5 Key Differences between Omnichannel and Multichannel Commerce

Catching the attention of shoppers in today’s marketplace is a tough hurdle. It’s even more challenging to compel them to make a purchase decision. Buyers are easily distracted by the infinite number of options at their fingertips.

Shoppers want convenience and variety. They want to feel like they can buy whatever they want, wherever they happen to be, by any method they desire. Providing them with these options is one of the best ways to win their business.

So how does your company decide between an omnichannel vs a multichannel contact center or commerce strategy? There are many factors to consider within the means of your unique situation. Here are five key differences between the two to help you evaluate what will work best for you and your business.


1.          Basic Definitions

The definitions of each type of commerce vary greatly in their foundation. Both involve the basic idea of selling goods through multiple channels. Their names alone provide a lot of information on their structure.

The prefix “multi” literally means many. Multichannel commerce is a more traditional approach that can be used by both websites and brick and mortar stores. It involves having many disconnected channels available to the customer. Typically, the channels include customer service and marketing by means of phone, email, and web.

On the other hand, the definition of “omni” is all. This symbolizes a more holistic approach. The channels are all interconnected and fluid. Omnichannel commerce has become the gold standard for modern online marketing.


2.          Quality vs. Quantity

While the end goal of sales growth is the same, the focus of omnichannel and multichannel commerce is very different. Omnichannel commerce is very focused on the customer and their experience. Multichannel commerce prioritizes a larger audience and customer base.

Strengthening the quality of customer interactions is one of the main goals of omnichannel commerce. There is a strong approach to enhancing the purchase experience from all channels simultaneously. The ultimate desired result is a continuous buying process that’s seamless from start to finish, no matter the technology used.

Multichannel marketing is focused on getting their brand exposed to as many customers as possible. The goal is being able to facilitate a large number of sales at any given time. Also, to be able to communicate with as many customers as possible by any channel necessary.


3.          Ease of Use for Customer

The main contrast in the two types of commerce is the ease of use on the consumer’s end. Today’s customers desire quick and intuitive methods for making purchases. There is a large variance in terms of the level of convenience.

Multichannel commerce focuses on providing the buyer with multiple channels to purchase items. There are also multiple ways to be provided with customer service. However, these channels are often completely independent.

This often leaves customers stuck using the channel they began their purchase process on. They may have purchased an item online, but because the store and website aren’t integrated, they can’t make a convenient return at a retail location. A customer might want to purchase an out of stock item from a brick and mortar store, but employees might not have access to online stock.

Omnichannel commerce addresses these issues. The focus is on making shopping easy and convenient across all channels, no matter which one the buying process began with. The channels can be thought of as almost cyclical in nature, with each overlapping the others.

This allows customers to switch seamlessly between whichever channels they prefer. Did a purchaser add items to their cart on the app but leave their credit card at home? They can simply log into the website and complete their purchase with their already existing cart. The process allows for the flexibility to allow buyers to shop and complete their purchases in the best way for their lifestyle.


4.          Consistent Messaging

Brand messaging is important to the customer experience. Buyers like to know what to expect from a company, and they have the desire to have their expectations to be met consistently. Multichannel and omnichannel commerce differ in prioritizing a cohesive message.

Multichannel channels can function completely independently from each other. They may have little to no interaction or communication between them. Often, they operate by different standards and guidelines.

This can cause some frustration for the customer and impact the buying experience. They could be left to feel like they are dealing with completely different organizations depending on the channel they choose to utilize. Having to repeat themselves and provide the same information to different, independent channels can make the customer service experience tedious and discouraging.

Omnichannel commerce has a strong focus on providing united messaging, no matter the channel. The goal is that the customer has the same great experience every time they interact with the company. This is regardless of whether they are visiting the website, using the app, or speaking to a customer service representative. All of the channels operate under the same standards and protocols.

This consistency is comforting to customers. Knowing what to expect inspires confidence in a brand. They will be more likely to develop a relationship with the company because they know what to expect from the buying process in the future.


5.          Accessibility and Simplicity

There are vast differences in the cost and implementation of the two strategies. A multichannel commerce model is somewhat easy to develop and maintain. However, a strong omnichannel commerce strategy takes investment and planning.

Companies using multichannel commerce can simplify their process by dividing their channels. Creating small, specific means of reaching customers is easier to manage. Each channel can work on their own timeline, developing its own standards and practices independently.

There is also a need for a significant investment in technology to develop a reliable omnichannel strategy. Successfully integrating systems requires technology that is able to span retail, web, and mobile. This also requires large labor costs in implementing and training employees on technological changes and updates.



The differences between these types of commerce can vary greatly. Luckily, there is somewhat of a spectrum between the two. The level of integration between channels can vary slightly. Many companies land somewhere in the middle of the two.

It’s up to your company to do what works best for you and your customer base. The balance of cost and customer service is essential to preserving your bottom line. Focus on your customers and their needs and adjust your strategy to be successful long term.

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