A client reached out the other day because he noticed that we’re in the process of unveiling a new title for my practice area. From here on, you’ll predominantly hear Javelin describe things from an “omnichannel” perspective rather than a “multichannel” perspective. It’s not just a nuance to provide an excuse to print up new business cards, tweak our website, and update my LinkedIn profile. It’s a change that highlights why strategic channel thinking must evolve as the financial services industry knits together separate service channels in an era of “always-on” interactive finance.
In a multichannel framework, the focus is on how to build multiple channels into a business. That enables the customer to decide which channel makes the most sense for a given transaction. As an analogy, imagine that you were a customer trying to decide which door would be most convenient when visiting a store. Customers strolling down Main Street will want to come in the automatic front door. Others coming from the parking lot in the rear would prefer a door that saved them walking around to the front. Many financial institutions have been taking this approach as they augmented branch banking with online banking, mobile banking, call centers, social media, and so forth. Each is a door that provides customers with more choice and flexibility. But too often the user experience is inconsistent -- maybe the side door is manual and there’s no neon sign to provide consistent branding.
In the omnichannel framework, the emphasis shifts to ensuring the brand and experience are consistent and integrated no matter which door the customer comes through. The strategic goal is to ensure that FIs can track and serve customers across whatever channels they use, and to provide a consistent, integrated brand and user experience. From a banking perspective, this will involve eliminating the silos, and ensuring that real-time data is delivered uniformly at the branch, ATMs, online, and on mobile devices. It also assumes consumers will use all the channels at some point or another, and financial institutions should aim to provide a consistent experience and track that customer regardless of channel. It will mean ensuring that products are available across all channels, not offered just through one channel. Tracking customer behavior across channels and understanding the byplay between channels will grow in importance as the industry improves its ability to gather and mine data and to deliver alerts, offers, and other communications and services to customers.
You can see the philosophical roots for this evolutionary shift in Javelin’s approach in our Customer-Driven Architecture™. This concept -- introduced in 2009 and updated in 2012 -- offers a seven-phase blueprint for delivering unprecedented control to consumers and higher profitability to the financial services industry. An omnichannel approach is essential if financial institutions are to deliver integrated control. We also flagged the advent of omnichannel thinking as one of the top 10 trends that will shape the financial services industry in 2013. A case in point is a report on digital account opening scheduled for release this summer. Previously, we wrote about this topic from a multichannel perspective as “online account opening.” It is my intent to refocus on “digital account opening,” because in an omnichannel world an applicant might research the account and start an application online; whip out a smartphone to transmit an image of a driver’s license and to review an alert on the status of the application; and maybe step into a branch for face-to-face clarification or onboarding. Ideally, the applicant will enjoy a seamless, efficient omnichannel experience.