Two of the biggest buzzwords in the commerce space in recent years are omni-channel and multi-channel. Often, these two terms are used interchangeably, however, to do so would be incorrect. There are many differences between omni-channel and multi-channel commerce strategies and these differences are important to understand as B2B businesses work to meet customer needs and expand to new markets. 

Today, customers want to… 

  • Research products in a browser on their laptop
  • Interact with a brand on social media
  • Price compare on their smartphones
  • And more...

And they want all of these interactions to be consistent and unified. The modern B2B buyer wants to be able to cycle through the sales process across devices and channels at their own pace. But, more than that, they want the experience they have with each channel to be consistent. 

This is where the distinction between omni-channel and multi-channel commerce becomes clear. Most B2B businesses today have a multi-channel eCommerce strategy, but it’s much harder to create a true omni-channel strategy. While you cannot have omni-channel without multi-channel, omni-channel eCommerce strategies are focused on connecting and streamlining the customer experience across channels. 

What is Multi-Channel eCommerce? 

Multi-Channel eCommerce is the strategy that focuses on generating revenue through multiple channels. This strategy aims at providing multiple channels in which a buyer can interact with a business. From a business perspective, this means extending your product catalog to channels such as an online store, an online marketplace or even social media. 

B2B businesses that are looking for new ways to generate revenue and acquire new customers, a multi-channel strategy is an effective way to do both in a relatively simple way. Historically, multi-channel commerce meant that a B2B business sold both online and offline. However, as eCommerce grew and became standard practice for B2B businesses, multi-channel eCommerce was born. Now, it’s the norm for B2B businesses to have many channels and platforms as a part of their eCommerce ecosystem. 

What is Omni-Channel eCommerce? 

Omni-channel is an approach to eCommerce that focuses on the customer by providing a seamless, consistent experience across all channels. Omni-Channel eCommerce is the step beyond multi-channel eCommerce and with a shift in focus. Omni-Channel eCommerce is a strategy that’s focused on providing a seamless and integrated experience for customers. Unlike multi-channel eCommerce where a customer’s buying journey is segmented and different depending on the channel, with omni-channel eCommerce, a customer can cycle through the buying journey across channels and devices over time. 

When a B2B business chooses to implement an omni-channel approach to eCommerce, there must be a shift in mindset to become hyper focused on the customer. Omni-channel eCommerce takes a multi-channel strategy and optimizes it for today’s digital age by providing personalized experiences regardless of channel or device. B2B businesses benefit from increased customer insights, better brand consistency, and improved customer loyalty which leads to increased revenue. 

3 Main Differences of Omni-Channel Commerce vs Multi-Channel Commerce

Because implementing a multi-channel or omni-channel strategy can require large resource investments, it’s important for B2B businesses to understand the differences. 

  1. Customer vs Channel

Multi-Channel commerce focuses on expanding to new channels to generate revenue with the key goal being focused on sales objectives and even reaching new customers. Omni-channel commerce on the other hand, focuses on reaching customers across channels with a seamless, integrated experience. 

  1. Consistency

A key benefit for B2B businesses that implement an omni-channel approach to eCommerce is the increased brand consistency across channels. With multi-channel eCommerce, how a brand is represented is at the discretion of the channel. For example, when a B2B business extends to Amazon, the checkout process is determined by Amazon not the B2B business. 

  1. Personalization

Personalization is the cornerstone of omni-channel eCommerce strategy for B2B businesses. The goal of omni-channel is to use customer insights and data shared seamlessly across channels to ensure that regardless of where or how a customer is placing an order, the experience is customized for them. 

Many B2B businesses have learned that multi-channel eCommerce is essential in today’s connected world. But, those that are customer-centric are realizing that they can evolve their multi-channel strategy into an omni-channel approach to achieve greater results. For more information about implementing an omni-channel eCommerce strategy, you can download our eBook, Omni-Channel Strategies for B2B Mid-Market Enterprises.