Multi-Channel vs. Omni-Channel, and Other Key Takeaways

At the recent RIS event in Orlando we learned that retailers are still figuring out the differences and challenges of operating multi-channel versus omni-channel. Retailers are in the process of defining the differences between the two and gaining understanding of where the lines are drawn for each strategy. Our view, supported by many people we met with, is that omni is the customer unified view of your brand and multi is the operational side of processes and strategies.
In one of the workshops we led, retailers shared top challenges in their organizations with regard to inventory alignment strategies. New customer data being gathered needs to be integrated with traditional retail practices and presented to merchandise planners and buyers to be actionable in the inventory management processes.
Localization is conflicting with globalization. There remains a strong sense to develop localized assortment plans; however, retailers are still trying to manage the global reach of their online channel. Localization is continuing to challenge a unified view of process, e.g. returns/exchanges, in all channels.
Understandably, retailers were not ready to commit what impact social media and mobile commerce would have on inventory management strategies. Many retailers expressed strong customer engagement strategies concerning these tactics, but they also indicated that they were not sure how mobility and social media would be incorporated into a retail inventory management strategy.
There was considerable discussion that the role of marketing is changing across all retailers due to the omni-channel. We agree. Marketing and merchandising organizations are evolving, and marketing is clearly paying a leading role in social media.
The challenge for many retailers is how to fully integrate marketing and merchandising so that social media data points become actionable and meaningful to others in the organization; namely merchants.
Retailers who had made progress on this shared that moving from a product-centric to customer-centric operating model requires executive alignment and impacts all parts of the organization. Product data from social media needs to be further defined and measured, and made available to the organizations that can act on the customer feedback.
So, as retailers continue to make process improvements, evolve operating models and capitalize on the omni-channel lessons of others, the takeaway from the conference was clear: sitting on the sidelines with a wait and see philosophy is not a great strategy – now is the time to make decisions and take action!
Mike Matacunas is CEO for The Parker Avery Group, Sonia Hernandez is Associate Partner for The Parker Avery Group. The Parker Avery Group works with clients to help them research and develop strategies, design improved processes and execute change, specializing in integrating customer insights and multi-channel business models. Visit the website at

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