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Omnichannel vs Multichannel Retailing: The Complete Guide

According to Net Solutions’ State of Digital Commerce 2020 report, 65% of eCommerce retailers believe that ‘changing consumer behavior’ is the biggest concern that could affect their brand in the coming years.

In today’s experience era, a single touchpoint strategy leaves channel-agnostic customers dissatisfied. They expect relevant, tailored, and consistent experience across all touchpoints and value creation stages.

However, the predicament is not just how to get there but also how to strike a fine balance and progress steadily. Strategizing your channel marketing endeavor is the key to getting there, and when it comes to channel marketing, multichannel and omnichannel are the two popular buzzwords.

However, it’s not easy to understand how omnichannel vs multichannel retailing are different from each other, which we have discussed at length in this post.

Omnichannel vs Multichannel Retail – What is the Difference?

Let’s say you have multiple channels for customer interactions, i.e., email, website, mobile app, social media presence, and even the brick-and-mortar setup. Let us understand the two scenarios that help us draw a line between omnichannel vs multichannel customer experience in retail.

difference-between-omnichannel-vs-multichannel-retail | Net Solutions

1. Multichannel vs Omnichannel Example

While omnichannel vs multichannel retail has its differences, it’s a bit challenging to visualize them. Let’s have a look at a multichannel vs omnichannel example to get a better understanding.

Multichannel Retail Example

Mark is a customer, at the consideration stage, who wishes to purchase a new laptop. He does a few searches across the web and lands on your website but, for some reason, does not complete the purchase.

Later, he decides to complete the purchase from his mobile app; however, there is no record of Marks’ website activity once he accesses the app to buy the laptop. Mark goes through the entire buying journey again: select the laptop and make a purchase.

So, in this buying journey, different channels – website and mobile app – are in competition with each other, and Mark has to choose between the two channels to complete his purchase.

This is how we define multichannel customer experience in retail.

What is Multichannel Retailing?

Multichannel retail is product-centric and allows consumers to engage around your products and let them make purchases from all the available channels; however, these channels are not integrated, thereby acting as separate purchase opportunities.

Multichannel Retail Experience= Multiple channels + Separate Channels

omnichannel-vs-multichannel-retail-multi-step-multi-channel-framework | Net Solutions

Omnichannel Retail Example

Referring to the same analogy, let’s talk about the after-purchase experience of Mark. Now he wishes to buy a few accessories for his laptop. He revisits the website, and to his surprise, he is welcomed with spot-on recommendations for the accessories without even having to look for them. Also, his social media feeds showcase carousel ads for the recommended products.

When he adds the accessories to the cart, the coupon code he received via email gets automatically applied. Mark also gets a suggestion to visit his nearest store for a tangible customer service experience. This is how we define the omnichannel customer experience in retail.

Here all the channels involved are freely flowing data rivers that communicate effortlessly to offer to keep a customer in the loop.

What is Omnichannel Retailing?

Omnichannel retail is customer-centric and allows customers to attract with the brand across touchpoints supported by multiple channels. It is similar to a relay race where touchpoints (runners) offer a seamless transition (pass the baton) between channels (tracks) until the completion of the customer journey (race).

Omnichannel Retail Experience = Multiple channels + Interconnected Channels

omnichannel-vs-multichannel-retail-netsolutions-3es-customer-centric-framework | Net Solutions

2. Omnichannel vs Multichannel Retail Challenges

While crafting a multichannel or omnichannel strategy, retailers face a number of challenges trying to strike the right chord with their customers’ experience expectations. There are different challenges for the multichannel and the omnichannel strategy, which we have discussed in the following section:

Challenges with Multichannel Retail Experience

No matter how interactive or responsive your touchpoints are, they will go in vain if they are not interconnected.

You cannot leave the context of your customers. To move one step forward, you need to see for yourself – What stops you from offering the right multichannel customer experience? Like, it could be one of the following:

a) Breaking Down the Siloed Structures

Different teams are spread across the organization with different goals and objectives to cover at the end of the day. Where one team might be handling the email conversations, one might be concerned with social media, and the other might be concerned with the website communications.

The problem is the missing shareability here. Everyone’s been working in silos — the-upshot — fractured experiences across touchpoints.

b) Rich online experience as of a Physical Store

Customers expect a superb online experience that mirrors what they encounter in physical stores. They want to have a dynamic view of their potential purchases. They would like to click on any product and check the product in different colors, fabrics, 360-degree views, etc.

Challenges with Omnichannel Retail Experience

Although businesses incorporate various strategies to deliver a seamless omnichannel experience to their customers, they are still unable to bring them back to their buying journey. For 58% of online retailers, according to Net Solutions’ Digital Commerce 2020 report, it is hard to upsell to their existing customers.

omnichannel-vs-multichannel-retail-upselling-loyal-customers-vs-new-customers | Net Solutions

It could be because of one of the following challenges:

a) Message Frequency Challenge

The stakes of a customer not noticing a personalized message are high. You may bombard their mails or push notifications, but in the end, they might get frustrated. And, with the customers losing interest, there is nothing much you can do.

b) Privacy Wars

A problem with the iOS users — Apple’s privacy protocols do not allow much data transparency. That makes it tricky to track customers across touchpoints. And, then there is Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP), which adds to the challenges further by introducing stringent protocols.

c) Effective asset sharing across the organization

Accessing large volumes of assets has never been easy. Creative and marketing teams often store the assets in multiple locations leading to duplication of assets and insufficient use of resources and workflows, which leads to high costs for the company.

Choosing between Omnichannel vs Multichannel Retail

Customers buy on the basis of their experience they have with your brand. In today’s dynamic world of eCommerce solutions, where brands and marketplaces are racing to grab consumer attention, building brand loyalty and making the brand stand out is a persistent theme with eCommerce players.

Considering this, an omnichannel eCommerce strategy that offers integrated and seamless customer experience seems to be a better and logical choice. An ideal piece of advice for an eCommerce retail startup is to begin with the multichannel retail strategy and gradually move towards omnichannel retailing with the following points in mind:

1. Maintain Limited Channels to Reduce Clutter

There are numerous channels for engaging a customer through digital commerce — website, app, email, social media, AdWords, newsletters, etc. The number of channels across the web will never stop adding. And, if you think of going all-inclusive, chances are you’ll be losing out on revenues.

2. Show Consistency around Design Patterns

The first thing that hits the customer’s eyes who interact with the customer channel is its visual design. This design is your brand’s personality that needs to reverberate consistency throughout, irrespective of it being a brick-and-mortar setup or a cashier-less store setup like Amazon Go.

omnichannel-vs-multichannel-retail-how-trust-impact-buying-in-ecommerce | Net Solutions

3. Incorporate Cross-Channel Analytics

Guesswork does not work when it is about getting your customer expectations right. It would help if you worked it out with data-driven statistics that cannot go wrong. This is possible with having CRMs (Customer Relationship Management System) or even DXPs (Digital Experience Platform) to make the tracking simpler.

omnichannel-vs-multichannel-retail-advantages-of-integration-of-CRM-and-DXP-with-digital-experience-strategy | Net Solutions


Working around delivering a seamless customer experience should be your number one priority because the objective is simple — never lose context with your customers. If you drive your attention to customer needs, reaching your expected goals will not be a far-sighted dream.

To start with, get your understanding of what omnichannel experience implies. Next, look for the missing pieces in your customer experience strategy. And, finally, implement a change according to what suits your business needs best.

This way, you will be able to create a 360-degree experience for your search, buy, and service model, i.e., you will be able to implement an optimal omnichannel strategy.

A brand’s objective revolves around satisfying and serving its customers, and that is where most of the efforts should magnify.

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Divya Kaushal

About the Author

Forte: Requirement gathering, analysis and documentation, Mentoring, UAT, customer service skills and consultation
Likes: Binging on series, Travelling
Dislikes: having to prove the value of the BA role
Claim to fame: analytical thinking and problem solving
Biggest tech blunder: (nothing worth recording here....)
Wannabe: best consultant

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