Omnichannel and Multichannel Customer Experiences: Which one is my company offering?

The concept of an omnichannel strategy gained momentum in 2015 and will continue to grow in 2016. This is a new trend that, like all technology, should be quickly adapted by companies, particularly because users (especially millennials) are embracing digital trends faster and faster.

Like any new advance in technology, companies may have questions as to what it really means, how to implement it, and whether it is worth adapting to the new technology or if this is just a fad that will come and go.
Omnichannel retailing itself is not so new; it is simply part of the natural progression of the multichannel customer experience.

What is the difference between omnichannel and multichannel?

Offering a multichannel customer experience, in simple words, means communicating with consumers through multiple channels, but in an isolated manner. There is no connection between one channel and the next, and naturally there is no joint strategy or approach.

One obvious example of this isolation is the way that many companies separate their online and offline channels. Believe it or not, in 2014, 36.2% of Spanish companies did not have a website, despite the fact that Spain has one of the highest smartphone penetration rates in Europe and 90% of the country’s users feel that it is very important for companies to have an online presence. This shows that Internet culture is still an emerging trend for Spanish companies.

Sometimes, when companies decide to develop an Internet presence, they do so with hesitation, and so the online channel is kept separate from what they consider to be the core of the business. These companies tend to see their online presence as a pilot experiment. With this kind of approach, the bridge between the two types of channels is minimal, if there is one at all.

On a smaller scale, there are also social media networks, which are used by some companies that already have a website and other established digital channels, such as email marketing. Social media is often seen as a supplement to other channels, and insufficient resources are allocated to it because companies do not realize that for users, social media is a fundamental mode of communication, and it is often the first place consumers look for information due to its immediacy.

On the other hand, the omnichannel customer experience is based on integrating one vision and approach for all of the company’s channels, implementing a single strategy and building bridges between the channels in order to be able to trace all of the user’s interactions and offer satisfactory responses at any point of contact with the consumer.

Omnichannel retailing allows users to make purchases on a responsive website, call by phone to request a change, inquire on Twitter whether their order is available, pick up the purchased items in a physical store, and make a repeat purchase through the company’s phone app.

So, what’s the problem?

Today’s technological advances allow us to implement an omnichannel strategy for any type of business with variable costs depending on the complexity and functionalities your company needs.

The real problem is that omnichannel retailing must be integrated into the company’s corporate culture, not just its processes and systems. If the company’s management or your team has not embraced this interconnection of channels, there can be a breakdown in the flow of interaction with the user, which the company ends up paying for dearly.

One example of an obstacle that can cause this breakdown for companies, which we have mentioned before, is the dichotomy between offering the user a positive experience and following the necessary security protocols when recording data. Your users do not want to choose; they want an omnichannel experience that is also secure.

Luckily,increasingly automated and disruptive solutions can help to integrate these two factors seamlessly. How? Through speedy automated processes that don’t make the user wait—whether it be extra steps in the purchasing process, logging in, loading the page, etc.—and mechanisms that both inspire confidence and ensure security.