Wednesday, November 29, 2023

iTHINK | Finding the sweet spot for the perfect omnichannel experience

Customer expectations have shifted rapidly in the past two years, driven by the ongoing pandemic. They now want to be able to interact and experience with brands across multiple channels on the platform of their choice. These shifting expectations and demands have made way for the omnichannel approach.

As mobility restrictions ease up, some may think that consumer behaviors will go back to pre-pandemic levels. But it’s not likely. For sure, some of us may want to go back to watching movies in theaters or going to the beach, but certainly not for activities such as paying bills online or using an e-wallet to pay for our favorite milk tea. Would we want to give up the convenience, practicality, and safety of such services?

What is omnichannel?

Omnichannel means “all channels.”

It is a multichannel approach that aims to provide a personalized and integrated experience across diverse touchpoints and devices. An omnichannel approach unifies sales and marketing, so the customer can jump between channels to seamlessly continue their journey with a brand or company.

Ultimate goal

For most companies, the omnichannel approach is the right strategy in a post-Covid world. However, finding the sweet spot for the perfect omnichannel experience is the ultimate goal.

In the financial industry where I belong, traditional banks are becoming more and more digital. Digital banking has increased dramatically. According to a survey by McKinsey, a management consulting firm, around 54% of consumers in Asia-Pacific in 2017 actively used digital banking. In 2021, that percentage soared to 88%. Fintech app and e-wallet penetration likewise increased from 40% to 51% in the same period.

These numbers support a trend we see in local banks. At Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) where I work, the decline in branch transactions is creating an opportunity for us to reimagine what our physical branch should be.

Reinventing the branch

Our president and CEO TG Limcaoco sees our branches becoming “sales points” rather than “service points”. For him, providing an omnichannel experience where clients can complete transactions either digitally or physically, or start with one channel and complete them in another is the way to go.

For us, branches should be venues for high-level interactions with customers, such as providing trusted advice on investments, loans, or insurance.

In the same survey by McKinsey I mentioned earlier, 69 percent of respondents said they were willing to use digital channels for services beyond transactions, such as opening a savings account, getting a loan, or availing of a credit card. However, only 26% have done so.

Clearly, the desire does not match the action.

Work in progress

While customers appreciate the improved efficiency and convenience of digital services, they still want a personal experience, especially in markets like the Philippines where relationship is still king. Fortunately, the omnichannel banking offers the perfect half-way house between digital and a traditional face-to-face banking.

It’s still a work in progress, and I’m glad that we at BPI continue to reinvent the customer experience relative to the times.
I think one thing is clear though: when creating the perfect omnichannel experience, satisfying the evolving needs of clients is the key.

The author is the vice president and head of corporate affairs & communications of BPI and is concurrently the executive director of BPI Foundation


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