When you are selling in multiple online and offline channels, managing omnichannel commerce processes can become a challenge. In order to keep track of orders, inventory, and customers in all channels, an integrated solution needs to be in place.
Single Channel vs Multichannel vs Omnichannel
It’s good to know about the historical timeline of where the term Omnichannel Commerce originates from.
Single Channel Commerce
This term relates to retailers who sell their products through one channel, such as a brick-and-mortar store or online webshop. Nowadays, there still are many single-channel retailers. The term single-channel commerce was coined together with the term multichannel commerce (early 2000’s).
Multichannel commerce means selling through multiple sales channels. The most common combination of multichannel is a physical store with a webshop. In multichannel, these channels function independently and not coordinated with each other. For example, the webshop can use different prices, delivery terms or delivery times than the store.
Broadly speaking, the commerce world is still divided between single-channel and multichannel retailers. However, as commerce advanced, so did the strategies that went with it. Especially in multichannel commerce, new strategies were developed.
Nowadays, a term that is often mentioned when talking about selling via multiple sales channels is omnichannel commerce (coined around 2013).
What is omnichannel commerce?
Omnichannel commerce is a term that is widely used- but what does it actually mean? It’s not just about giving your customers multiple ways to buy from you or using multiple channels.
The omnichannel concept does not only recognize the range of sales channels available, but also considers interactions that consumers may have before, during, and after purchase. In short, omnichannel commerce is a sales strategy that focuses on providing a seamless customer experience through multiple sales channels. It is meant for customers that use multiple channels to engage with a brand before making a purchase.
Sales Channel Management
Sales channels used in Omnichannel commerce may include:
- E-commerce (i.e webshops, apps)
- Marketplaces (i.e Amazon, eBay)
- Social selling (i.e Facebook and Instagram)
- Brick and Mortar Stores (i.e POS, self-service kiosks)
Managing backoffice processes
The key to providing a great customer experience lies in consolidating sales channels and back-office processes. Systems that are built for omnichannel backoffice management integrate any sales channel, such as e-commerce, brick-and-mortar stores, and marketplaces, into one platform.
Within this platform, merchants may work with backoffice processes such as:
- Order Management
- Inventory Management
- Product Management
- Customer Management
- Business Intelligence
- Subscription Management
As an addition, or further evaluation of the term omnichannel, there is now “Unified Commerce. The Unified Commerce strategy gained popularity around 2016 and can be viewed as an all grown-up and matured version of omnichannel. Similar to omnichannel, Unified Commerce focuses on frictionless customer experiences. Where omnichannel mainly focuses on the consumer in the front end – Unified Commerce also focuses on frictionless back end processes for the merchant.
“Delivering real omnichannel experiences is a back-end challenge, not a front-end challenge.” Source: Chain Store Age
True Unified Commerce brings back-office processes, that were previously present in various systems, to a central platform in which each process surrounding the customer experience can be managed.