What is the difference between omni-channel and multi-channel retailing?
There is some ambiguity with the difference between omni-channel and multi-channel retailing. If you step back and look at the root word, “multi” means many while “omni” means all. In my mind, that is the best way to explain the differences.
Multi-channel retailing is the practice of selling products to customers through more than one distribution channel (e.g, in-store, and online). The customer experience can be and is often different between the two channels. An example would be if a company features an eCommerce store and a brick and mortar store. At times the only similarity in selling in both places is that the name on the door is the same and the logo is similar.
Omni-channel retailers seek to provide a consistent (as possible) customer experience while retailing through any number of distribution channels simultaneously. Retailers achieve the “omni-channel” designation by having a single view of the customer and product. An example is using a single database from which data is aggregated from multiple selling segments. This usually means avoids having multiple customer, product, promotion, pricing, content, etc databases for consistency and reporting of that single view. Customers are tracked simultaneously across all channels. Lastly, omni-channel retailers work to execute seamless marketing and branding campaigns for a constant experience. An example of that is if you buy an eCommerce gift card you can use it digitally, but that unique code could potentially be used in-store.