We all do it: check out that new watch on our smartphone while standing at the best stop gazing at Twitter; jump on the office PC and view that same watch on a bigger screen on the business website and move it to the shopping cart; get home and decide ‘yeah, I’m going to buy that watch’ and pull out the laptop to finalise the purchase.
To help keep users connected and engaged, brands need to create fluidity between channels and devices. You need to create omnichannel UX strategies that optimize the end-to-end user experience of completing a task across devices and interaction channels.
So how do you design experiences that enable users to complete tasks whenever, wherever? Omnichannel UX not only allows users to connect to brands across multiple channels, but it also enables them to act on their product or service triggers and makes each interaction more intuitive and effortless. It is vital for the closing of sales that your brand offers a streamlined service that is instantly recognisable to users across platforms.
What is omnichannel UX?
Omnichannel UX is a way of ensuring users continue to enjoy the same experience and ease across your app or website’s multiple channels. Your aim is to put the user at the centre of a seamless ecosystem so that the customer is your focus.
Omnichannel UX seeks to create transitions and experiences in accordance with five principles:
- Consistency – coherent and meaningful experiences in every interaction with your brand
- Availability – proactively leading customers through their individual journeys by offering a choice when selecting an online or offline channel, with personalized interactions and messages at the right time
- Seamlessness – channel transitions available across all channels, as effortlessly as possible
- Context-optimization – channel experiences that are best suited for that particular device
- Channel-neutrality – providing the same data and options across channels so that users can jump between touchpoints across several platforms without interruption or delay
The best designs guide customers along a journey with many entry and exit points that allow the customer to make choices, without feeling compelled or overwhelmed. For example, a shopper wanting to purchase insurance would likely research first. Perhaps they would pick up a brochure when out doing the shopping. The brochure might direct them online with a website or QR code, they could then read more using their tablet and download a form. That form could be saved then accessed later using a laptop or smartphone. All the devices would share the same information, reflect the same page even if slightly reformatted to fit a bigger or smaller screen. The ap would require the user to add the same user details for access as the website etc.
So how do designers achieve omnichannel experiences? Through designing flows from one device to another and checking the synchronization and usability of each user’s transition between devices. But it’s not just about technique, it’s about having the right tools too.
How to design an effective omnichannel user experience
You can build your website and then enable tools to ensure your site works on multiple device types. Such features allow you to design screens and interactions for web, mobile and tablet all within the same prototype.
Designing an omnichannel ecosystem starts with understanding the customer journey through user research. Then, designers need to map out all the touchpoints of their interface and all the possible ways the user might take to reach their goal, to make those touchpoints connect across channels and devices.
Creating an omnichannel experience within your prototype
Defining omnichannel prototypes is simple. Here’s a short omnichannel scenario:
Samuel wants to make a lasagna from scratch, but on close reading of the recipe, he discovers he needs a pasta machine.
Samuel Googles ‘pasta maker’ on his tablet, and learns more about different brands of pasta maker, the pros and cons of different products and consumer product reviews. He decides on the one he wants and is ready to order from the retailer’s app when he realizes that they don’t do same-day delivery.
Samuel wants to make the pasta today, so he can’t order online and wait for delivery. He switches to his laptop for ease of browsing and checks the retailer’s website for pricing and stock availability.
He reserves and pays for the pasta maker via the website. Then, he drives to the store to collect it. Using the order summary in his Inbox on his smartphone as proof of reservation and purchase, Samuel is now the proud owner of a pasta maker.
Why do we need omnichannel UX?
As a customer, we don’t think about each touchpoint with a company as a separate journey, we combine them all into one experience. Most of us would prefer to do all our online business using the device we are on at the time we are completing a task, but for various reasons, we are forced to change devices.
- There is an external interruption or change in context
- The task is better suited for another channel
- The activity requires it
For these reasons it is important that it is simple for the user to put down one device and pick up another and enter back into the journey from the same point they left.
Omnichannel v multichannel UX
While brands offer users multichannel experiences, connecting via chat, email, phone or website, this does not make it omnichannel. A real omnichannel experience does not require the user to bring the next device or service up to speed on what point of their journey they are at (except entering personal data for access, which people appreciate as a security and privacy concern.)
And as the interaction possibilities continue to grow and life gets busier, users expect complete experiences from brands. Tasks should be accessible and straightforward, no matter where users are or when they connect.
Omnichannel user experience puts the user at the front and centre of your brand’s UX strategy and allows you to create a fluid, personalized user experience. Thinking about how people interact with your service that backs your brand is vital to the development of better customer relationships and secured sales.