Omnichannel architecture is a form of how an organization communicates with engaging people over a number of communication channels. It can be called a user experience architecture with respect to how people experience it. It can be called a business architecture with respect to how business processes are organized to deliver an omnichannel experience. It can be called an IT architecture with respect to how IT is organized to deliver an omnichannel experience.
To distinguish omnichannel architecture, let us explore some other forms too.
Single channel architecture
Think of a bank that offers its services only via the physical branch network. A customer always have to visit a bank branch to receive the services. Here, only a single communication channel exists and it is via the physical premises.
In this form, the bank offers its services via multiple communication channels. They may include postal mail, email, telephone, world wide web, mobile applications and automated teller machines (ATMs).
In the basic form of multichannel architecture, channels are not connected. Hence a customer who fails to successfully fill and submit an online application form to get a new bank account will have to go through the full manual process from the beginning which will include filling the paper application forms upon visiting a bank branch.
In this form, multiple channels are used but they are connected.
Here is a possibility: A customer who successfully fills and submits an online application form to get a new bank account will visit a bank branch to produce her photo identify card and an address verification document upon which a bank account is activated and she is issued an ATM card. In this case, a bank officer who assists her will have access to the information the customer filled online. To accommodate this scenario, the online banking system and the software application the bank officer uses within the branch needs connectivity.
In this form also multiple channels are used but they are integrated to a level beyond that of basic crosschannel architecture so the interconnected channels communicate back and forth with each other in a seamless manner and often at the same time to offer an integrated and cohesive customer experience.
Here is a possible omnichannel experience: A customer who fails to successfully fill and submit an online application form to get a new bank account will receive a phone call from the bank with assistance. The bank officer who called is able to view how the application form is being filled by the customer and verify the input as it is being completed. If the customer does not upload scanned copies of a photo identity card and an address verification document during online submission, options exists to use the mobile banking app to directly capture photos of them or a unique email address is shown to which the scanned copies should be sent. The bank sends and email notification and a text message to the mobile phone after processing the application. The customer is able to receive an ATM card via post or can visit a bank branch to collect it.
Here’s another example: A customer who reaches the call center of the business after experiencing a problem while using another channel (say mobile banking application or online) doesn’t have to explain all the details of the problem because the officer at the call center would be able to easily fetch the problem details from the other channel the customer used. Upon the problem being fixed by the officer, changes get reflected on the other channel and the customer is able to continue her journey on that channel from the place where she stopped last time.