Can we please ban the word omni-channel

All industries are full of their acronyms and useless words and none more so than the IT sector.


Let’s not go there

One of the most annoying to have appeared is omni-channel, which the software industry has helped foist upon the retail industry. Where once there was multi-channel now there is omni-channel.

Supposedly it is the step-on from multi-channel but it isn’t really because omni-channel is merely what you end up with when you correctly deliver multi-channel.

Multi-channel was the step-on from multiple channels when retailers operated their different channels independently with no integration at all. To go multi-channel meant to link the bits together to create a seamless experience for the customer and for the data to traverse around the business.

The problem was that delivering this vision of multi-channel was a tough job and so to try and push things along the software industry and its cohorts dreamt up omni-channel to help prod those retailers into getting their acts together – and of course buying the latest multi-channel package that had been re-branded as omni-channel to make to look all sort of new.

Thankfully I am not alone in thinking omni-channel should be dumped in the nearest recycle bin as Andy Harding, executive director for multi-channel at House of Fraser, gave the term a savaging at the recent Retail Week Ec0mmerce Summit 2013.

Like Retail Insider he reckons it is merely a ploy by software manufacturers to help them sell their omni-platforms as it sounds rather similar to omni-channel. The likes of Oracle can sell its omni-platform product on the back of it promising to deliver omni-channel capability to retailers.

What annoys Harding is that he believes the term confuses people as it suggests nirvana is effectively operating a single (omni) channel whereas his view is that each channel should be regarded as unique in order that it can deliver value to the customer and ultimately to the retailer of course.

It is not surprising that some of the most experienced people in the industry haven’t fallen for the omni-channel trick and they maintain multi-channel in their job titles.

Harding is clearly one, and the other big guns like Robin Terrell – group multi-channel director at Tesco – and Laura Wade-Gery – executive director for multi-channel and e-commerce keep this in their titles.

The latter is rather a bit of a mouth full but I see no sign of omni-channel littering the Wade-Gery business card.

If anyone is able to give me a clear difference between the definitions of multi-channel and omni-channel without re-writing the definition of the former then I could possibly re-assess my thinking but it simply won’t happen. The reality is that I gave up the search long ago.

It is about time we also gave up on the term omni-channel.