“Omnichannel” engagement is now a top buzzword in customer service, and a term that every business leader should know heading into 2018.

Many people, however, are still in the dark about omnichannel engagement. What exactly is omnichannel, and why is it so important?

Omnichannel refers to a type of cross-channel system that provides a consistent shopping experience across all online, mobile, telephone and retail locations. For example, a customer may walk into a retail store, look at an item and then use his or her smartphone to conduct research before making a purchase. During the process, that customer may move in between the company’s website and application. He or she may also converse with a customer service agent via live chat or a retail employee.

The reason why so many businesses are implementing omnichannel strategies is because omnichannel has been proven to boost revenues. According to one study, companies that use omnichannel customer engagement strategies retain an average of 89 percent of their customers, compared to 33 percent of companies that have weak omnichannel engagement.

What’s more, an overwhelming 87 percent of customers think that brands need to do a better job of providing seamless experiences.

A strong omnichannel customer service strategy is one that is…

Data-driven: Data should be collected at every touch point in the customer journey — meaning every time a customer interacts with a brand either online or in person. This data must be processed, analyzed and shared in a centralized database. By using data, companies can create shopping experiences that are more personalized and targeted.

Completely seamless: Many businesses today have touchpoints that are highly-fragmented meaning there is little correlation between things like mobile applications, websites and retail stores. Omnichannel contact centers solve this by using real-time data sharing and analysis, strong inter-agent communication and high quality Web and network services. The end result is a shopping experience that is completely seamless, and capable of moving along with a customer across each channel without missing a beat.

Fully-functioning: Omnichannel environments are actually quite fragile, meaning they take a great deal of oversight and maintenance. If one point goes down, like a mobile app, it could negatively impact the shopping experience and cause customers to look elsewhere for answers. As such, many businesses are now outsourcing their omnichannel services to third party contact center solutions providers that have the resources in place to effectively manage them. Third party solutions providers offer top-of-the line infrastructure, experienced and well-trained agents and advanced reporting and analytics capabilities. It’s much easier, and more effective, to outsource your omnichannel service instead of trying to maintain it on your own. This is especially true for small teams that lack the budget to hire top-tier agents or maintain their own contact centers.