What is the difference between Omnichannel vs. Multichannel retail?

Multichannel retailing is like having several independent stores.

What is the difference between Omnichannel vs. Multichannel retail?
Written by
Markus Lorenz
Published on
May 23, 2024

Multichannel retail: Separate journeys, multiple paths

Multichannel retailing is like having several independent stores. Imagine you have a physical store, an online store and you also sell through social media platforms. Each channel (physical store, website, social media) operates separately. Customers can buy from any of these channels, but their experiences in each one are distinct and unconnected.

  • Example: A customer buys a dress from your website. Later, they visit your physical store for another purchase. The staff at the store won't know about the previous online purchase unless the customer tells them.

In multichannel retail, the focus is on maximizing the reach by being present in multiple places. However, customer interaction on each channel remains isolated. There is little to no communication between these channels, which can sometimes lead to a disjointed customer experience.

Omnichannel retail: Providing a smooth, connected experience

Omnichannel retailing, on the other hand, integrates all available channels to provide a seamless shopping experience. Think of it as one big store where all areas (physical, online, mobile) are connected and communicate with each other. This means that customers can easily switch between channels without losing track of their journey.

  • Example: A customer browses for shoes on your mobile app, adds a pair to their cart, but doesn’t complete the purchase. Later, they visit your website from their laptop, and the same pair of shoes is still in their cart. Finally, they go to your physical store, and the staff can see what’s in their cart, ready to help them complete the purchase.

An omnichannel approach is about creating a consistent, personalised experience for the customer, however they choose to interact with your brand. This requires a more advanced system that shares data across channels and ensures that all parts of the business are in synchronisation.

The most important differences: Integrating vs. separating

Here is a simple breakdown of the key differences between omnichannel and multichannel retail:

Customer Experience:

  • Multichannel: Independent experiences on each channel.
  • Omnichannel: A consistent and complete experience across all channels.


  • Multichannel: Channels operate in isolation with little or no communication.
  • Omnichannel: Channels are interconnected, sharing information seamlessly.

Business Strategy:

  • Multichannel: Focus on presence across multiple channels.
  • Omnichannel: The focus is on the creation of a single, integrated shopping journey.

Why Omnichannel is becoming more popular

As customer expectations grow, so does the demand for a smoother, more connected shopping experience. Shoppers now expect to start their journey on one channel and continue on another without interruption. They want to research products online, check availability in-store and maybe even use their phones to make a quick purchase. Omnichannel retailing addresses these needs by providing a smooth transition across every contact point.

How to implement omnichannel: Tips for success

If you're considering shifting from multichannel to omnichannel, here are some tips to help you succeed:

  1. Invest in technology: Make sure you have the right software to integrate all channels and share data in real-time.
  1. Unify customer data: Create a single customer database that captures interactions across all channels.
  1. Train your team: Make sure your staff understands the omnichannel approach and can assist customers seamlessly across different touchpoints.
  1. Consistent branding: Maintain a consistent brand voice and visual identity across all channels to reinforce the unified experience.
  1. Customer-centric approach: Always prioritize the customer experience in your strategies and decisions.

In summary, while multichannel retailing provides multiple pathways for customer interaction, omnichannel retailing integrates these pathways into a seamless experience. While companies are continuing to invest in innovation, embracing the omnichannel approach can significantly increase customer satisfaction and loyalty, which will in the end lead to growth and prosperity.