Omnichannel versus Multichannel

Omnichannel versus Multichannel

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Omnichannel is much more than a buzzword or new trend, it is fast becoming the new norm. But what is omnichannel? Omnichannel is a sales approach which provides the customer with an integrated, seamless shopping experience across all physical and digital channels.  In retail, the term is often used interchangeably with multi-channel. Yet there are important differences between the two concepts.

Omnichannel and multi-channel both involve a retailer selling across a variety of physical (retail store, mail-order catalogue) and digital (website, mobile, social media, market place) channels.  However, that is where the similarity ends.


With the multi-channel approach, the product is at the centre and the physical and digital channels leading to it work in parallel to each other and do not interact.  The stock held by stores is completely separate from online stock which means that an item purchased in store can only be returned in store and a product purchased online, cannot be returned in store.  The physical and digital channels of a multi-channel brand or retailer are therefore siloed which does not provide a great retail experience for consumers.

In contrast, omnichannel has no silos.  It puts the customer at the centre of the process and offers them multiple and fully integrated physical and digital touchpoints through which they can purchase a product.   Transitions between the different touchpoints on a shopping journey are so smooth that they are imperceptible to the customer.

Unlike the multi-channel approach, omnichannel retailing involves having a global view of stock which can be sold from any location to any customer looking to make a purchase. What this means is that the customer is able to purchase an item via the touchpoint that best suits them and to enjoy seamless interactions with the brand online, on mobile, through social media and in store.  


While the omnichannel approach is what customers have come to expect, it is nevertheless difficult for retailers and brands to achieve.  One of the biggest challenges is the cost of investing in the technology required to become omnichannel. Another difficulty is the complexity of integrating all the digital and physical channels and replacing pre-existing systems.  


At the eBusiness Institute, we have extensive experience of working with numerous brands on their digital transformation. We understand the importance of an optimized consumer experience to drive your brand’s sales online and offline. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you.


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