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The Visible Value Blog

Unlocking the potential of Multichannel and Omnichannel retail

Posted by Karen Wallis and Steve Northcott

November 28, 2016 at 7:00 AM


Today, we’ll be discussing the nuances of Multichannel and Omnichannel approaches to retail with the experts who know best. Both Karen and Steve have extensive experience throughout the sector, and can offer great insight into the potential of these retail strategies, so let’s get started.


Why are retailers looking for and adopting new strategies for service delivery?

Steve: “Our needs as a modern day customer are changing. We now expect, and even demand, more from retail organisations and as such, they are being forced to evolve, or suffer the consequences. Part of this evolution centres around developments in Multichannel and Omnichannel retail strategies. One of the things that we’ve noticed when talking to customers is that some retailers swap out one term for another, however, these approaches although linked, have significantly different delivery models.”


So, just what is Multichannel retail?

Karen: “Multichannel retail gives us (the customer) the opportunity to interact independently with an organisation across a selection of different touchpoints, so as a consumer I can order my weekly shop via an app if I’m on the move, at lunchtime using my PC or popping into the physical store on my way home. The choice of channel is down to me as a consumer. However, whilst convenient, under the multichannel model, they are not co-ordinated and are often managed in isolation. As a result, our retail experience under this approach is often fragmented and can feel disjointed.”


How does Omnichannel retail differ?


Steve: “Unlike Multichannel, Omnichannel retail operates with a customer-centric approach. This means delivering a consistent and seamless experience across all touchpoints. Whether we are shopping directly on their website, via an app or in the store, data about the shopper is seamlessly integrated across channels, whether that is an abandoned virtual shopping basket, a preference for a particular brand or making recommendations about additional products that compliment my original purchase, the shopper is recognised as an individual and made to feel valued.”


Why should companies be looking to adopt Omnichannel retail?


Karen: “Put yourself in the shopper’s shoes. Would you rather shop with a retailer who treats you just like any other customer or one who recognises you and personalises your shopping experience?  Whilst shoppers are beginning to vote with their feet, there are benefits to be harvested by the retailer. An Omnichannel retail approach can help to enhance sales through improved loyalty, build a stronger brand via word of mouth, enable retailers to understand their customers better by tapping into data from additional touchpoints and develop new revenue streams by using the data collated about your customers.”


What does an organisation require to deliver an Omnichannel retail strategy?


Steve: “To provide customers with a genuine Omnichannel experience, retailers need an infrastructure designed to deliver a consistent and seamless experience across multiple channels.

This typically includes:

  • Developing a single customer-centric view
  • Combining the best of smart technology with classic customer service
  • Delivering hyper-personalised interactions
  • Creating a network infrastructure to support seamless connectivity

“Zebra’s One Store concept puts the customer at the heart of the business and focuses on delivering a consistent personalised experience wherever the customer chooses to interact.”


Karen: “Beyond the technology, retail organisations also need the logistical systems in place to analyse, support and maintain the effectiveness of each channel, without sacrificing performance. Successful Omnichannel retail requires a co-ordinated effort to effectively manage all company touchpoints. Failure to develop the necessary systems has the potential to destabilise the entire infrastructure.”

Steve: “Once the technology and groundwork is in place, the retailers’ next step is to review and adapt their processes to further integrate their channels and improve efficiency. These elements are all required to effectively offer services like home delivery and click and collect in a profitable manner. To support these new channels, many retail organisations will have to consider reworking the way in which their products are stored, managed, and delivered.

Admittedly, whilst not a tactic that a retailer can switch on tomorrow, the benefits of this approach are significant and worth the commitment.”


Discover the true power of Omnichannel retail with our transformation guide here.

Topics: Retail, Multichannel, Omnichannel, Customer Experience