The Death of Omnichannel and the Emergence of Transact-Anywhere

woman making a purchase on a mobile phone with credit card

The tech industry is full of buzzwords. Digital Transformation is the current de-rigueur and the next “industry changing” term will be along soon enough.

My prediction is that it’ll be “AI”. And anyone paying attention will know that AI is becoming a catch-all for big groups of data collected and used to create personalised experiences and unique offerings – which really isn’t true AI at all!

But for now, I want to leave digital transformation and AI on the backburner. I want to talk about omnichannel. Omnichannel is an all-encompassing word that surfaced over a decade ago. Last week I read a great article written by retail thought leader, Steve Dennis. In the article, Steve discusses the death of omnichannel. The article was Omnichannel Is Dead. The Future Is Harmonized Retail ­and I suggest giving it a read.

There are many valuable points to note in the article, but the point that I identified with was:

“The essence of harmonized retail is accepting the truth that all the talk about different channels is not particularly helpful. The customer is the channel.  A winning customer experience strategy recognizes that the blended channel is the only channel and that retailers need to leverage deep customer insight to understand how various customer segments navigate the customer journey across digital and physical channels.”

Amazing! I 100% agree, the customer is the channel. The demise of omnichannel as a concept is extremely fascinating, so let’s explore this topic through a telco lens.

Telco’s Struggle is Real

Telcos are complicated. There is a unique web of processes, relationships and risks that influence the way business is conducted.

Telco transactions are not like normal retail transactions. Often, devices are sold with a plan – which is not something a customer can just pluck off a shelf. These sales are curated and can involve credit checks, proof of ID and all other kinds of regulatory hurdles to jump. They also face complexities, such as high value products, serialisation, network locking, bespoke versioning, bloatware and host carrier/OEM relationship dynamics. It’s no wonder the telco customer experience is in such dismay.

But the main challenge faced by operators is that they don’t have the capability to facilitate frictionless experiences.

Omnichannel in Telco – Or Lack Thereof

So, has omnichannel died in telco?

Yes, omnichannel has passed – but the funny thing about omnichannel dying, is that telcos haven’t even gotten close to it. Telcos are trying to attain an omnichannel approach by being IT focused, not customer focused. Which obviously isn’t working for them.

Legacy systems, poorly thought-out business processes, zero customer journey planning and an inability to see a world without channels is really what harms telcos most.

Some carriers claim they are omnichannel, but I’m here to shed some light on this.

While attending a recent conference in Asia, I put telcos to the test. During a round-table discussion, all seven carriers sitting at the table claimed to have developed an omnichannel approach.

Yet, after some investigation, I learned that these telcos could only describe one or two journeys that they could complete.

With an IT first mentality, telcos are not successfully achieving an omnichannel state and instead are stuck offering only a limited sub-set of customer journeys.

Journeys Fit for Telco

But not all hope is lost! At Maplewave, we’ve re-envisioned omnichannel to better reflect the experiences telcos should be offering. Our approach is called “Transact-Anywhere”. With a Transact-Anywhere approach, telcos can stitch together channels and provide seamless experiences – putting the power of the transaction in the hands of the customer.

This is our ethos at Maplewave. Our multi-faced platform solution is flexible and works across multiple channels, leaving the customer in control.

We have mapped 38 full Transact-Anywhere journeys. And unless you can manage and enable all of them, your customer experience is fragmented.

What are some of these journeys? And how can telco take them further?

  • Buy Online and Deliver to Your Home: This journey is straightforward and most telcos can do this, but can they go a step further and deliver to a Parcel Locker?

  • Endless Aisle: There are lots of “Endless Aisle” variants, where the in-store customer can have an out-of-stock item delivered from the warehouse. But can telcos enable this from a third-party vendor, Dropship, or pull inventory from a neighbouring store and have that shipped to the customer?

  • Social Reservation: A customer sees a twitter ad, hits reply, and before you know it is in a fast-digital workflow that will complete the transaction and have the device and SIM delivered the next day. Can telcos do that?

  • Try Instore, Buy Online: This is where the customer starts to build an order and doesn’t complete it. If telcos could provide them with a link or QR code, the customer could return to where they were, fulfilling the order at home and on their own terms. Is this possible for telco?

These strategies stop the customer from leaving and wandering over to the competition. These journeys keep the customer in control. Because after all, the customer is the channel.

Customers want what they want, when they want it, in the way they want it. They demand control and carriers, fresh from year of regulation, paperwork, manual processes and complex legacy systems are in no position to give them that control – queueing channel friction, inefficient inventory ageing, slow stock turns and churn to competitors.

What’s Next?

The wrong IT providers have told “omnichannel” stories that tie journeys to legacy processes – which frustrate customers. Their current “Digital Transformation” approach doesn’t think customer first and it doesn’t enable the required customer journeys.

The customer is the channel. The customer wants control.

Telcos are left confused, unsure of what they even want or need. With a Transact-Anywhere methodology, sales rise, churn falls, customer experience explodes, and COA tumbles.

Want to learn more about our Transact-Anywhere philosophy? Connect with me, I’d love to chat more about it.

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