Five Ways to Gear your Business for Omni-Channel Distribution in 2016

In: Who we are
FlySafair Omni-channel

Pure-play retail will be a thing of the past as the omni-channel approach becomes the new business strategy of 2016. So, what is it and how can companies do it right?

Omni-channel is about providing access to services and products in a variety of contexts: online, in stores, on mobile devices or via third parties. According to NYU professor, Scott Galloways’ Four Horsemen of the digital economy, pure-play trade, which has been embodied by the likes of Amazon – offering only a digital retail platform – is falling away. Amazon has already announced opening its first brick-and-mortar book store. The opposite move is also true, where locally, the likes of Woolworths, Pick n Pay, Makro and other traditional brick-and-mortar stores are offering online shopping alternatives.

The idea is to open as many doors between a company and the end client as possible, not just to facilitate sales, but to facilitate the end-to-end customer experience.

I believe the airline industry is ahead of the curve when it comes to managing a multitude of consumer engagement platforms. At FlySafair you can buy tickets on various offline and online channels, and through third parties. You can also follow up and ask for help through all of those channels as well as email and social media.

So what advice does FlySafair offer to other players looking to get it right?

  1. Maintain a single view of your customer

Just because you’re an omni-channel business, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t maintain a single point of view of all your customers, whether they’re reaching out to you on Facebook, or speaking to a check-in agent at the airport. A strong IT infrastructure providing a central view of your customer is core to linking all the environments. The right platforms, coupled with big data analytics will provide valuable customer insights.

  1. It’s not just about sales

Absolutely essential is to move away from the view that this model is just about having a variety of sales and marketing channels. Yes, this is core of the omni-channel offering, but it’s also about opening all doors for customers to reach out to you before, during and after a purchase takes place.

Even if you aren’t selling anything online, your website is still a vital channel as a repository of information that can lead to a sale, or a place for customer feedback. Businesses also need to understand how people want to engage and what the expectations are related to a given channel. If a customer emails a question, how long do they expect to wait for an answer? Does that expectation change if they SMS? These are all things that need to be built into your channel architecture.

Additionally, a customer’s journey needs be completely channel agnostic. The key is to recognise your customer behind whatever door they open, picking up the conversation where you left off without hesitation.

  1. Sales and distribution Strategies

Once you have determined the channels of engagement it’s time to reach out to potential customers. There’s no point in just throwing yourself at all of them at once. Carefully consider the nature of the channel and the customer using it. Here are some pointers:

Pick your cheapest route to market and make that your primary sales channel. The cheapest way for us to sell a ticket is via our own website. The overheads on a website are far less than involving a third-party sales agent or a physical space. So, we ensure that the customer can find the best deal via our website, also accessible via mobile. Similarly, a restaurant may choose their front of house as the primary channel and while takeaway deliveries are offered, they come at a delivery premium.

 Segment your target market. Then open channels first for the biggest and most lucrative segment. An online store selling luxury homeware may start with a primary retail target market of new homeowners through a website. In time, it may open itself up to another channel via wedding registries, and then incorporate a pop-up showroom. The key is to decide which channel is most essential to establish first, bed that down and then diversify.

  1. Picking the right third-parties

Understand who adds value where. Make sure that it is charged for appropriately. Online travel comparison websites, for example, offer the end user a single environment with a smorgasbord of airlines, prices and times. It’s a great service, but with it comes a third party and someone that needs to make a buck in the process. Often, these aggregators pressure airlines to pay a commission out of their fares so that the fare displayed on the aggregator’s website matches that on the airline’s website, meaning the airline loses money on sales. In FlySafair’s world there is no fat built into our fares, so this is not the way to go. The entity which adds the value should be the one charging for it – consumers respect this transparency and it makes better business sense for that channel. 

  1. Marketing messages on the channels

When it comes to marketing, each channel requires a tailored strategy. Corporate travellers tend to require last-minute bookings and flexibility to change their trips. So we market these benefits to that segment through a channel like corporate self-booking tools. However, there’s no need to push this message at a Pick n Pay store where the customer is a long-lead leisure traveller. This just adds unnecessary costs.

Put most of your budget behind your main medium. For FlySafair, it makes sense that we would put our primary effort behind bringing customers to our own website. When it comes to marketing channels like our online travel agency partners or retail partners, we conduct shared marketing activities because the benefit is shared.

So, pick your channels wisely and embrace the omni-channel revolution.

Written by: Kirby Gordon
Vice President of Sales and Distribution at FlySafair