Multi-channel retailing describes a retailer’s effort to increase points of contact with customers and to provide a more unified, consistent customer experience among multiple retail channels.
Multi-channel retailing refers to the efforts made across the industry to be more indifferent to the customer channel and provide a consistent, integrated experience that is channel agnostic. It also means giving customers access to multiple channels within a single experience or purchase. An example of multi-channel retailing is putting web kiosks or mobile devices inside of retail stores so customers can purchase out-of-stock inventory.
It is difficult for retailers to have a single, consistent source of data available to customers, regardless of how they’re contacted. Retail channels often sell the same products using autonomous systems that do not coordinate descriptions or prices with other channels. This results in a poor user experience and lack of customer trust.
The primary benefit of multi-channel retailing is a better customer experience, leading to greater customer loyalty. However, there are other advantages, including low purchase barriers, greater share of wallet, and ease of supply chain coordination.
Omnichannel retailing is similar to multi-channel retailing but generally entails a broader vision of the opportunity. Whereas multi-channel retailing is about increasing the number of supported channels, omnichannel retailing focuses on data- and infrastructure-readiness to deliver a holistic view of the customer relationship on any channel at any time.