Consumers continue to expect seamless experiences across digital and in-person touchpoints, but a new Forrester study commissioned by Uberall shows just how difficult creating an end-to-end hybrid customer journey is for brands.

The findings of the “Reignite Growth with Hybrid Customer Experiences” study are based on a survey of over 200 decision-makers at US and European companies with 150 or more locations. It sheds light on the challenges companies face in breaking down departmental silos and offers insights into the importance of adapting to customer demands.

Businesses Lack Confidence In Their Ability To Deliver Seamless Hybrid Customer Experiences

More than half of companies are confident they are good or excellent at table stakes activities, such as making it easy for customers to find the closest in-store location online (62 percent) and responding to customers’ feedback, ratings and reviews on their own (55 percent) or others’ channels and touchpoints (54 percent).

But the vast majority of organizations struggle with more advanced yet essentials elements of hybrid customer experience. For example, 70 percent of decision-makers believe their company does a sub-optimal job at providing seamless customer journeys and consistent brand presences across all online and offline touchpoints.

Seventy-two percent also reported being interested or very interested in a platform that addresses several marketing and customer experience needs.

Customer Engagement Is A High Priority Post-Pandemic

Business as a whole has shifted since the pandemic began with many now focusing on customer relationships. As much as 70 percent of businesses reported that a more comprehensive understanding of their customers is more important now than it was pre-pandemic. 

Additionally, 74 percent of companies are prioritizing customer engagement via social media while 72 percent intend on increasing customer retention and loyalty.

Fragmented Teams And Solutions Create Fragmented Experiences

The study found that 75 percent of activities related to the beginning and end of the customer journey are managed in-house while 25 percent are outsourced. What’s worse, those portions that are managed in-house are split between a collection of different teams from customer service to digital marketing.

More than a third of businesses rely on external partners to manage tasks such as intelligent communications (42 percent), customer journey data analytics (39 percent), social listening (36 percent), and ratings and reviews (34 percent). But as the report notes, without alignment businesses risk fragmented customer experiences and inconsistent brand presence.

Many companies address problems using an array of standalone solutions, which, when combined with the fact that important customer experience data are stored away in silos, can hinder progress.

The top three standalone solutions businesses employ are social listening tools (76 percent), intelligent communications solutions like chatbots (70 percent) and ratings and review management solutions (70 percent).

In-Store Digital Capabilities Are Key But Hard To Implement

Seventy-three percent of company decision-makers feel that physical locations require digital capabilities such as QR codes, self-checkout and contactless payment to a greater degree now than they did before the pandemic. Nevertheless, 45 percent of respondents also labeled digital capabilities in physical locations as among the most difficult projects to implement.

Tracking And Analyzing Real-Time Customer Behavior Remains An Effort

Challenges with data security, team alignment and legacy technology are the biggest barriers to creating a seamless hybrid customer experience. Most businesses do an average, fair or poor job at tracking and gaining a clear picture of customer behavior across end-to-end customer journeys, the report shows. In fact, more than 60 percent of organizations struggle to get a holistic view of end-to-end customer journeys and to connect data across multiple systems.

The most critical element to consider when assessing the optimal technology solution to support marketing and customer experience at physical locations was the ability to link feedback and customer interaction data throughout the customer journey. 

One issue that often arises in this context is achieving the amount and depth of understanding required is difficult when customers’ expectations change so quickly. But real-time insights can address that issue and help companies adapt to hybrid consumers’ changing demands.