include searching your Web site, using your mobile phone app, having an e-chat with a service representative, or conversing with other customers on Facebook or twitter.

Customers expect their online experiences to be consistent across these channels. They also expect you to have up-to-date information on their recent purchases, complaints, inquiries, and loyalty status at every touch point with your company.

A lack of channel consistency is immediately visible to your customers and could mean lost sales. And if you are transferring customers to others’ Web sites, you’ll lack the visibility to gain further insights into what your customers value – and miss the chance to further promote your wares. 

An integrated Web environment, on the other hand, means that you can consider the complete interaction history and your knowledge of the customer.  You can tailor the environment appropriately; develop loyalty offers that are derived from your 360-degree view; and make the best recommendation at any point in time  – an up-sell offer, a new service suggestion, a promotion.

Many problems in giving customers a unified experience stem from capabilities that were implemented to solve different issues at different times. Mergers and acquisitions can worsen this problem. A further complication is the different motivations of various customer-facing departments. KPIs for the sales team may be focused on revenue, the marketing team on mindshare, the service team on costs.  As a result, there may be separate silos of information and multiple user interfaces that make it difficult to integrate your e-commerce, e-marketing, and e-service programs or keep up with the latest technology.

Making it Happen

A well-coordinated online experience can offer a key competitive advantage. Take Coop, a large retailer in Switzerland that sells fresh produce online. Customers can pick a specific time – within a one-hour window – to have their produce delivered. They get the produce in prime condition without wasting half a day for the delivery. Close integration between sales and Coop’s supply chain make this possible and put the company immediately ahead of its peers.

Achieving such integration becomes easier with a common solution for customer-facing processes. A solution that can personalize the customer experience across multiple channels will get the right information to the right customer at the right time. It should also be easy to update as new business models and technology emerge.

Today you can automate e-mail campaigns and real-time recommendations for products and services. You can support cross-selling and up-selling programs based on service processes –  leveraging product registrations from offline purchases, for example. You can also connect potential customers with the service knowledge they need for purchase decisions, push out information on product availability and price, and weed out low-value customers who make frequent returns or don’t pay on time.

When a customer can attain consistent experiences with your company whether using a mobile device, accessing your Web site, visiting your stores, or calling your customer service center, you have the opportunity to exceed their expectations. By gathering important information along the way, you will serve their needs more effectively and outperform your competition.  Such consistency can be achieved with first-rate Web channel integration – and it’s vital for long-term survival and growth.