In 2021, companies need to be digital-first. 35% of U.S. consumers said they would be happy if they never made an in-store retail purchase again. This statistic even extends to older, less tech-savvy shoppers: 63% of baby boomers, the most faithful in-store customers, say that curbside and in-store pickup improved their overall shopping experience.

Given this fundamental change in consumer behaviour, it’s time to meet shoppers wherever they are through a multichannel or omnichannel strategy.

Multichannel and Omnichannel Strategy

Global brands predict that online shopping will become the primary means of attracting and selling to customers. Nike forecasts 50% of its sales to come from eCommerce by 2025. As digital channels overshadow physical stores, businesses are moving their products onto online marketplaces, mobile apps, and eCommerce stores. Moreover, they are unifying their customer experience across these channels. As a result, they improve sales and get data that further increase their company’s growth.

Whether multichannel or omnichannel, the strategy you choose is dependent on your business goals. This article on digital sales channels will help clarify the path you should take to put your plans into action.

Sales and Marketing Channels

Customers want more control over their purchasing experience. They use various channels to research and purchase their products: physical stores, eCommerce websites, online marketplaces (Amazon, Alibaba), social media, mobile, email, etc. Businesses also attract customers via social ads, personalised email marketing, push notifications, live chat, and direct messaging to meet them wherever they are. Companies, fearing poor customer experience, are responding to consumer interests through implementing either a multichannel or omnichannel strategy.

All businesses start with a multichannel strategy and a common-sense approach of choosing the channels that make the most sense for them. Later the company will face the choice of continuing with a multichannel strategy or moving to an omnichannel strategy.

What is a Multichannel Strategy? 

Multichannel is the process of selling products through disconnected online and offline channels. A multichannel strategy expands your audience and gets more attention to your products. In many cases, channels are slightly integrated with similar products online and offline. For example, the business’s prices may differ between channels or inventory data could be missing or not up to date. The lack of integration between channels can lead to a loss of sales. However, companies embracing a multichannel strategy don’t care about seamless integrations across channels. They simply want to get eyes on their brand.

What is an Omnichannel Strategy?

An omnichannel strategy focuses on integrating channels for a unified experience across several contact points. Instead of working in parallel, the channels work together. Businesses that implement an omnichannel strategy guarantee the same customer experience across channels with identical payment systems, information on pricing, user data, availability of products, and much more. Besides improving customer experience, omnichannel heightens businesses’ ability to market and sell their products.

Omnichannel creates more opportunities to talk to customers. For instance, the in-store staff and remote customer service team possess the same data to help the customer along the way. If a product is out of stock in the store, the local team checks online whether the stock is available for delivery from other locations. In the end, they can still conclude a sale with the customer. While challenging to implement, an omnichannel experience is becoming an essential part of winning the customer.

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Multichannel vs Omnichannel

Challenges to Implementation

In the ideal scenario, every company would provide an omnichannel experience, but many businesses lack the resources.

Three main factors limit companies from putting an omnichannel strategy in place:

  1. Companies must rethink their organisational structure to go omnichannel. This includes uniting commerce channels, blending specialised departments, and making multiple performance indicators and strategies work together.
  2. Companies need to overcome technical challenges to implement an omnichannel strategy: integrating and creating an interconnected IT infrastructure where data flows across systems.
  3. Companies have to find the right partners to weave their business strategy, new solutions, and multiple channels together.

In the following sections, we will outline all three challenges.

Organisational Challenges

Organisational challenges can disrupt a business’s goal to enter into new channels and achieve omnichannel success. This issue often occurs because companies never define their short-term and long-term digital commerce goals. Most eCommerce project teams spend their days working through a long list of backlog items rather than focusing on the activities that help them to reach their digital goals. For this reason, companies should create and execute on their digital roadmap to ensure they meet their KPIs.

The company must gather a stellar group of employees with the right incentives for omnichannel to succeed. At the executive level, CMOs and CIOs need a unified vision and technical knowledge to put an omnichannel strategy into place. In addition, salespeople need to move away from traditional sales models and use eCommerce to their advantage. From top to bottom, employees must embrace the eCommerce for an omnichannel strategy to work.

Technological challenges

New sales channels emerge with each new technological leap. Regardless of whether you invest in an omnichannel experience, developing the flexibility to implement and integrate new sales channels to your existing ones is very important.

Both technological and organisational issues go hand-in-hand when improving your channel strategy. Legacy systems often slow the pursuit of a multichannel or omnichannel approach, requiring time to integrate new tools and gather data across channels.

Businesses often adopt new technology and platforms to manage and understand their data. These systems can include an eCommerce platform, PIM, CMS, CRM, ERP, OMS, marketing automation platform, payment gateways, etc. All systems involved in the customer journey need to be integrated to give a consistent customer experience across channels. Consistency defines an omnichannel experience, where clients find the same products, payment options, personalisation capabilities, and much more across channels. Reaching this level of consistency requires finding and working with the right solution partners.

Partner Challenges

Your partner must know omnichannel inside out to provide you with a seamless and frictionless customer experience from physical store to an app to online customer service to delivery tracking. As an omnichannel strategy often requires using a PIM platform, it’s crucial to find a partner with the skills and expertise in implementing and integrating new technology.

A partner’s credentials also show how much they know and their respect in the field. Suppose you’re interested in moving your business onto the Adobe Commerce Cloud platform and need to find the right partner to define and execute your strategy. In that case, you need to consider a few questions:

  • What is the partner’s experience delivering commerce solutions on the Adobe Commerce cloud- how many years, in how many industries, locally and globally?
  • What is the partner’s delivery success rate of eCommerce projects?
  • Is the partner recognised in the Magento Commerce and Adobe Commerce Cloud community?
  • Would you be able to cover all of your company’s needs with that one partner? 

You can also look at whether the partner or its clients received any industry awards as this often demonstrates the success and quality of their projects.

Final Thoughts

Businesses benefit from attracting shoppers on various channels. Whether through a multichannel or omnichannel strategy, it’s essential in 2021 to pursue a digital channel strategy. B2C retailers, social networks and online marketplaces such as Amazon can lend a huge boost through highlighting your brand and attracting potential customers. But, there’s a big difference between omnichannel and multichannel in how much you can attract them.

Companies without resources to implement an omnichannel strategy should still weigh the pros and cons of where to sell their products. For instance, companies benefit from using an online marketplace but might avoid them to control all their customer data. A multichannel strategy could work for B2B companies that haven’t faced a complete disruption from digital sales channels. However, 2020 showed that no industry is safe.

As for omnichannel, companies must solve the issues related to people, technology, and partnerships to get on the right path. Once the pieces are in place, this integration of various data streams will help your team adjust and personalise your omnichannel experience to your customer.

Vaimo is one of the world’s most respected experts in digital commerce on the Adobe Commerce Cloud platform. As a full-service omnichannel agency, we deliver strategy, design, development and managed services to brands, retailers and manufacturers all over the world.

Our sharp focus, broad experience and deep expertise within B2B, B2C, PIM, Order Management and ERP integrations makes us a key partner for driving success in digital commerce. Our 12+ years track record of technical excellence coupled with our proven results in helping our clients succeed with business development, digital strategy and customer experience design is proudly manifested in our status as an Adobe Platinum Partner.

With local offices in 15+ markets across EMEA, APAC and North America and over 500 employees, we provide an international presence that allows us to cultivate close, long-term relationships with our clients.

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