The line between customers’ experiences online and offline has been blurred to such an extent that they’re really now two aspects of the same, complex experience. This is known as the omni-channel – a multi-channel approach to sales that creates a fully integrated experience for consumers.
Retailers are already using an integrated approach – people can shop online using a website, social webpage or mobile app, and offline using a telephone or in person – but an omni-channel strategy is even more fully integrated than that. It’s seamless, so there’s essentially no difference between the two except where a person is physically. And more and more features get included at each phase.
For example, Hilton Hotels has a responsive website and also a mobile app that allows you to choose a room, check-in, use the app as your room key and book an Uber. Starbucks has an app that lets you find the nearest outlet and gives you wayfinding to it, lets you order your drink and download playlists from music you hear in their shops, keeps track of your loyalty points and possible rewards, and acts as a platform for advertising seasonal specials using integrated email and social media marketing.
There’s been a fair amount written about this concept for retail and other consumer-oriented markets. But the same ideas can be applied to internal communications as well. Employees are people, living in the digital age, who are used to always having access to whatever information they want, wherever they are. Any organization who wants to effectively communicate with them needs to create a more consumer-like experience. A good digital signage system is the cornerstone of that.
If your digital signs are well placed, people see them several times a day as they go about their work. But you don’t want to just push information out at them – that’s not what they are accustomed to anymore. You want them to react or respond in some way – to go to the event, to recycle more, to sign up for training, to participate in the blood drive. This is the correlative to the retail world, but instead of people spending their money on your products, you are trying to get them to spend their time and energy interacting with your organization.
Of course, there can also be some spending of money as well. If you have on-site facilities, like a cafeteria or café, you’d probably prefer employee’s get their refreshments there, rather than going off site. Colleges want students to use the bookstore and attend athletics events. K-12 schools want more students signed up for the school lunch program. But mainly you’re trying to influence behavior in a certain way, and to inform viewers to such an extent that they feel engaged with the organization, and are happier and more productive as a result.
Companies are getting very good at tracking people’s online journeys – who went to the website, which pages they looked at, how long they looked at them, which page they went to next, which resources they downloaded, etc. Now consider your employees offline journeys through your facility. People going from point A to point B see this many screens, with these messages at this time of the day. Now think – how can we get them to do something after seeing a message? Can we drive them to a webpage or social media site? Will they sign up for the seminar? Is there an easy to remember discount code (or photograph) to get them to spend time in our café?
The old sales adage is ABC – Always Be Closing. When thinking of a modern digital signage deployment, change that to Always be Communicating. Your digital signage messages, your website and intranet, your social media, all of it should become a single, multi-faceted communications strategy. Use digital and online messages to encourage people to participate in offline events, and use offline events to drive traffic to your digital and online portals.
The deeper you integrate everything, the more flexibility and greater coverage you have. The more options your audience has to access what you want them to know, they greater chance they’ll do that. Every point where your audience and your organization cross is a chance to reach them, communicate with them, encourage them to participate. That’s the omni-channel.