We caught up with Bridget Fahrland, Vice President, Strategy, at Fluid, an on-demand visual merchandising and product configuration solutions provider, digital agency, and Monetate Partner, to get her input on how marketers can better serve the always-connected consumer by delivering a seamless, relevant online customer experience.

Bridget Fahrland, Vice President, Strategy, Fluid

Bridget Fahrland, Vice President, Strategy, Fluid

Q: A major trend for 2013 will be integrating the customer experience across all touchpoints (such as mobile, tablet, app, etc.). Why has that become so important, and how should companies respond?

A: Customers are moving between channels and devices now more than ever. The average purchase may involve online research on a tablet, a store visit, information lookup on a phone while in store, and a later purchase online. The customer does not see this as “omnichannel.” They just see themselves as “shopping.” And wherever, however and whenever customers shop, companies need to meet them where they are with the right message and features.

Companies need to respond to the omnichannel trend by understanding how their customers move between channels and devices, creating connections where needed, but also allowing for differentiated experiences where it makes sense.

Q: What’s the one step companies must take now in order to deliver an integrated customer experience?

A: Like any project, it really starts with understanding your particular target, and what they need and expect at each juncture. This will help you determine the features and messaging for each channel/device, and it will establish the roadmap for integration and sharing data across channels.

Q: What’s the one mistake companies should avoid when it comes to integrating customer experience across devices?

A: Do not confuse homogenization with integration. Integration is about making sure the right data and information is accessible across channels and devices, and that the right connections are being established. It should not be about making every channel or device “the same.” It makes sense for different devices and channels to have some different features or flows.

Q: Which companies are excelling at delivering a fantastic customer experience across devices?

A: Apple, Sephora, and Zipcar all stand out to me as examples of companies that are doing a great job across devices.

Apple’s omnichannel success is largely due to Apple ID enabling the customer global access and recognition across touchpoints. It’s also due to the connection of its devices (phone/laptop/Apple TV) and the cloud sharing. Apple’s iTunes in and of itself is a great omnichannel story, enabling customers to buy online and listen on all of their devices.

Zipcar does a great job of anticipating your key task per device and across the path of car usage. Customers can reserve a car on site, or via their phone, unlock/lock the car with their card or phone, and change reservations while in use via phone. Immediate customer recognition based on universal ID is again key to this seamless, integrated experience.

Sephora is doing a particularly great job with its mobile app and in-store interactive digital experiences. Sephora To Go integrates with Apple Passbook (it’s time- and location-based, so Beauty Insider pops up when you are near a Sephora store). The Mobile App Cart syncs with ecommerce and m-commerce sites, and there is a built-in bar code reader for in-store use. All great ways to give customers what they want, regardless of the device they’re using.