Multi-channel and omni-channel – you’ve had your day

Retail Insider has waded into the debate about the term omni-channel before – siding with the camp that think it’s a redundant term.


…and multi-channel

Our belief has been that it was merely invented by consultants and other ‘knowledge providers’ as the next solution to sell because they’d wrung all they could out of multi-channel.

In reality what they’ve described omni-channel as is really what multi-channel was originally – i.e. operating across integrated multiple channels. Any talk of it being about all channels working as an omnipresent mush with no distinction between them has little value because the channels are different and should be recognised as such.

Regardless of your position on this it is our belief that it is now time to move on. Both multi-channel and omni-channel are transitory and merely terms – and job titles – for a period of transformation in the retail sector. As the channels do become more aligned and integrated then there becomes less reason to use either of these terms.

A better term to apply at this stage in the cycle is digital. Those individuals involved in e-commerce, multi-channel and omni-channel are really all involved in digital and this all-encompassing term has more value than those other varieties that are bandied around.

Most retailers are involved in some form of digital transformation at present and, according to eNova Parternship, proof of this can be seen in research they did with company annual reports.

Whereas there were no references to the term digital in any reports of major retailers between 2005 and 2011 there was then an explosion in 2014 with 125 references across the publications investigated. This compares with 175 references to omni-channel and multi-channel in 2014.

Expect to see this balance shift as digital becomes the term of reference to the new way that retailers are starting to describe any parts of their businesses that touch online.

Let’s see how the speakers at forthcoming conferences like the E-commerce & Omni-channel: Supply Chain & Fulfilment deal with it. Can they see the future or are they pegged to old ways.

Glynn Davis, editor, Retail Insider