Due to the development and advancement of technology, customers’ shopping habit also changes accordingly. Coming to the brick-and-mortar stores is not the only way to shop anymore as the customers have many more ways to interact with the products, to buy them and to pay for them. Ecommerce has created significant impacts on the shopping pattern of people, and as mobile commerce joins the race, everything seems more exciting than ever.

Many newly-created terms have been invented to define the dynamic online marketplace such as digital marketplace, social commerce, physical storefronts, etc, of which multichannel and omnichannel stand out to be few of the most popular nowadays. This thus raises a question of how to tell the difference between omnichannel and multichannel.

Even though omnichannel and multichannel are among the most widely-used buzzwords, not many people can actually understand what omnichannel mean and the difference between omnichannel and multichannel. For that reason, in this article, you’re going to be provided with the necessary information to tell them apart.

In order to get the difference between omnichannel and multichannel, you should know what multichannel is first.

Definition of multichannel

What is multichannel?

Multichannel experience, or can be known as “many” channels, orbits around the product of your business. This means that the product will be the core of the multichannel approach and you, as the store owner, will let the customers engage with your brand and purchase product natively wherever they choose to shop. However, each of the channel is treated as individual silo and there’s very little if not at all any connection between the channels.

Reference: Denefition of multichannel by Merriam-Webster.

Definition of omnichannel

What’s omnichannel?

Omnichannel, on the other hand, has the main focus on the customers. Omnichannel revolves around creating a consistent, single and unified for the customers who come to your brand to shop regardless of the channel they choose. 

This definition pretty much sums up what omnichannel is basically.

Reference: Denefition of omnichannel by EcommerceWiki.

So what is the difference between omnichannel and multichannel?

Even though omnichannel vs multichannel all requires the interaction and selling on multiple sale channels, there are still a few basic difference between multichannel vs omnichannel.

The first difference between omnichannel and multichannel is the core of these two types of experience. While omnichannel major focus is on the customers and their consistent shopping experience, multichannel main focus is on the product. 

Another difference between omnichannel and multichannel is in the interaction between channels. Both omnichannel and multichannel are all related to selling items across multiple physical and digital channels; however, the biggest difference that make omnichannel the more powerful and professional method is how the customers experience is connected and joined up across these channels. 

For example, in reality, a conventional multichannel retail store may have an online store, a physical store and they may even sell their products via some social networking sites. However, these channels are independent with separate stock and they bear very little interaction with one another. Usually the case will be each channel have their own stock and will sell it directly to the customer. When a customer purchase an item in the physical store, they can usually only return that item in store. Sometimes, items that are purchased online can be returned in store, but it’s not the majority of the cases. In other words, multichannel treats online business and offline business separately.

The customers nowadays do not, however, interact with a brand just through only one way. With the rapid development of technology, the customers are highly likely to have multiple touchpoints with a brand. As a result, they will expect each of the touchpoint and their experience on respective touchpoint consistent and seamless. In order to do this, the store owners have to improve their business and unify it to provide the customer single and smooth interaction with the brand online, through SNS, on smartphone, in the physical store or through any possible and potential channel. 

Seamless experience via multiple channels is what define the difference between omnichannel and multichannel and can also explain for its outstanding and increasingly attention-drawing value. 

Disadvantages of implementing Omnichannel experience

After going through the definition of omnichannel, its benefits and the difference between omnichannel and multichannel, you might wonder why haven’t people adopted it for their business yet? Well, the reality might be a little bit more complicated than the theory. There are several factors that account for the under-implementation of omnichannel experience in retail business.

1. Cost

The first factor and might also be the biggest obstacle in the wide implementation of omnichannel in retail business is the high cost. In order to create a complete and smooth omnichannel experience, a business have to pay a significant amount of money to invest in the technology, the equipment and the infrastructure that allows the system to turn out to be exactly what you expected. 

difference between omnichannel and multichannel in cost

However, money is not the only problem when we mention cost. The expense of improving business also lies in the fact that one business will also have to make change to the legacy system that has stood deep-rooted in the internal business. For instance, all successful retail stores all have their own in-store sophisticated POS systems that are highly customised and specifically designed just for their specific need. Creating omnichannel system might mean that they have to integrate a new system and replace the legacy system. This action will require much commitment and patience from not only the leaders of the business but also the staffs. 

2. Technology barrier

Technology barrier as one of the main problems

There are many providers around the world offering retail store with technology and application that can assist the store in moving toward an omnichannel business. but not all of them can offer a comprehensive and complete solution that covers a wide areas of an omnichannel business. Also, there are many eCommerce platforms, outstanding Magento 2, that are improving to keep up with the trends in the market, but there’s still a long way to go and nothing can be said for sure at the moment.

3. Human resources

human resource as one problem of integrating omnichannel technology

The third disadvantage that implementing an omnichannel system can cause to your business is the problem induced from human resources. 

In order for your retail business to completely transform into an seamless omnichannel system,  every staff and every member of your business have to do their assigned role and fulfill their responsibility to ensure the most productivity for the work. However, when there’s a big change in the way the business is operated, you will likely to meet the staffs’ resistance to the new technology. This might be caused by the fact that they have already been familiar with the old and traditional way the store runs and felt strange to the adaptation of new technology.

Another reason might be the fact that the offline staffs, for example, considers their online colleagues to be opponents in working or vice versa because these channels are traditionally run separately. It might be hard to persuade an physical store staffs to encourage a customer to buy online, or encourage the staff to sell products to the customers whom they think are likely to order items online because their salary doesn’t include that decree.


For the time being, there has been very few retail businesses that invest their resources into creating a complete omnichannel system. Instead, retail businesses that have elements of an omnichannel system seem to mushroom in number and see no sign of declining.

However, with the rapid and ever-changing nature of technology and the customer’s shopping habits, the retail business store owners are expected to invest more in omnichannel technology that will help keeping their business at the lead of the race and attract more modern customers. It is also expected that more affordable and innovative technology solutions will be invented in the future to help revolutionize the eCommerce marketplace and to eliminate as well as to combine the essence of the difference between omnichannel and multichannel.

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