At the start of 2014, we called cross channel experiences a major trend to watch. While cross channel remains important, we are seeing an evolution to omni-channel experiences. Omni-channel focuses on creating a consistent experience across all customer touch-points, where cross-channel is often limited to only a portion of the experience. Disney is a great example of the "magic" that happens when a true omni-channel experience is delivered.
Historical limitations of cross-channel
One cross-channel strategy may focus only on the digital channel. It ensures the digital experience works across all browser and operating system platforms, various screen sizes, and device types. While this is a worthy effort, it leaves out all of the other channels a customer may come in contact with such as in-store and call centres. Another cross-channel strategy tries to ensure a consistent experience via branding and information provided across all physical and digital touch points. Again a worthy and important effort, but still short of a truly omni-channel experience.
Omni-channel concentrates on delivering seamless experiences through all available touch points with a product or service via mobile internet devices, computers, brick-and-mortar locations, television, radio, direct mail, catalog and so on. Customers expect every interaction with a brand to be integrated through their journey of discovery, research, purchase and support. Planning and executing an omni-channel strategy is a way to meet or exceed customer expectations.
Omni-channel experiences strive to seamlessly weave digital and physical touch points together across all channels, allowing customers to achieve their goals whenever and however best suits them. Omni-channel experiences are frictionless in that they can start on one device or channel and be quickly and easily completed on another channel or device without having to start over or backtrack. Omni-channel strategies strive to enhance physical channels with digital augmentation and ensure digital experiences have appropriate physical analogues so no digital divides exist and so customers can operate in their channel of choice.
Disney's omni-channel user experience
Lets look at how Disney is delivering omni-channel experiences for visitors to Walt Disney World. The experience typically starts at disney.com, a responsive website that works across device types: computer, tablet and smartphone. Even their trip planning site is optimized for the mobile device.
Once a trip is booked to Walt Disney World Florida, guests can use My Disney Experience to book in-park dining reservations and plan FastPass experiences. FastPass allows park guests to skip lines for three attractions per day. Using the My Disney Experience smartphone app in the park, guests can check and change their FastPass choices and check other attraction wait times while on the go.
These innovations make for fun trip planning and theme park experiences, but Disney is truly forging new omni-channel experiences with their MagicBand program. The MagicBand is a wristband embedded with short-range RFID and long range Bluetooth technologies. It’s an opt-in system so guests control how much personal information they share with the park. The more information guests share, the more customized theme park experience they receive. For example, in Disney resort hotels, MagicBands are used as room keys. Just tapping your wristband unlocks the door. Guests can also order food with their wristbands at Disney restaurants and food carts.
MagicBands also integrate with FastPass and PhotoPass systems. Once set up, you can walk to the front of an attraction line, tap your wrist, and on you go. If your picture is taken with a Disney character by a park photographer, they will scan your MagicBand and your photos will be available online for purchase later. The old PhotoPass system for purchasing photos online involved manual data entry by the user, whereas the new experience is virtually seamless.
The park experience feels “frictionless” with the use of MagicBands, My Experience apps and FastPass. The best parts of the Disney park experience are made better via subtle digital enhancement. There is something magical about skipping to the front of the line to have your child’s picture taken with a beloved Disney character and then conveniently ordering the photos online later.
This is both an example of an existing omni-channel experience, as well as the current high water mark for experiences that move between the physical and digital.
When relentlessly focusing on the quality of the experience you are delivering, you have to look at all of your customer touch points to deliver seamless experiences choreographed between all channels, physical and digital.
The first step to creating omni-channel experiences is to create a strong strategy focused on customer needs. This is accomplished through research, culminating in a Customer Journey Map. A journey map depicts the step-by-step interactions a user has through all of the touch points with your product or service. Once completed, this design artifact helps key decision makers identify opportunities for improvement or differentiation that can help drive the strategy.
Once identified, opportunities can be worked out through storyboarding and refined via service or experience prototypes; these prototyping methods involve users in simulations so the end experience can be evaluated and modified if necessary before actually launching the enhancements. Simulations can be done in a lab-like environment but it is strongly encouraged to do a limited live run to verify what impact external factors not possible to verify in the laboratory have on user perception and experience. This was the approach taken by Disney with their MagicBands: look at the customer journey; identify pain points and opportunities; design, test and iterate.