What's the Difference Between Multichannel and Omnichannel?
With all of the buzzwords that come and go, it’s easy to get confused as to what exactly they mean. In the world of eCommerce, we often hear these two terms thrown around a lot; multichannel and omnichannel. That’s all fine and dandy, but what do they actually mean and what is the difference between them.
What do they mean?
The meaning of these words is somewhat subjective and can change depending on the context they are used. However, from an eCommerce perspective, this is generally what people mean when using these terms.
The ability to reach your customers and sell your products on multiple channels.
The ability to manage a unified brand experience that reaches your customers on multiple channels.
As you can see, both terms have quite different meanings, but both terms are about reaching your customers in many ways. Let’s now dig into each a bit deeper.
When we talk about multichannel, we’re talking about reaching customers through different platforms other than our own website. For example, let’s say we have a successful eCommerce website but we’re looking to open up new revenue streams. Customers buying products similar to ours may be buying them through Amazon or eBay. Maybe they’re also buying similar products on Facebook, Etsy or Google. Maybe there’s even enough demand for our product that we can explore opening a physical retail location. All of these are additional channels where we can potentially start selling our products, hence multichannel.
The benefit to multichannel marketing is that we can reach a wide range of potential customers relatively easily just by being part of these additional marketplaces. We’re adding our inventory to their massive collection of inventory, and there could be great opportunity in doing so.
The downside, of course, is that we are now managing additional channels which could be time consuming. Not only do we need to manage our products that are on these channels, but monitoring comments and competitor pricing is something that needs to be done often. Since we might be one of a handful of competitors selling the same, or similar, products, it may be harder to get brand loyalty from our customers. Any sales on these additional platforms might be one-off purchases with little opportunity for repeat customers. Furthermore, controlling inventory might now become significantly more challenging.
The nature of omnichannel is that everything you do is connected through a single data source with the goal of being able to provide that seamless user experience no matter how your customers make contact.
The concept works like this; A customer looks online and sees that you have a product that they want. Instead of paying for shipping, or to just get the product faster, they see that their local brick-and-mortar store has the product in stock so they decide to go purchase it there. A little later, the product is damaged and the customer wants to replace it under warranty. They decided to phone your support line for help. The support person pulls up the customers account, finds the order, and sees that the warranty is still active. They have the customers address right there and so a new unit is sent. While on the phone, the support person is able to sign the customer up to a promotional newsletter. Because they signed up, an email is sent with a one-time discount coupon that can be redeemed online or in-store. A product the customer has had on their wish list for a while comes on sale, web-only. The customer uses the coupon and gets an additional discount… As you can see, everything is connected and seamless. This is omnichannel.
The benefit to omnichannel marketing is that, if done well, your customers can gain confidence in your brand and brand loyalty can be achieved. Through all of the different points of contact, your brand message is unified and you can theoretically have greater influence on your customers buying habits. Not only that, but your customers now have convenience doing business with you in whatever way is most comfortable to them.
The downside is that becoming omnichannel can be a significant undertaking and that the platforms you run your business on (online and offline) must be able to integrate with one another. In order to have this seamless line of contact, all of your systems need to “talk”. Your inventory in your brick-and-mortar store(s) needs to be synced with your online store. Your user accounts and order history needs to be accessible everywhere too, even wherever your support is handled. Online sales should be able to be returned in-store, etc.
Mixing multichannel and omnichannel with Drupal
Now you know what multichannel and omnichannel are and that they are quite different. Multichannel is about diversifying the channels where you sell your products and omnichannel is about unifying the customer experience across all channels.
How can you mix these concepts? The answer lies in the platforms that you use to run your business. One option that you have is the content management system known as Drupal. Drupal is widely used as both a content/marketing engine as well as an eCommerce platform. It’s developer and integration friendly, meaning that it can “talk” to any other platform or service that has an API (application programming interface). This means that Drupal can be the single source of information, whether it’s user information, promotions or inventory, and that the information can then be securely pushed and pulled wherever it’s needed.
Through API integrations, Drupal can also be used to manage your multichannels. Your products, once added into your Drupal eCommerce platform, can then be automatically sent to your multichannel marketplaces. With time and investment, nearly any aspect of your business can be integrated and automated.
Of course, this is just a broad example. Acro Media is a leading eCommerce development company that specializes in Drupal eCommerce and integration. We are integration experts. What your business requires might be totally unique and we can help you understand how to achieve your goals using Drupal, whether that means multichannel, omnichannel, or a combination of both. Talk to use today and start the discussion! Where it leads could be exciting.