Guide to Omnichannel vs Multichannel in Commerce

Omnichannel vs Multichannel Ecommerce?

As we embark on what will inevitably be another massive year for ecommerce, brands and retailers are starting to look at their technology stack to see where improvements can be made. Many retailers are asking themselves which strategy is better for them; omnichannel vs multichannel ecommerce? They’re assessing their online marketplace integration along with global ecommerce omnichannel trends. What is the best way forward, and what strategy is going to perform best in 2022 and beyond?

Across the globe, ecommerce is a force to be reckoned with. In 2019, online sales made up just 13.87% of all retail sales, according to eMarketer. They predict this to rise to 24.5% of all retail sales in 2025, and reach $7.385 trillion. EMarketer also predicts that China’s retail ecommerce sales will surpass 50% of total retail sales in the country and will climb to 56.8% by 2025.

Customer experience is different between multichannel and omnichannel commerce. Both commerce strategies engage the customer along the shopper journey, however an omnichannel strategy focuses more on the customer, and less on the channel. Let’s look at both paths a retailer can take.

Retail Ecommerce Sales Worldwide, 2019 – 2028

Graph: Retail Ecommerce Sales Worldwide

(Trillions, eMarketer)

Customer experience is different between multichannel and omnichannel commerce. Both commerce strategies engage the customer along the shopper journey, however an omnichannel strategy focuses more on the customer, and less on the channel. Let’s look at both paths a retailer can take.

What is Multichannel in Ecommerce?

Multichannel retailers sell their products or experiences across multiple channels, including ecommerce sites, marketplaces, social channels and bricks and mortar store/s. They may push their inventory out to Amazon, eBay, Catch, Kogan or more, as well as selling in their own network of retail stores. Other channels thrown into the mix include email, mobile app, social media and more. In a multichannel strategy, these channels are siloed and unconnected, making for a disjointed customer journey.

Why is it important?

Retailers may choose a multichannel strategy over another strategy for a variety of reasons:

  • Tailor messaging and customer experience per channel
  • Low cost of entry – sign up and start selling!

  • Reach new customers quickly

  • Increase brand awareness and product visibility

  • Reduced risk through selling diversification

  • Easily turn off underperforming channels

What is an Ecommerce Marketplace?

Check out some examples here >>

What is Omnichannel in Ecommerce?

Omnichannel ecommerce is similar to multichannel in that a customer interacts with the retailer across multiple channels. The difference is integration – in an omnichannel strategy, channels are integrated and the customer is at the heart of everything. Online marketplace integration, as well as integrating all channels including social channels, ecommerce sites, email platforms, CRM and more is the first step to a true omnichannel experience for customers.

Why is it important?

Integrating your channels in an omnichannel retail strategy is the next step up from multichannel retailing. Understanding the shopper journey and how and where a customer touches your brand is essential to a more connected customer experience. Unifying experiences will lead to higher conversions and happier customers.

Number 1

Centralised data: Your PIM will be the single source of truth for all product and order data, and be the enabler for a frictionless shopping experience for customers.

Number 2

Brand awareness and discovery: Get your products in front of customers where they choose to shop, and access new customer bases with new channels. Products are more discoverable with enhanced content in your PIM, and your advertising dollars are highly targeted.

Number 3

Bridge the gap between offline and online worlds: Empower your customers to move through their shopper journey wherever they touch your brand, from social channels, physical retail stores, marketplaces and more.

Number 4

Retail stores reimagined: Physical retail stores are part of your retail experience, not the central piece. Centralise data in a omnichannel retail strategy to bridge the gap between online and offline.

Number 5

Understand your customers: Make every interaction they have with your brand, whether it be videos via social channels (customers are up to 85% more likely to buy a product when they’ve watched a video!), within a marketplace, on your own ecommerce site or in a store, consistent. Ensure every touchpoint is ‘shoppable’ – when they’re ready to buy, they’ll buy.

Number 6

Manage inventory like a pro: Centralise your inventory to better manage inventory across your network, preventing stock outs and for better visibility across the business.

If you set it up right from day one and integrate it properly then it just works and that’s what it should be. For so long we made ecommerce so hard but now it’s just easy. The amount of time, effort & headaches we have saved is almost priceless.

Check out how Glue Store connected their commerce ecosystem, taking their ecommerce offering to new heights.

What are the differences?

Customers expect a seamless experience across all channels, whether they be online stores, marketplaces (such as eBay or Amazon), social selling or physical retail outlets.

67% of customers use multiple channels to complete a single transaction. They may start their journey with a search or on social media, switch between ecommerce stores, marketplaces, review sites, and more. Not only do they bounce around online and offline, 85% of customers start a purchase on one device and finish it on another.

Ensuring you have the right strategy in place for your unique business is pivotal to retail success. While headless and composable commerce are the future of commerce as we know it, they do have a high cost of entry and take years of digital transformation. A multichannel or omnichannel approach may be better suited to your business, depending on your growth stage and plans for the future.

Omnichannel Statistics


40% of consumers say that they won’t do business with companies if they can’t use their preferred channels


67% of customers use multiple channels to complete a single transaction


85% of customers start a purchase on one device and finish it on another

What is the best solution for your business?

Consumers have evolved. Their online experience over the past 18 months has increased dramatically, as have their expectations. They expect retailers to understand their needs and how they like to shop. As they move their way through their shopper journey, from discovery to purchase, fulfilment to shipments through to returns and refunds, customers expect a consistent and seamless shopping experience across all channels and touchpoints.

Is omnichannel retailing enough in today’s retail environment?

It most definitely is not. Retail is not going to go back to where it was pre-2020; consumers have moved on. While retailers might be providing a great cross channel experience to consumers with an omnichannel strategy, it’s a mess in the backend. Any changes to products, pricing, images, and more need to be made in duplicate and the brand experience is not consistent across the channels.

The next evolution of omnichannel retailing is Unified Commerce.

Unified Commerce creates a seamless, consistent experience for customers across all channels. By harmonising all channels, payment systems, products, and customer data, retailers can deliver a totally integrated, measurable, and frictionless experience.

The process puts the consumer at the centre of a holistic retail experience, touching everything from the purchase journey, customer service, fulfillment, returns & refunds and more. By connecting all back end systems with customer-facing channels in a single platform, retailers benefit from better data insights, a simplified commerce ecosystem and a consistent brand experience for customers.

Why You Can No Longer Ignore Unified Commerce.

Check out the eBook

Unified commerce ebook

Download the eBook to discover why Unified Commerce is essential for retailing in 2022 and beyond. Discover:

Unified Commerce

What is it, and how does it differ from multi channel and omnichannel retailing?

Shoppable Channels

Why every channel must be shoppable and offer a consistent brand experience.

Customer Journey

How unified commerce impacts the customer journey and path to purchase.

Siloed Commerce

The friction of un-unified commerce – what is the cost to your business?

How Comestri Can Help.

Play a bigger ecommerce game with Comestri. Speak to our experienced team today to see which strategy is going to work best for you to reach your goals, and how we can help get you there.