Omnichannel vs Multichannel: Are they so different?

I’ve been discussing the topic of customer experience (CX) with quite a few companies over the last several months and was repeatedly drawn into the omnichannel versus multichannel debate.

The first aspect people often mention is their scope. From a semantic standpoint, “multi” means “many” and “omni” means “all”. People often mention “order on-line and pick & return in stores are clearly omnichannel and not multichannel”. I don’t believe the debate should be focused on how many, and which channels, are involved to understand the core difference. I see “omnichannel” as describing a key change and shift in perspective: the customer centricity which drives most digital transformations I have witnessed.

Multichannel was often based on the assumption that customers were choosing a main way to engage, whether physical stores or the Web. In many companies, each channel was managed in isolation with dedicated teams, budgets, processes, tools, reporting structures and revenue goals.

But most customers now navigate between many digital touchpoints for a single purchase. They are increasingly dictating how and where they want  be engaged and serviced. A typical journey might be “search the Web on my smartphone while commuting, add items to my basket, discuss findings on the laptop when home in the evening, visit stores to review items and search for coupons and compare prices on the mobile while in store”.

Great infographic here that provides some interesting stats and does a great job of illustrating this point further.
Great infographic here that provides some interesting stats and does a great job of illustrating this point further.

Omnichannel is no longer about maximizing channel efficiency. It puts the customer, not corporate siloes, at the core of the strategy. The Omnichannel goal is to deliver consistent and seamless experiences for the customer to better engage and convert him. The delivered digital experience expectations are high, whatever the chosen channel is as customer progress through their journey at their moment and place of need. For instance, an agent/clerk in a physical store should have key information on all past interactions at his fingertips when he engages the customer.

Achieving this requires more than tools. Omnichannel often stems into Digital Transformation projects, with a gradual approach building from existing systems and interconnecting them. The key ingredient is often analytics. Typical question that lead me into such discussions are:

  • Can we capture and stich together all the user actions as they navigate multiple channels?
  • Do you capture the delivered experiences to help discover customer struggles and explain low engagement and order size, abandonments or bad app reviews?
  • Can I get a real-time view of my business, including revenues, transaction, and engagement level as my customer interact?
  • Can you deliver a quantified view by incident as number of impacted customers and revenues to help prioritize efforts?
  • Can your analytics tell me what went wrong and why so which team to engage?

I look forward to covering these in future blog posts! Don’t be fooled, the biggest challenge is often in the organization and culture changes.

Erwan Paccard is the Dynatrace director for Mobile Solution Marketing and has been focused on mobile at IBM for the last several years. Reach him at @erwan_paccard