Customer Engagement

Digital Transformation: Omnichannel – the Power of Physical and Digital

By Lisa Sutrick, Managing Director, Communicate Solutions, Pitney Bowes

When people think of digital transformation, their minds tend to hone in on just that first part: digital. That’s a pretty understandable reaction and, after all, if “digital” weren’t an important component of digital transformation, we’d have to call it something else!

But, digital is just one part of digital transformation. An essential one, but not the whole picture. You’d be remiss to think that digital transformation can or should neglect the physical side of your customer communications and engagement efforts, too. Digital transformation isn’t an invitation to drop the physical and go digital 100 percent. Just the opposite: it’s an opportunity to maximize the importance of the physical and leverage it to further heighten the value of the digital by weaving the two together.

The history of digital marketing is a classic example of how ignoring the physical, or failing to integrate it with digital, ultimately undercuts the value of both. Marketers were so eager to jump onto the shiny, new digital strategy that they neglected to integrate their physical channels in tandem. Consequently, you had a marketing strategy with disparate digital and physical channels, where customer information couldn’t intuitively carry over from one to the other – a “silo-ing” effect that can mildly annoy your customers at best and leave you with a cache of customer data you’ve failed to take advantage of at worst.

Concentrating all of your marketing resources on the digital side, such as Facebook ads, Tweets, email blasts or interactive personalised videos, can only go so far if there isn’t a physical component to supplement it. For instance, in-store customer service reps that can guide customers to either start their journey toward a given product, or help them complete a journey they already started online.

Blurring the Lines

Digital transformation isn’t just about taking your customer engagement outreach in a solely digital direction, and it’s not about replacing the physical with the digital. Rather, it’s an opportunity to rethink your whole approach to the process of customer communications, and consider physical and digital engagement as two sides of the same coin: not distinct from each other, but instead one hand helping the other.

We mentioned how an omnichannel strategy that takes into account all of the physical and digital engagement channels as pieces of one overarching effort can benefit the customer, allowing them to start a journey online and finish it in-person, or vice versa. But it works to your benefit, too.

If you have customers who prefer to be reached over the phone rather than email, then an omnichannel strategy helps you aggregate that data together. That way, when your customer service reps look to reach out to that customer, they know to contact her by phone, first and foremost. If your call center and digital strategies were siloed off from one another, then you may still be sending emails to that customer, emails that: a) the customer has indicated they don’t want to receive; b) they are likely ignoring; and c) are progressively turning them against your brand.

Physical assets like brick-and-mortar stores or shipping promotional leaflets can be effective in driving customer engagement. Digital assets like video, self-service web portals, personal cloud platforms like Dropbox, Tweets or SMS and email blasts can demonstrate that you’re operating on the cutting edge. But treating either one as the one-and-only way to best reach out to your customers undermines their real potential. Your customers are complex, multi-faceted people; your communications strategy should be equally inclusive. An omnichannel approach to physical and digital engagement does just that.

Pitney Bowes EngageOne® Digital Self Service, with Smart View, Smart Bill and Smart Pay portals, give customers the opportunity to pay their bills, access past communications and find the information they need just the way they want to.

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