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eCommerce

Omnichannel vs. multichannel eCommerce

Chris Powers
August 23rd, 2021
5 MINUTE READ

Modern consumers have grown accustomed to “on-demand” commerce—the ability to order exactly what they want when it’s most convenient for them. From fashion, to groceries, to electronics, numerous different retail verticals have been transformed by the proliferation of eCommerce technologies that enable this extraordinary level of convenience and personalization for customers. 

But with this giant leap forward in eCommerce capabilities—especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic—comes increased competition. Competing brands are vying for attention from increasingly fickle consumers that have become acclimated to a commerce environment built for speed and convenience. It’s no longer enough for brands to offer fast shipping, solid customer service, and a user-friendly eCommerce site.

To stay competitive these days, it’s essential that brands commit to meeting customers on their terms—where, when, and how they shop. Creating a superior customer experience across multiple channels—eCommerce sites, mobile apps, social media, in-store, etc.—can help brands expand their footprint, drive conversions, and ultimately boost revenues. 

Two approaches to delivering this superior experience have become popular in recent years. Omnichannel and multichannel commerce strategies both seek to engage consumers through multiple channels, helping brands interact directly with customers on their chosen platforms. While omnichannel and multiple approaches bear some similarities, they differ in a few key ways. 

In this post, we’ll examine both strategies in-depth, outlining the benefits and challenges of each. Read on to learn more about how your brand can leverage a multichannel or omnichannel approach to drive better commerce outcomes.

Omnichannel vs. multichannel commerce

As mentioned above, omnichannel and multichannel commerce are similar in some ways, but ultimately refer to different approaches to utilizing sales channels. Brands that use a multichannel strategy incorporate multiple channels—both online and offline—to interact with customers. These brands may use social media, sell products via an eCommerce site, and operate an old-fashioned brick-and-mortar store. Customers have numerous touchpoints to engage with your brand and ultimately make purchases.

While an omnichannel commerce strategy also enlists more than one channel to engage customers, it differs from a multichannel approach in one key way. Brands that utilize an omnichannel strategy are adept at connecting individual channels to create a seamless customer experience. This is what separates the two approaches.

What is a multichannel commerce strategy?

A multichannel commerce strategy uses a wide variety of sales and marketing channels to inform customers about a brand and make its products available for purchase. These channels can include, but are not limited to:

  • ECommerce websites
  • Mobile apps
  • Marketplaces
  • Social media
  • Email marketing
  • Messaging and SMS

The primary goal of a multichannel approach is to maximize the number of channels customers can use to learn about your brand and its products, and ultimately make purchases. The more entry points your customers have to engage with your brand, the more likely you are to make sales. It’s as simple as that.

What are the benefits of multichannel commerce?

Investing heavily in a solid multichannel commerce strategy can help your brand connect with new customers and foster relationships with existing ones. Using multiple channels amplifies your brand and makes you more likely to connect with consumers. You want to be where your customers are (existing and prospective), and a multichannel approach can ensure that you’re present at their preferred channels.

What are the challenges of multichannel commerce?

A major challenge for brands when it comes to multichannel commerce is making sure branding and messaging stay consistent across all channels. It’s much easier to control and keep track of the messages you’re sending to consumers when you operate just one channel, like a direct-to-consumer (DTC) site. But when implementing more channels, things can get pretty complex. It can be extremely difficult to maintain brand standards across channels, especially marketplaces that have their own unique requirements and best practices. 

What is an omnichannel commerce strategy?

Omnichannel commerce seeks to alleviate the challenges associated with multichannel strategies while delivering a superior customer experience as well. Brands that take an omnichannel approach succeed by breaking down the walls between individual sales and marketing channels, ensuring customers get the same tailored, branded experience across all touchpoints. This way, consumers get the same experience from shopping on your site that they do from your mobile application or social media channels, for example. 

Aligning your sales and marketing strategies across channels creates a truly consistent brand experience. By meeting your customers on their terms at their preferred touchpoints, you can provide them with the products they need, exactly when they need them. 

What are the benefits of omnichannel commerce?

A big part of delivering a superior customer experience is allowing consumers to engage with your brand in ways that feel natural. By offering an engaging, branded experience across channels—and breaking down the dividers between them—customers view your brand as a holistic entity. 

Because of this, it gets easier for customers to “buy in” to your brand. They become more loyal and engaged, often serving as brand advocates. Acquiring new customers is expensive for brands, so finding methods of making sure existing customers return is top of mind. An omnichannel approach helps to encourage customer loyalty by creating a well-rounded customer experience.

Plus, on average, omnichannel customers spend 10% more money online and 4% more money in-store. By not only making products available to consumers via multiple channels but creating a holistic experience with seamless connections between those channels, you create an environment where customers feel more engaged and enticed to make purchases. 

What are the challenges of omnichannel commerce?

Understandably, the more channels you have, the more difficult it is to effectively manage them all. Channel conflicts occur when individual channels do not communicate with each other. This is the enemy of a seamless customer experience. Everything from inventory to customer service operations needs to be centralized and easily integrated with all of your channels, from your mobile app to your brick-and-mortar storefronts.

A natural evolution of integrated commerce

Many view omnichannel commerce as a natural extension of the multichannel approach—seeking to not only offer a wealth of touchpoints to engage with a brand but also connect those touchpoints in a holistic way that places the customer at the center of the buying experience. Brands that initially launch multichannel strategies often find themselves deconstructing the walls between channels, much to the benefit of their customers. Working with our extensive set of eCommerce technology partners, Codal can help your brand assemble a multichannel or omnichannel commerce solution that delivers. Talk to us today.

Chris Powers
AUTHOR

Chris Powers

Chris is a Content Marketing Specialist at Codal. With a background in journalism and marketing, Chris has written about a variety of tech topics, including open source, fintech, and cybersecurity. Chris loves taking on new challenges with just a pen, paper, and his brain.

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