Omnichannel Vs Multichannel Retailing – Which One Leading the eCommerce Revolution

May 14, 2020
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Omnichannel vs Multichannel

These evolving concepts termed as omnichannel and multichannel retailing emerging to talk about completely new ways to market and reach our customers. The difference or the relation between the two is an ongoing debate and of course, it’s never that easy.

What is Omnichannel Retailing?

Omnichannel retailing is an immersive and customer-centric practice that integrates and leverages a variety of channels to influence a customer’s purchase decision. Omnichannel retail communicates the purpose and usability of a channel, shows awareness of their individual stage in the customer journey through various aligned ways.

This approach allows the customers to treat these channels as an integrated marketplace and not as independent silos. The customer, thus, can purchase wherever they are with an overflow in channels and offers customer experiences within and between these channels.

To learn more about omnichannel retailing, read our previous blog on this.

How does it work?

As customer journey is no longer a linear experience today, it now includes multiple touch points ranging from onsite, social and mobile to email, physical, and instant messaging.

For example,

  • A shopper/customer wants to buy a single door fridge, checks a Brand A (imaginary brand) website to explore offers
  • The customer goes to the brand’s outlet
  • The customer has doubts and started browsing a few more models online
  • The customer receives an email on the best products similar to their interest
  • He/she finds some ad videos online and found a few more models of the product from the same brand
  • Goes back to the app, adds the model of his choice to the cart and explores some double door fridges as well
  • Finds some double door fridge offers on social media instead of a single door fridge from brand A
  • Places the order for a double door fridge from the online app
  • Likewise, if the same customer wants to avoid a longer delivery window and goes for a “pick up in-store” option, they will receive a connected but whole new in-store experience with a much quicker process of getting their orders.

Even if someone adds products to their shopping cart while going through the onsite process shall be able to resume their search via their preferred method of purchase even on desktop sometime later. This means, their cart should reflect their previous mobile session for a real-time cross-device experience.

Why Omnichannel Retailing?

According to Harvard Business Review’s recent study, more than 70% of customers browse multiple channels before they shortlist or buy a product online or even in a store. Here are a few points on how Omnichannel Retailing helps in creating an integrated experience for customers.

  • The omnichannel approach helps in planning your marketing strategy based on customer behavior within and between channels where the brand doesn’t behave randomly but in an aligned way. Omnichannel retailing is basically an integrated approach to retailing, no matter where the shopper wants to shop from. Customer experience gets changed with each interaction.
  • It also removes all the boundaries between different sales and marketing channels while creating a unified and integrated marketplace.
  • It creates a unified and seamless shopping experience no matter where the customer is – be it online or in-store, what device they are using – whether mobile or desktop and what channel they are accessing the content – from email, web portal, website or mobile app, etc.
  • By merging all the touchpoints ranging from websites, emails and retargeted ads to social media marketing and physical locations omnichannel retailing offers a combined experience like reflecting customized product messages (related to offers products and messages) browsed through a different channel while going through social media or another platform.

What is Multichannel Retailing?

Multichannel refers to all the touchpoints which are available and which a specific retailer can leverage in order to influence the customer decision ranging from website, email, ads, social media and mobile apps to traditional print and physical retail stores, etc.

Multichannel retailing is a product-centric approach of retailing which allows customers to choose among multiple channels what they prefer to shop from. The purpose of multichannel retail is to make the most of the revenue and loyalty by offering options and convenience to the customers. Unfortunately, the spray and pray mentality and disintegration of data have made this method non-personalized and difficult to measure in terms of channel attribution.

How does it work?

  • A customer browses items on the website of brand A (imaginary brand) and makes note of a specific product
  • The customer then visits A’s local retail store, thinking of purchasing the item in person
  • Brand A service representative came for help, discovers the store doesn’t have any of the items in stock, asked the customer to come sometime later, took contact details for further updates
  • The customer leaves the store and buys the product online
  • After a few days, the store had its stock back and called the customer after which the customer informed about the purchase

Here, the key concept is, no customer interaction or buying history of the product is communicated between the two channels, and both the channels (online store and physical store) acted as two separate marketplaces for the customer.

What Is the Difference Between Multichannel Retailing and Omnichannel Retailing?

Though both the multichannel and omnichannel involve retailing across manifold physical or digital channels, the significant difference is how the customer experience is merged across these channels. Here are the points to be noted while understanding the difference between the two:

  • Multichannel Retailing literally means ‘many’ channels while the word ‘Omni’ in Omnichannel retailing indicates ‘all’ channels.
  • The multichannel approach often makes channels as silos and independent from one another. Omnichannel retailing creates a unified and unique customer experience and treats all the channels as an entirely merged marketplace.
  • In a multichannel strategy, each channel acts as a separate purchase opportunity. The omnichannel strategy offers integrated marketing and selling that accounts for the spillover between different channels.
  • Multichannel retailing revolves around the product and allows your customers to engage and purchase natively wherever they shop while omnichannel retailing is more customer-centric which creates a single customer experience across your brand.

Choosing Between the Two

Omnichannel offers a seamless customer experience which is a more logical choice for any customer. Though it’s not so simple to choose just one over another. Whether to start your business as a physical retail store or a digitally native brand – that is the key question where your decision really makes a difference. You may make your choice after addressing the below points on the topic:

  • A conventional multichannel retailer may have a website and physical stores both of which are typically very siloed with very limited interaction.
  • Stores generally have their own stock for selling directly to their customers. On the other hand, the website has a different stock targeting different demography and mostly digitally savvy customers.
  • All online or offline interaction is entirely separated from each other and never merged. Thus, the online and offline markets are treated as separate businesses where an item purchased online, can’t be returned in-store and vice versa.
  • Customers today, are not very fond of seeing a brand in silos. They prefer multiple touchpoints with a retailer and expect their journey between each channel is seamless.
  • Resources are a significant challenge before you start your omnichannel retailing approach. Adapting your eCommerce business to omnichannel demands significant resources like IT investment and prowess.
  • Seamless customer experience is what makes omnichannel even more popular.


In the rapidly changing landscape of eCommerce, omnichannel, and multichannel are the two most emerging strategies to improve revenue through multiple channels social selling, digital marketplaces, and physical storefronts together.

Though omnichannel retailing is gaining ground rapidly, there are very few retailers who would want to choose this approach due to its aforesaid challenges. However, omnichannel is ideal for the brands who have started with a multichannel experience before, and now tying them all together is a perfect strategy.

Reach out to the experts at Vinculum today for further insights into omnichannel and multichannel retailing, their challenges, the best practices, and more.


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