Multichannel and Omnichannel: What Does It Mean To Customers?
A retailer knows best how crucial technology is to improve sales. The product may sell on old-fashioned values, but the rest better be cutting edge. Why? To match the customer, who leaps on to newer and better tech by the day. In the age-old chestnut about omnichannel and multichannel, let’s hash out some key variables which can make or break the sale.
In-store, on the app, over a call or online, these are but ‘channels’ via which the customer interacts with a retailer. Just to get the truth out of the way, ‘the customer now doesn’t care which channel it takes to get the product to him’. It just has to reach him or her in the fastest, most convenient way possible. Now that this fact is pinned to the wall let’s examine how a retailer operates under a multichannel or an omnichannel model.
Inventory & Logistics
This here is the biggest difference between multichannel and omnichannel models, where they flare apart the most. Inventory and logistics being the most crucial back-end operations of a retailer, this needs to be the most streamlined and transparent operation of the lot.
In multichannel retail, the merchandise hierarchy and the product master file of every channel of sales are separate, to the extent of treating every channel as a ‘subsidiary’ of the parent retailer. The online store will have separate inventory, buying, warehousing and logistics, and so will have the stores and even the phone sales.
In omnichannel retail, everything is integrated and is treated as a single whole in the cloud. The merchandise hierarchy, masters, warehousing and logistics for all the channels is managed as a set of operations for a single retail enterprise.
Here, the lines of action get blurred, but there are vital differences in output and reaction. Both the models offer the same amount of outreach and channel support to the customer – like online, app, mobile and store/kiosk.
But there is a difference. In a multichannel retail operation, if the store runs out of a particular stock, it cannot resupply at a moment’s notice from the online section. The customer will have to order separately online. If there is a change or a defect in the product bought online, the customer again cannot go the store to get it changed. There are glass walls all around.
But in omnichannel operations, this situation never comes to pass. The customer can check something online, place an order, and call the customer service to change his /her mind to pick up the order at the neighbourhood outlet at the last minute! In omnichannel retail, all channels merge to offer a seamless service to the customer.
As we stated earlier – The customer now doesn’t care which channel it takes to get the product to him/her. Customer Satisfaction! That’s the only difference which matters.