Most well-run organisations today understand that they need to communicate with their customers on the channel they’re most comfortable with at any given time. 

They also understand that the preferred channel might change and that customers should be able to move seamlessly between them, starting an interaction on one and finishing it on another. But understanding the importance of this omnichannel approach and implementing it are two different things. 

To achieve an effective omnichannel approach, many organisations have turned to marketing automation software. Marketing automation software in and of itself is not going to solve omnichannel communication requirements. 

This is especially true for organisations that don’t understand the difference between multichannel communication and omnichannel communication. 

Multichannel automation is not omnichannel 
Marketing automation simply refers to automating a previously manual process, typically with some rules governing ‘what happens next’ in a single workstream or process with several possible journeys. 

As most organisations originally approached each channel separately, it’s likely that their marketing automation is applied on one channel in isolation from any other, or with the marketing function isolated from other areas of the business

Although automation in this instance may be efficient, it does not necessarily enable the cross channel orchestration that a true omnichannel experience is based on. 

As a result, there can be a fractured customer experience within a customer journey (which typically involves more than one channel to facilitate the end to end journey).

In order for a communication strategy to be truly omnichannel, it has to focus on the customer’s journey and meeting that customer, in real-time, at each touchpoint, with relevant content along that journey. Done correctly, that process can be automated. 

In order for this to be the case, however, organisations have to ensure that the automation software they use isn’t restrictive and is able to accommodate a switch to another channel without losing the status or context of where the customer is in the journey. Any software that doesn’t allow for this will cause frustration and result in customers dropping off. 

Not just marketing 
It’s also important to note that while automation technology is mostly tied to marketing, automation is, in fact, applicable to all communication types, including marketing, operational, transactional, and secure.

In order to reap the real benefits of automation, you need to be automating all communication types within an omnichannel approach, which includes intelligent orchestration as a core capability. 

Omnichannel communication means meeting the customer where they are at any point across multiple journeys, regardless of channel. 

A true omnichannel approach allows customers to switch channels, and still receive a seamless and consistent experience, leaving one channel and moving to the next channel (which is the right channel for the next step) without losing the context, history or status of the engagement. 

Omnichannel requires the flexibility to adapt based on the real-time activity of the user. The picture to imagine is that of a tree with many branches, all of which are potential journeys for the customer. It means the ability to optimise engagement from the customer’s perspective based on what the customer is trying to achieve.

It’s also important that the automation software be intelligent enough to understand what the next steps a customer should take are or understand what the customer is most likely to want to do next, and what channel they are likely to use. 

Intelligence must recognise what the customer is trying to achieve and orchestrate the remainder of the journey that best fits the customer’s intent. 

From automation to orchestration 
The evolution of customer experience requirements will move organisations from marketing automation to the omnichannel orchestration space. 

The outcome of this shift is an experience that is hyper-relevant to the person based on all previous information available to the orchestration software. 

Relevance promotes further engagement, which means the customer is more likely to continue until they achieve the intended result (whether spend, action, adoption). 

The goal of journey orchestration is ultimately to provide the most relevant information, at the right time, wrapped into the right experience, all of which drives the intended result.

Another benefit is the visual reporting that enables humans to analyse behaviour and refine the decision criteria in real-time, which then immediately amends the very next experience in a customer’s journey.

Ultimately, intelligent orchestration combined with automation drives engagement which is the future of competitive advantage.

By Brent Haumann, Managing Director, Striata