Best practice recommendations for multichannel integration:
Joined-up thinking. E-commerce is all too often still thought of as a silo, and is therefore thought of in isolation. Whether you’re developing an e-commerce solution for your business for the first time or moving on to the next iteration of your site, it is the optimum time to think about integrating all of your channels.
Engage your call centres. Are you going to provide your contact centre with the ability to take sales from customers over the phone? What happens if the site’s down or if they need additional assistance to help ensure they buy the right product? It’s a great idea to enable operator supported orders.
Assist shoppers, in real time. Live chat will enable your customer contact centre to help guide your customer’s choices. This can be both reactive, through a ‘click to chat option’, or proactive through ‘rules based live chat’. In the latter case you prompt a customer with the offer of chatting to a CSA (customer service advisor) when they behave in a certain way (such as adding multiple items to their basket but not checking out).
Visibility. You should develop the capability for the customer and the CSA to view the same cart concurrently.
Collect information. In order to deliver the optimum customer service experience, you should funnel all customer communication into a customer contact database.
Provision for self-service. Provide a knowledge base/dynamic FAQs that will serve the needs of self service customers who prefer not to interact with CSAs.
Provide a store locator showing store product ranges available at each store, and use Google Maps to provide all contact information.
Buy in store for home delivery. This could be through a Kiosk solution in store that’s provided to meet demand when there’s a shortage of stock, specific sizes, or particular styles in a store.
Click and collect. Allow customers to buy or reserve products online and pick them up in store. You should also allow customers to reserve products in store for purchase in store. Enable customers to select from a list of stores by their proximity for in store pick up.
Multichannel returns policy. Provide the ability to buy products online and return in store. Make sure offline budgets reflect this to avoid staff resentment at having to do extra work, and do not subtract these offline refunds from offline sales! Give the store a credit for multichannel refunds (but manage it to avoid abuse).
Is it in stock? Allow customers to check product inventory levels at nearby stores. Save them a wasted journey.
Don’t hide the telephone! Promote contact centre number prominently above top navigation and at key stages on the purchase path. Let customers know that help is only a phone call or a click away.
Multichannel commissions for staff. Make sure staff are incentivised to promote the sale of products through all of your channels... otherwise why should they bother?