The Channel-less Approach Versus The Omnichannel Approach

Most customer experience professionals are familiar with the omnichannel strategy; one which strives to create a fluid experience across all channels and platforms by utilizing centralized customer data and tracking previous interactions.  The idea behind the omnichannel strategy is to be where the customer is, on the channels they are on, with the information and awareness that they expect.  This approach is extremely beneficial in building out a seamless experience for the customer, though the development of both technology and the modern consumer has brought a new strategy to light: the channel-less approach. 

What is the Channel-less Approach?

A channel-less strategy is similar to an omnichannel one in that it endeavors for fluidity, yet channel-less takes a unique approach by omitting the idea of channels all together. This is devised on the notion that the modern customer seldom thinks within the confines of channels.  The channel is simply a backdrop of their experience, rather than a defining detail. While brands may contribute a large amount of effort towards adding and aligning all possible mediums, customers take their experience at face value.

The classic analogy is the chef and his guest.  Back in the kitchen, the chef has an exact method that will result in the optimal flavor and overall aesthetic.  She knows the precise ingredients, the perfect amount of each to include, how long to cook each component for and how to best present the final meal.  There is a calculated thought process that contributes to the final outcome.  Out in the dining room, the guest is blissfully unaware of the intentions behind the little details. All they know is that they are presented a beautiful, tasty meal that enriches their tastebuds in all the right places.  This is the same for the channel-less approach; all the customer sees is the final outcome: the seamless brand experience, rather than the detailed web of channels that creates it. [1]

Key Characteristics 

The channel-less approach can be defined by a few key characteristics: (1) personalization, (2) relevancy, (3) transparency and (4) simplicity. [2] 

Personalization 

A brand that provides a channel-less approach should provide a highly personalized experience.  The idea is that the relationship between the customer and the brand is consistent regardless of the channel.  The brand knows about the customer’s preferences and previous interactions, and therefore, is able to provide a personalized experience regardless of which direction the customer approaches the brand from. 

Relevancy 

Relevancy should be a key priority for a brand striving towards a channel-less approach.  Harnessing information such as location, language, trends etc. brands should aim to exemplify a contextualized understanding of their customer.   When a customer feels that a brand has attempted to grasp the relevant aspects of their life, it helps to build loyalty and trust between the two.  

Transparency 

A channel-less approach leads to transparency through offering important information across all channels. Customers want to know where their order is at all times, and they want to access this information from all touchpoints.  Transparency illustrates a customer-centric objective from beginning to end of the customer journey.  

Simplicity  

Lastly, something that all brands should strive towards is simplicity.  With the overwhelming amount of noise that clouds the customer’s life, it is important to provide an experience that alleviates this rather than adds to it.  Channel-less takes the time-consuming details off the customer’s plate, allowing them focus their full attention on the experience.  

What is the Difference?

Whereas omnichannel focuses on connecting as many channels as possible, channel-less focuses on the actual brand experience, not where it is taking place.  There is little thought that goes into deciphering how a certain channel operates in relation to the other.  It is as if the customer is speaking with an old friend whom they have interacted with in many different facets, learning their likes and dislikes; playing different roles over the years in various settings. Though, at the end of the day, their friendship is based on the consistent relationship and connection they share rather than the settings that brought them together.  

Using the Strengths of Both

Omni-channel focuses on the channel, whereas channel-less focuses on the experience. Though some may pose these two as opposites, when used in tandem, they can be viewed as compliments.  Though channel-less focuses on brand experience, it still requires the proper technology and infrastructure that many omnichannel strategies are built upon.  In this sense, omnichannel may serve as the foundation as channel-less drives the philosophy.  By using the strengths of both, the optimal channel experience can be achieved.  

Reducing Customer Effort

Reducing customer effort is a driving factor behind both the channel-less and omnichannel strategies.  As customers jump from channel to channel, the goal is to create an overarching, connected experience that leads to more coherent interactions. Practices are consistent across platforms, and informational silos are bridged.  This allows for the customer to receive a straightforward, simplified experience in which they rarely think about the inner-workings of the encounter.  As stated previously, brands should aim to alleviate the noise surrounding customers rather than add to it.    

Using the strengths of both strategies will help to create the most fluid experience for the customer. Make it simple and make it effortless.  With the assets of both methods working together, brands can work to deepen customer loyalty and provide the most seamless customer experience possible.  

[1] https://blog.dieboldnixdorf.com/consumer-perspective-channel-less/#.XYN9C-dKiqA

[2] https://magento.com/blog/best-practices/channel-less-customer-experience-5-characteristics


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