In the last few years people have come to live in a multichannel world and companies, brands, service suppliers must chase their users in this reality and understand how the journey has changed.
For the private sector it is incredibly important to be present on different channels in order to be easily found and be ready for their customers.
The New York Times can be seen as a great example of how same contents and services are distributed through multiple touchpoints. Beyond a website and a blog, the news provider has a Facebook page, a Youtube channel, multiple identities on Twitter and has developed desktop, smartphone and tablet applications. To chase the multichannel user, the media ecosystem gets more and more fragmented.
In order to understand why it is so important for brands to be crosschannel it is useful to see how the digital journey of people has changed and the starting point of a customer journey is always a critical step. The only way people used to access the digital world was PC-based, browser centered and was leading to navigate websites using a search engine as the main starting point. Today the ecosystem is wider and the journey begins with different devices such as smartphones, gaming consoles or tablets which most of the times lead to open applications or social networks.
With new portable devices the access can happen wherever and the surrounding environment and experience is completely different. Moreover with search engines like Google the research of information has always been keyboard based but now the research is also location based with apps like Foursquare where it is enough to log in and information starts flowing without not even asking. Often the research starts with social media like Facebook or Twitter, where people look at what their friends are doing, which movies do they like and which readings they suggest. Of course a search engine is still a significant tool but it is fading in the background and the journey starts in different ways. So if a user opens Facebook to get news or advices, it is worth for a brand to be in his/her Facebook feeds to be easily found.
Smaller retailers still aren't organized to make multi-channel work. Different groups typically own the different channels, and they have no incentive, or even counter-incentives to cooperate. Even when groups do try to coordinate across channels, they still have difficulty knowing when a shopper crosses from one channel to the next, or even measuring how the channels affect each other. For example, Brian Walker of Forrester Research found that "only 13% of Web managers at multichannel retailers view driving sales to their brick-and-mortar stores as a top priority." (Multichannel: In-Store Pickup Gains Importance)
While the big success of television ended the radio era, what we see today is that different channels don't compete with each other but live together: powerful smartphones and tablets are more personal than notebooks and are used to access and share different kinds of information. An example worth mentioning is the infographic released by Twitter in 2010 about the soccer World cup event. Plenty of people were turning to the micro-blogging service to have their say on that goal or red card, turning their experience into a global conversation.
It is interesting to notice how in the beginning this crosschannel behavior was only a digital matter but more and more the virtual world is merging with reality and the way we use products, live spaces and relate with others is becoming multichannel. Last year Diesel launched in Spain a project called Diesel Cam, a social shopping experience which allows users to take pictures with new clothes and post them online to get feedbacks and "likes" from friends.
In Profiling the Multichannel Consumer, Patti Freeman Evans of Forrester Research found that 70% of consumers research products online and then purchase offline. And later in a report from Forrester, The future of online customer experience, Moira Dorsey explains why and how in order to prepare for the future, customer experience professionals should develop multichannel personas, include social media behaviors in ethnographic research and prepare atomized content.
Living in a multichannel and crosschannel world which merges the best features of virtual and real experience is getting more and more usual and knowing how the journey starts is the first step to understand the change.