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Omnichannel vs multichannel: What merchants need to survive

July 13, 2020

Omnichannel vs multichannel: What merchants need to survive
If you’re a retail solution provider looking to stand apart from your competitors, help small merchants migrate from a single or multichannel sales model to a true omnichannel model.

Despite years of use in the industry, there’s still some confusion surrounding the terms multichannel and omnichannel. A “channel” is a single source or method of sales. For example, brick-and-mortar is the oldest channel for sales. When a retailer adds online sales, they add another channel and effectively have a multichannel model. Other potential channels include selling through a third-party marketplace like Amazon, the merchant having its own app, and even social media marketplaces. The more channels a merchant uses, the greater its reach.

While the word omni implies “all,” omnichannel isn’t so much about a merchant using every channel possible as it is about the channels a merchant does use being linked via technology to give customers a seamless shopping experience across those channels. Another distinction is that while multichannel is really focused on sales, omnichannel includes things like order fulfillment (e.g., buy online, pick up in store), returns and payments.

Why omnichannel?
Done well, omnichannel dramatically improves the customer experience. Customers can start shopping via their home computer, pause and then complete shopping via their phone. Orders can be picked up immediately at a physical store, or, if not in stock locally, shipped to the store for pickup or delivered to the customer directly. Payments can be made online or in person.

By now, you’ve probably experienced these choices yourself as a consumer. While previously available only to large retailers with big IT and marketing budgets, technologies and pricing have aligned for smaller merchants. In short, with the technology available and shopper expectations at an all-time high, smaller merchants no longer have excuses to stay out of the omnichannel game.

Go omnichannel in 4 steps
Bringing omnichannel capabilities to your customers doesn’t have to be a wholesale change; with the right planning, you can handle the migration in a few small steps.
  1. Make sure e-commerce is up to par—There’s no omnichannel without an e-commerce platform. Your merchants’ existing POS software may contain this functionality. If not, it’s time to invest in either new POS that does include it or find a third party that integrates with the POS.
  2. Ensure inventory visibility—Omnichannel commerce works only if historically siloed data from multiple channels can be combined into a single database. This gives customers and store associates accurate real-time data concerning the availability of merchandise.
  3. Identify customers—Merchants will want an up-to-date client database and the ability to store shopping histories, birthdays, gender, age, address and more. Every bit of data can be used for analysis and marketing.
  4. Tap into analytics for marketing—Omnichannel-minded POS software will include analytical tools to help merchants understand shopping behaviors and identify patterns. Using this data, that same software can be used to create effective marketing strategies and present repeat customers with custom promotions, while giving in-store associates the ability to give VIP treatment to repeat shoppers.
If this all feels overwhelming, you don’t have to do it alone. Ingram Micro’s team of experts is available to help you bring your customers from wherever they are into a fully functional omnichannel model. Contact Angie Lawrence to learn more.
 
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