July 13, 2018      3 min read

As the ability to purchase products whenever, wherever becomes easier for customers, businesses are finding more strategic with the marketing of their items. Customer experience is increasingly important as demand for faster turnaround and improved product delivery increases, and businesses who manage both online and physical retail stores have started to alter the management of both to keep up with demand. When choosing between omni-channel and multi-channel marketplaces, there are a few things to keep in mind.

What is the difference between omni-channel and multi-channel?

The key difference between omni-channel and multi-channel sales is the interactions across platforms. Omni, meaning ‘all’, creates a system where all channels are available to the consumer, and they are all interconnected. Multi, meaning ‘many’, still offers all channels to consumers, but they are not integrated with each other. Some businesses, such as those offering ‘click and collect’ services, use elements of omnichannelling, but ultimately use a multi-channel model.

In traditional multi-channel marketing, online and physical stores are kept separate. Purchases made online typically cannot be exchanged instore, and instore purchases cannot be returned through online retail stores. In this sense, they are treated as separate businesses.

Omni-channel marketplaces integrate various systems, such as onsite, social and email marketing, physical store experience, and mobile experience to create a synthesised experience. Compared to traditional retail, this model is far more consumer-oriented, focusing on the overall experience and satisfaction of customers.

What are the barriers?

When weighing up which type of eCommerce channel fits your business, it is important to consider the barriers of both. For omni-channel sales, focus on cost, technology, upgrades, and commitment is required.

Because of the integration of different channels, there is an increased set of factors affecting inventory management. Stock can no longer be designated to online and instore, but instead must be included in an overall total, meaning more stringent stock management is required. To account for these factors affecting inventory management, upgraded tracking software and stocktaking procedure is essential. There are also very few technology solutions that allow for omnichannelling, meaning the initial setup of the system may be a barrier for its inception. It also requires full commitment and acceptance from all staff. Management staff need to accept the change and adjust their methods to compensate, while sales staff, especially those that work on commission, need assurance of profitability.

For multi-channel sales, customer satisfaction is the main barrier. With omni-channel experiences available, customers expect a higher level of service. Consumers are beginning to navigate through many different touch points to make a single purchase, such as adding an item to their basket on their phone, researching the product later on a laptop, visiting a store to try the product, and using their phone to compare prices instore. The ability to manage these different platforms without creating barriers for customers is essential for customer satisfaction.

Emphasising customer experience

In terms of customer experience, omni-channel sales are unique. The ability to integrate marketing and sales across platforms enables businesses to attract more customers. The sense of personalised experience gained from the seemingly direct and purposeful marketing offers customers a smoother experience, regardless of platform selection. This model focuses on improving customer experience, rather than maximising channel efficiency, and therefore it may take more time and management than multi-channel sales.

In evaluating whether an omni or multi channel is right for your business, there are many important factors to consider. Barriers such as cost, customer experience, technological requirements, factors affecting inventory management, and overall business management flexibility must be evaluated to decide what works best for your company.

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