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Multi-channel vs. Omnichannel Customer Experience

Sure you have come across the terms multi-channel and omnichannel retailing. We are seeing these terms often used interchangeably, while they address two completely different strategies how businesses can interact with their customers across channels.

Understanding the difference lets you apply the concepts to improve your customer experience most effectively.

If you want to provide an outstanding experience for your customers across all touchpoints, learn more about Omnichannel Advice Experiences.

Before we dive in, here’s a quick stat you should see. According to Custora, online sales in the Q1 of 2014 went up to 13% compared to the Q1 of 2013. Online sales are expected to quadruple in 2015. This situation presents incredible potential to gain new customers and convert them into loyal shoppers – but are you prepared to tap into it?

If you want to excel at your online retail business, you have to start positioning your brand now and make sure your business is forward-thinking in terms of your shopping experience. A deeper understanding of your customers and their needs is the only way to enhance their experience at all times.

What is Multi-channel retailing?

In modern commerce, customers can decide to research a particular product on different channels and then buy it through another channel.

Multi-channel retailing refers to the strategy of offering multiple sales avenues to shoppers.

An example of a multichannel retailer is one that lets shoppers purchase their products in a physical store, website, mobile applications, call centers or marketplaces.

What is Omnichannel retailing?

Omnichannel retailing goes beyond offering different touch points, but making sure to deliver a consistent message, look and feel, and experience across all channels and devices.

In times when shoppers are getting more demanding, an omnichannel approach to retailing allows businesses to create richer, more meaningful and seamless customer experiences across all touch points. The challenge lies in integrating the different channels to streamline the customer journey.

An example of an omnichannel retailer is one that lets shoppers research products on the way to the office using a smart phone, placing them in the a wishlist during an office lunch break to edit the same list and order selected products at home using a tablet.

What’s the difference?

The major difference is that in the omnichannel setting, the entire retail business works as a single organism. In other words: the planning, purchasing, allocation, marketing, price adjustments, and customer relationship management seamlessly affect all your channels, your brick-and-mortar store, online store and mobile app included.

In multi-channel retailing, on the other hand,  every channel (e.g. an online store) is treated individually, employs different strategies and is managed in a unique manner, even though it sells the same product. Thus, a multi-channel strategy doesn’t necessarily put the focus on creating a consistent shopping experience.

Multi-channel vs. omni-channel

In a nutshell, the core difference between omnichannel and multi-channel is how deeply the decisions and plans affect the individual channels and, consequently, the end users (i.e. customers).

Why is it important?

It’s all about convenience for the customer. They don’t really care about which label you slap on it. What they care about is an effortless shopping experience that lets them browse and shop in the way they feel most comfortable. You want to make your customer happy, and inspire them to stick to your brand day in and day out? Then you have to find out what they expect from you, and then meet their expectations.

Whether you allow shoppers to complete their purchase on different devices or go a step further and integrate these touch points, the main focus should always be providing the best possible shopping experience that will inspire your shoppers not only to purchase but also to return.  However, not investing in either approaches to modern retailing will make you risk falling behind of competition quickly.

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