Multichannel, cross-channel, omni-channel – what exactly do they mean?
We’re hearing a lot about multichannel, cross-channel and omni-channel in the current retail landscape. With so many terms being banded about, it is easy for confusion to set in.
Multichannel is probably the best understood term of the three; it refers to a retailer operating in more than one channel e.g. traditional bricks-and-mortar stores, online, catalogue, mobile commerce or mCommerce etc.
Cross-channel refers to a scenario where a shopper is able to interact and complete transactions with a brand across a number of channels. You might go to the Internet to get some product reviews and features before going to a store to purchase item. Alternatively, you might order your groceries online and then collect them in a store i.e. click-and-collect. However, there is much more integration that can be carried out than is currently seen in cross-channel operations.
Omni-channel could be described as the next generation of cross-channel. Content, customer information, product information, and operations are all integrated with the customer at the centre. A consumer can interact and transact across all touch points.
Customers can access inventory from the warehouse that is the most convenient to them. They may want to order stock from a location that is the most economical option for them.
Whether they choose to look at goods using a smartphone, a laptop or a store, they will have access to the same set of product information. A personalised marketing message can be delivered to a customer at a touch point; this could be a survey, an email, a mobile message, a web visit. This message can take into account a customer’s purchase history, search history and preferred device.
Competitor price monitoring services such as Profitero are very useful for retailers and manufacturers operating in multichannel, cross-channel and omni-channel.