“Customers don’t think in channels, but businesses do.” – Thunderhead

Since the Internet became a thing, it has been the retail and brand giants – think Disney, REI, Sephora, Starbucks – that have dominated the omni-channel sales experience. More traditional companies selling complex products with multiple decision points, typically through an intermediary like an insurance agent or financial advisor, have struggled to keep up with the staggering pace of buyers’ evolving buying preferences and expectations.

The trend toward omni-channel has only accelerated as Baby Boomers, 74 million strong as of the latest U.S. Census Bureau data, age into their retirement years. This cohort has been highly influential in shaping how Americans conduct business, with its increasing comfort and familiarity in making even the most complex and important financial and healthcare decisions online or via the phone versus more traditional face-to-face sales channels.

As customers continue to do more research and business online, companies in the financial services and healthcare sectors have prioritized omni-channel selling as a method to meet customers where they are while replicating aspects of the face-to-face sales experience that have worked well for centuries. It has also helped them modernize their approach to positioning both healthcare and “wealthcare” as a viable direct-sold option as their primary targets move closer to retirement.

Here are 5 ways these providers have adapted to the new world order in their omni-channel sales efforts:

  1. Prioritize education above all else. It’s critical to educate the shopper, particularly in complex selling environments with sometimes lengthy sales cycles, to help them feel like they are making a smart, informed decision. Remember, just 10-15 years ago this group was primarily working with a trusted agent or advisor to make these decisions. Speaking of…
  1. Replicate the face-to-face trust and reassurance factor. Savvy companies are using online and direct sales channels to help provide a level of guidance traditionally provided by a trusted agent or advisor. As the customer navigates the education and purchasing experience, provide prompts for “why we’re asking” descriptions and reinforcing language along the path. Check out Cialdini’s Principles of Persuasion (https://www.shopify.com/enterprise/44331971-6-scientific-principles-of-persuasion-all-smart-ecommerce-founders-know) for more on that topic.
  1. Make information bite-sized & digestible. There’s a reason TurboTax has put a major dent in the tried-and-true tax advisory model. There are arguably few things more complicated than the U.S. tax system, yet TurboTax has found a way to make the process feel simple and step-by-step, stopping along the way to ensure you have what you need and understand why they’re asking. You can always go deeper on any particular topic if you’d like. Even the simple progress bar showing how far you’ve come can make a big difference in completing a complex task (or purchase).
  1. Navigate a purchaser toward action. It’s critical to not just meet customers where they are, but also help them get what they want (or sometimes need) to go. For some, it may be more 101-level education on complex topics. Others may be ready to compare specific products and services or make a decision. Regardless of where they start, ensure your omni-channel experience helps them advance to the logical next step in their decision process.
  1. Provide multiple ways to buy with confidence. While omni-channel often means evolving a company’s online and mobile capabilities, don’t forget that many purchasers are still not comfortable making big decisions completely online without talking to a human being. True omni-channel means offering multiple options to complete the purchase, including direct phone channels and yes, even the traditional face-to-face sales rep, agent or advisor.

Regardless of how a customer chooses to learn, decide and ultimately purchase, an optimal omni-channel sales experience will meet them where they are – and ultimately help them get where they need to go. Best-in-class omni-channel experiences help them at each and every point in the sale, no matter how they choose to interact with your brand.

About Weber Associates

Weber blends the frontline rigor of a sales and service consulting firm with the moxie of a full-service creative agency. Based in Columbus, Ohio, our unique mix of left-brain practicality and right-brain innovation has helped Fortune 500 leaders significantly grow revenue and profits, improve the customer experience and deepen customer loyalty that we can prove through meaningful business results. Learn more at www.weberassoc.com.