There is so much conversation around omnichannel and/or multichannel retail. Many out there speak of omnichannel but are really just multichannel merchants. The difference between them is significant. Omnichannel really means the product or the company is at the center of all touches, while multichannel is equivalent to selling through your website and also on a marketplace (e.g. Amazon). The push for omnichannel is very strong, which is great for consumers. But there is something even stronger that most retailers are not pushing: omni-X, where X is everything inside your business. I will just refer to it as omni-shopping for simplicity.
While omnichannel and multichannel are a great starting point, they are really just about getting someone to buy. Going deeper into the shopping experience, this starts to break down the thinking that a website is a store. So much focus is placed on making the online experience like an in-store experience, but in a store, you don’t have the flexibility to offer as much variation. You should look at every single decision point that a customer encounters and provide them with options that are as infinite as possible. This means expanding your systems to accept alternatives across each touchpoint.
Here are some examples:
Omni-payment – you want to be able to offer the greatest flexibility so that someone can pay however they wish. Maybe they want to use ApplePay or maybe they want Venmo. The greater the options, the more “omni” you are in any process.
Omni-fulfillment – you obviously offer shipping but do you have options for in-store pick-up (it doesn’t have to be your store), curbside pick-up, or in some cases, “lockers” where the product sits waiting? If shipping, do you offer different shipping methods and carriers? Some people loathe UPS while others love it, you should give them the flexibility to choose their desired carrier.
Omni-support – do you support email, live chat, phone, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, SMS, etc.? Do you provide a physical address in case (gasp) someone wants to write you a note?
Omni-returns – you should be able to accept returns any which way a customer wants to do it, drop-off, pick-up, ship, etc.
These are just a few examples, you can probably take this deeper into subcategories of each process. Really, the point is that retailers need to think beyond omnichannel – which really centers around getting someone to buy the product – and instead, focus on omni-shopping, which spans from marketing through to returns and everything in between.