A stellar customer experience involves delivering communications via the channels your customers prefer, whether that's SMS, email or instant messaging. If you don't cater to customers' communication needs, they'll be quick to move on to any competitor that will.

Therefore, you need a seamless marketing and communications strategy that allows customers to reach and interact with you via the channel of their choice. Read on to learn how an omnichannel platform can help.

What is an omnichannel platform?

An omnichannel platform is software that makes it easy to deliver a personalised and unified customer experience. Verizon writer Scott Steinberg describes a unified customer experience as one that "consistently matches content, functionality and brand personality to user expectations and context at every turn."

Omnichannel platforms connect and sync all available online and offline sales and marketing channels, allowing businesses to interact with customers in real-time, whatever touchpoint they use.

B2B and B2C commerce brands can particularly benefit from an omnichannel platform, as features often include customer relationship management (CRM), marketing automation, order and inventory management, and customer analytics.

What is an example of omnichannel?

The luxury cosmetic giant Sephora employs a brilliant omnichannel strategy to deliver a seamless customer experience. The brand maintains a centralised database that combines customer information from mobile, in-store and online interactions. Brand identity and product offerings are consistent on all channels.

Then there's Sephora's mobile app, where customers can access video tutorials, new product information, and the latest fashion, beauty, and skincare trends. And in-store, the shopping experience is next-level, with clients able to use iPads to virtually try out different makeup shades and styles.

Why you need an omnichannel platform

The right omnichannel platform can help you improve customer relationships, create intelligent customer profiles and deliver consistent messaging. Let's explore the full scope of benefits in detail...

Seamless customer relationship management

An omnichannel platform enables you to deliver a consistent customer experience across all touchpoints. Customers can transition smoothly between channels and interactions. For example, they might reach out via email and then continue their interaction via live chat. The platform will ensure the switch is seamless so support agents can pick up the conversation without having to ask the customer to explain the status of their enquiry.

Personalisation is a standard feature of any omnichannel platform and allows you to tailor the customer experience to individuals' needs and preferences. Greater personalisation leads to better satisfaction and higher customer engagement rates.

Integration of multiple online and offline channels

Today's customers happily channel hop from offline to online and vice versa. They may browse for a product online, add it to their basket, and then decide to buy at a brick-and-mortar store after seeing and handling the item up close. Or they might visit a store only to find the product they want isn't available in their preferred colour or size. In this case, they decide to order online and collect the item from the store at a later date.

An omnichannel platform aligns these interactions to make shopping easier for customers. In the first example above, it would be possible to identify that the customer browsing online has now bought the item they wanted. Therefore, you could hit cancel on automated abandoned cart notifications. In the latter example, a customer service assistant could help the customer place their order with just a few clicks of their POS device and then trigger a flow of delivery update customer communications.

Consistent and organised branding, messaging, and content

An omnichannel communication platform helps you deliver a uniform brand messaging strategy across all channels, with content formatted for each specific channel. All visuals, messaging, special offers and informational content are consistent and recognisable for consumers, whether they're using your mobile app or website or are shopping at a physical store. This consistency reinforces brand image and identity, fostering trust in the process.

The solution will help align the efforts of sales, marketing and service teams so that all parties know what to say to customer groups, and when. Silo-based working should be eliminated.

Building customer profiles

No more guessing at what customers want and need from your business at each stage of their journey. An omnichannel platform allows you to construct detailed customer profiles with real-time demographic, behavioural and transactional data collected from and for various channels.

Customer profiling gives you a better understanding of your audience so you can put together a targeted omnichannel marketing strategy based on actual data and behavioural patterns. You'll also be able to better predict customer needs, decisions, and interactions.

Centralised storage of all customer data across multiple channels

Consider how many places you currently store customer data. Your CRM and email inbox? Your eCommerce dashboard? Maybe even an Excel spreadsheet? An omnichannel platform unifies and streamlines data storage. All customer information collected from multiple touchpoints is kept in a centralised database.

This gives you a 360-degree view of each customer’s profile, history, and interactions with your business. It also minimises errors and discrepancies, as you'll avoid disconnected, duplicate, and out-of-date information. Accurate, well-maintained customer records enable better decision-making to support business growth.

Gathering data on customer preferences and behaviours

All customer activity can be logged in customer profiles. You'll be able to see customer service interactions, e.g., when a phone call has taken place or an email sent. Or the contents of support ticket requests and previous enquiries.

With eCommerce platforms, you can also track where people are in their customer journey – whether they're a lead, new customer or existing customer, how many times they've purchased when shopping online and what products they've added to their wishlist. You can track all this and collect customer feedback through the omnichannel platform to identify preferences and behaviours. Then, you can use this information to inform future marketing efforts.

Data security and privacy

Providing an omnichannel experience requires capturing a substantial amount of data and keeping it all under one roof. This can be worrying since huge datasets are tempting targets for cybercriminals. However, the best omnichannel platforms use high levels of encryption and secure protocols to protect data and software. You may also be able to set access permissions so that only approved users can access specific customer datasets.

In addition to the platform you use, you can mitigate the risk of data breaches and cybersecurity incidents by following data protection compliance rules (e.g., those set out in the GDPR and TCPA). You can also strengthen account security by implementing two-factor user authentication, educating users and staff on data security risks and controls, and obtaining explicit opt-ins for text and email marketing.

Superior customer satisfaction and experience

Together, all the benefits mentioned above help improve customer service. Support agents can provide quicker responses and resolutions because the platform offers a central place to store detailed customer records (purchase history, complaint details, etc.). And with built-in tools for task assignment and internal messaging, team collaboration is made easier and more effective.

Customers will enjoy a seamless and consistent experience with each interaction – no hiccups or being passed around different departments to get queries answered. This leads to increased satisfaction, trust and loyalty.

Customer service on omnichannel platform

Seven best omnichannel platforms

Let's now examine some of the top omnichannel platforms. We'll cover their main features, channel support, what businesses they're best suited for, and more.

1. HubSpot

Hubspot is an easy-to-use CRM platform that helps businesses seamlessly connect data and teams to gain valuable customer insights and improve business performance. It's made up of six core products (hubs) – marketing, sales, content management, operations, commerce, and customer service – which all link into the underlying CRM database. You can use all the hubs together or start with one and add others as needed.

The main features of Hubspot's CRM include contact management, pipeline management, a universal conversations inbox, chatbots, ticketing, and forms. Each hub has its own features, too. For example, the Marketing Hub lets you create blogs, ads, and landing pages and integrates with social media accounts.

  • Channels: email, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp Business, live chat and calls.

  • Best for: small and scaling businesses.

  • Pricing: each hub comes with free tools to help businesses get started. There are three paid plans (Starter, Professional and Enterprise). Prices vary depending on the hub product you choose. For example, the Sales Hub costs £14 per month per user on the Starter plan and £77 per month per user on the Professional plan.

2. NetSuite

NetSuite is a powerful business management solution that offers many different products, including ERP, CRM, accounting software and an omnichannel commerce solution. The latter lets retailers unify each aspect of the in-store and online commerce experience and get a holistic, cross-channel view of each customer.

NetSuite Commerce features include an eCommerce platform for both B2C and B2B, POS capabilities, order and inventory management, a CRM, and connectors (which enable data mapping between NetSuite and your eCommerce storefront). Because NetSuite has many uses and features, there is a learning curve. You will need to spend time training your team on this software.

Channels: in-store, website, email, live chat and voice calls.

Best for: medium to large B2C and B2B businesses across all sectors.

Pricing: you'll need to pay an annual license fee to use NetSuite's Commerce solution. The cost depends on which optional modules you choose in addition to the core platform and the number of users. There's also a one-off set-up fee.

3. BigCommerce

One of the leading eCommerce platforms, BigCommerce helps businesses set up and manage online stores. It offers an omnichannel solution for enterprises, enabling them to create seamless shopping experiences across over 150 marketplaces, social commerce, and advertising channels.

A vital BigCommerce feature is the centralised Channel Manager, which lets you connect your online store to all digital channels. The platform offers easy integration with omnichannel partners such as Amazon, eBay, and TikTok, as well as automated product catalogue syncing between all channels.

  • Channels: website, digital marketplaces, social platforms, Google Ads and search engine listings.

  • Best for: online stores wanting to reach new audiences.

  • Pricing: BigCommerce is free for 15 days. Monthly plans range from $39 to $399. There's also an Enterprise plan for large stores.

4. Zendesk

Zendesk is a complete customer service solution that helps businesses make strong, personalised customer connections to increase loyalty and revenue. Features include AI and automation, messaging and live chat, a dedicated help centre and agent workspace, ticketing, workforce management and analytics. All communication channels are connected, enabling easy and seamless conversation flows.

  • Channels: website, mobile app, WhatsApp, Facebook, Slack, email, live chat, knowledge base and voice calls.

  • Best for: retail, financial services, tech and healthcare businesses with a heavy focus on customer support.

  • Pricing: monthly plans for Zendesk start at £59 to £115 per agent per month. An Enterprise plan is available for businesses with bespoke needs.

5. Adobe Commerce (formerly Magento)

Adobe Commerce is a powerful, unified enterprise eCommerce platform. It enables B2C and B2B businesses to connect shopping experiences across all channels so customers can browse or buy wherever and however they want.

Adobe Commerce includes CRM, CMS and ERP functionality and supports headless commerce, mobile checkout and multi-brand commerce. Features include a page builder tool, product recommendations, live search, inventory and order management, omnichannel fulfilment and customer account management, all of which enable personalised shopping experiences at scale.

Being open-source software, Adobe Commerce is highly customisable, but you will need the skills of a developer to build omnichannel customer experiences.

  • Channels: website, email and live chat.

  • Best for: enterprise-level stores with multiple sales channels.

  • Pricing: Adobe Commerce offers customised pricing – you can request a quote via the website.

6. Salesforce Commerce Cloud

Salesforce is the world's first AI-powered CRM. It offers multiple products, including a Commerce Cloud solution that helps businesses build frictionless, personalised customer experiences. With built-in AI and automation, Salesforce Commerce connects and optimises digital and physical touchpoints to capture revenue and fuel growth.

Commerce Cloud is a suite of products that include storefront templates, headless commerce, order management, Web3 integration and payment software. It's built on Salesforce's CRM solution and integrates with other solutions, such as Salesforce's Marketing and Service Cloud, for omnichannel messaging.

  • Channels: website, email, live chat, SMS, WhatsApp, Messenger, Apple Messages for Business, in-app messaging and mobile push notifications.

  • Best for: large commerce enterprises with international audiences.

  • Pricing: the cost varies depending on the commerce product needed. For B2C Commerce, pricing starts at 1% of the business's gross merchandise value.

7. ActiveCampaign

ActiveCampaign is a powerful omnichannel marketing platform and CRM packed with tools to help businesses deliver personalised customer experiences. Its main features include automated email marketing, marketing automation, contact segmentation, behavioural tracking, lead scoring, analytics, and landing pages.

  • Channels: email, SMS, website and social media channels.

  • Best for: small to medium-sized businesses across all sectors.

  • Pricing: ActiveCampaign's marketing module is priced between $39 and $323 per month, depending on the plan and features required.

How to choose the right platform

With so many options, it can be tricky to know where to start. First, decide what functions of your omnichannel strategy the platform should handle. Do you just need a few features like email marketing, bulk SMS messaging, and customer support? Or is a holistic platform required, for example, to cover all aspects of eCommerce with omnichannel order management, fulfilment, and communications? What channels need to be included?

Also consider:

  • Will the platform meet your business requirements and goals?

  • Can you get teams and individuals on board with it? Will it aid cross-functional collaboration? Everyone needs to be invested in your chosen solution and willing to learn the software inside out.

  • What employee training is required? Some solutions require extensive onboarding and can take months to set up.

  • How scalable is the platform? Will it grow with your business? Or is it too complex for your needs?

  • How easy is the platform to integrate with your existing systems? Are there any compatibility issues with any systems you want to implement in the future?

  • Does it benefit from artificial intelligence, machine learning, augmented reality or any other emerging technologies?

  • How secure is the platform? Check the provider's cybersecurity and data privacy policies and compliance accreditations.

  • What do current and previous customers say? Check reviews and case studies and determine whether the platform is suitable for your specific business.

  • What level of support is available? A complex platform should have multiple support channels, such as email, live chat, telephone support, and a knowledge base.

  • How much does it cost? And more importantly, are you likely to get a good return on your investment?

Customer satisfaction concept with smiley face rating

Enhance the customer experience with an omnichannel platform

Customers today interact with brands using a variety of channels and touchpoints. An omnichannel platform brings these together and keeps data centralised to give you a holistic view of each customer and where they are in their journey.

An omnichannel platform enables better team collaboration, as customer-facing staff have all the information they need at their fingertips. It'll also become much easier to track and analyse customer interactions and send timely, relevant, and targeted campaigns with consistent messaging and branding.

The primary benefit is for the customer, who will receive a unified, personalised service based on their needs and expectations. Ultimately, an omnichannel platform will help you improve customer satisfaction, loyalty and business growth.

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