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Maximising Retail Success: Comparing Omnichannel & Multichannel Platform Availability & Stability

In the rapidly evolving world of retail, businesses are constantly seeking strategies to enhance their customer experiences and drive success. One popular technology approach adopted over the years has been Multichannel. However, this technology strategy has been challenged recently by Omnichannel. Both approaches rely on the availability and stability of platforms to ensure smooth operations and seamless customer interactions. But what are the differences in platform availability and stability between the two strategies, and how can we identify the advantages of choosing the right platform for retail success?

Multichannel Platform Availability and Stability: The Challenges

Multichannel retailing involves operating through various independent platforms, each dedicated to a specific sales channel. While this approach offers flexibility, it can present challenges in terms of platform availability and stability. 

Availability: With multichannel strategies, businesses rely on different vendors or service providers for each channel. This can result in variations in platform availability, as each platform may experience downtime or maintenance windows at contrasting times. If one platform encounters an issue, it may disrupt the customer experience on that specific channel, leading to potential revenue loss and customer dissatisfaction however, that disruption is likely to be isolated to that given channel. 

Stability: Multichannel environments are complex, containing multiple end-to-end user experiences and data flows. Integrating and synchronising data across multiple platforms poses challenges and has been seen to produce inconsistencies and disruptions. Inaccurate inventory information, delayed order fulfilment, or technical glitches can impact the customer experience and hinder operational efficiency. These integrations between channels can pose the greatest impact to stability and become a service team’s biggest headache due to complicated requirements and turnaround times between data populations in separate channels.  

So Why Choose Multichannel? 

An eCommerce store might choose a multichannel approach over an omnichannel strategy for several reasons, depending on their business model, resources, and objectives. Below are some examples of reasons why an eCommerce store may opt for a multichannel approach: 

  1. Resource constraints: Implementing and managing an omnichannel strategy requires significant investment in technology, infrastructure, and personnel. For smaller eCommerce businesses with limited resources, a multichannel approach can be a more feasible option to expand their reach without overwhelming their capacity. 
  2. Flexibility and scalability: Multichannel strategies allow eCommerce stores to experiment with different sales channels and marketing tactics. They can start with a few channels and gradually expand as they grow, providing greater flexibility and scalability compared to the comprehensive integration required in an omnichannel approach. 
  3. Niche market focus: Some eCommerce stores may cater to a specific niche market where their target audience predominantly prefers certain channels. In such cases, investing in multiple channels that align with their customers' preferences may yield better results than spreading resources across all channels in an omnichannel strategy. 
  4. Established customer behaviour: If an eCommerce store's customer base is already accustomed to using specific channels for purchasing, they may choose to maintain those channels rather than implementing a fully integrated omnichannel experience. If customers are comfortable with the existing channels, it might be more cost-effective to optimise those channels rather than redefining the entire customer journey. 
  5. Lower complexity: Multichannel strategies are less complex to implement and manage than omnichannel strategies. This simplicity can be advantageous for some eCommerce businesses, particularly those in their preliminary stages or those operating in less competitive markets. 
  6. Industry-specific considerations: Certain industries or products may not benefit significantly from an omnichannel approach due to unique characteristics or customer preferences. For example, if the target audience primarily makes purchases in physical stores rather than online, a multichannel strategy might be more relevant. 
  7. Channel-specific expertise: An eCommerce store might have specific expertise or strengths in certain channels. By focusing on those channels and optimiszing their performance, they can achieve better results than trying to spread their efforts across all channels in an omnichannel approach. 

It is important to note that while a multichannel approach offers its advantages, it does not mean that a business should completely ignore the importance of providing a cohesive customer experience. Even in a multichannel strategy, efforts can be made to ensure consistency in branding, messaging, and customer service across the various channels to maintain a positive overall brand image. Ultimately, the choice between multichannel and omnichannel depends on the unique circumstances and goals of the eCommerce store. 

Omnichannel Platform Availability and Stability: The Benefits 

As mentioned, in contrast to multichannel retailing, omnichannel strategies aim to provide a unified and seamless customer experience across all channels. To achieve this, businesses often turn to unified commerce platforms or integrated technology solutions, which offer distinct advantages in terms of platform availability and stability. 

Availability: Omnichannel platforms provide a centralised hub that connects all sales channels, ensuring a consistent and reliable experience for customers. By adopting a unified commerce platform, retailers gain greater control over platform availability. Scheduled maintenance windows can be strategically planned to minimise disruptions across all channels simultaneously, mitigating the impact on customer experiences. Monitoring availability becomes less complex due to the reduction of interfaces when compared to multichannel. 

Stability: A unified commerce platform promotes stability by streamlining data synchronisation and system integration. These platforms are designed to facilitate seamless data flow and communication between various channels. Real-time inventory updates, accurate product information, and efficient order management contribute to enhanced stability, reducing the likelihood of issues that could affect the customer experience. 

So why pick Omnichannel? 

An eCommerce store might choose to implement an omnichannel approach over a multichannel strategy for several reasons. While both approaches involve selling products through multiple channels, there are distinct differences that can impact a business's success and customer experience. Here are some reasons why a store might prefer an omnichannel approach: 

  1. Seamless customer experience: Omnichannel focuses on creating a unified and seamless customer experience across all channels, whether it is online (eCommerce website, mobile app) or offline (brick-and-mortar store). Customers can switch between channels without any disruption in their shopping journey, leading to higher customer satisfaction and loyalty. 
  2. Integrated data and insights: Omnichannel strategies allow for better integration of customer data from various touchpoints. This provides valuable insights into customer behaviour, preferences, and buying patterns, enabling businesses to personalize marketing efforts and optimize inventory management. 
  3. Improved customer engagement: By providing consistent and personalised interactions across channels, an omnichannel approach can enhance customer engagement and increase the chances of conversion. This is particularly important as customers increasingly expect tailored experiences from brands. 
  4. Enhanced inventory management: With an omnichannel approach, businesses can leverage all channels to manage their inventory efficiently. For example, if a product is out of stock in one location, customers can be redirected to other channels where it is available, reducing the risk of losing a sale. 
  5. Brand consistency: An omnichannel strategy ensures that the brand message, values, and identity remain consistent across all channels. This coherence helps in building a strong brand image and brand loyalty among customers. 
  6. Competitive advantage: As omnichannel strategies require a higher level of coordination and integration, not all businesses may be able to implement it effectively. By adopting omnichannel, an eCommerce store can gain a competitive edge and differentiate itself from other businesses that offer a more disjointed multichannel experience. 
  7. Long-term customer lifetime value: The focus on customer experience and personalisation in an omnichannel approach can lead to higher customer retention rates and increased customer lifetime value. Satisfied customers are more likely to return for future purchases and become brand advocates. 

While omnichannel has several advantages, it is essential for businesses to carefully assess their resources, technology capabilities, and customer base before deciding on the most suitable approach. Both omnichannel and multichannel strategies can be effective, and the right choice depends on the specific needs and goals of the eCommerce store. 

Choose the strategy that suits your business

Platform availability and stability play pivotal roles in driving retail success. While multichannel strategies may face challenges due to the independent nature of platforms, omnichannel strategies, supported by unified commerce platforms, offer distinct advantages. It is key that a commerce business choose the strategy that suits them the most; there is no sense in adopting a model that later down the road is discovered not to suit the business or its customers.