Two of the biggest buzzwords in the commerce space in recent years are omnichannel and multichannel. Often, these two terms are used interchangeably, which is incorrect. There are many differences between omnichannel and multichannel 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 omnichannel and multichannel commerce becomes clear. Most B2B businesses today have a multichannel e-commerce strategy, but it’s much harder to create a true omnichannel strategy. While you cannot have omnichannel without multichannel, omnichannel e-commerce strategies are focused on connecting and streamlining the customer experience across channels. 

What is multichannel e-commerce? 

Multichannel e-commerce 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 multichannel strategy is an effective way to do both in a relatively simple way. Historically, multichannel commerce meant that a B2B business sold both online and offline. However, as e-commerce grew and became standard practice for B2B businesses, multichannel e-commerce was born. Now, it’s the norm for B2B businesses to have many channels and platforms as a part of their e-commerce ecosystem. 

What is omnichannel e-commerce? 

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

When a B2B business chooses to implement an omnichannel approach to e-commerce, there must be a shift in mindset to become hyper focused on the customer. Omnichannel e-commerce takes a multichannel 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 omnichannel commerce vs multichannel commerce

Because implementing a multichannel or omnichannel strategy can require large resource investments, it’s important for B2B businesses to understand the differences. 

  1. Customer vs. Channel

Multichannel commerce focuses on expanding to new channels to generate revenue with the key goal being focused on sales objectives and even reaching new customers. Omnichannel 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 omnichannel approach to e-commerce is the increased brand consistency across channels. With multichannel e-commerce, 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 omnichannel e-commerce strategy for B2B businesses. The goal of omnichannel 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 online experience is customized for them. 

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