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Retail in Asia: is Omnichannel or Multichannel right for your brand?

Industrie Trends | March 22, 2023

Omnichannel and multichannel.  Two widely recognised retail strategies.  It’s pretty clear why, on the face of it, one of these would sound more attractive, more powerful, simply better than the other.  Why would any reasonable person want a strategy that is simply “multi-” when they can have one that is “omni-”?

There is, however, more difference between these two than is implied by their prefixes – “omni” (meaning “all, every”, from the Latin omnis) and “multi” (meaning “more than one, many”, from the Latin multus).  The difference is not actually one of scale at all, but rather one of emphasis.  In fact, it’s quite possible that an omnichannel strategy could involve less channels than a multichannel one.  How so?

As its name infers, multichannel retail involves making one’s products available to the market by utilising multiple channels in parallel, in order to reach more potential customers – these channels could be online or offline, and they could be few or many.  The focus of this strategy is on the products themselves, and putting them in front of more people; the challenge commensurate with it is to maintain consistency in branding, product information, and pricing, so that customers who encounter the product on more than one channel are not confused or put off from making a purchase.

By contrast, omnichannel retail focusses on the customer experience; it is concerned about how different customer “touch points” interact with each other, so that every interaction that a person has with the brand (whether in-store, on social media, through email, on the brand’s website, or on a shopping platform), appears to them to be just another part of the one seamless experience.  For instance:

  • you buy the product on Amazon, then…
  • you receive a personal email from the brand inviting you to participate in a prize draw if you follow on Instagram, then…
  • you do so, and are lucky enough to win a prize – the voucher you receive tells you that it can be used in any of the brand’s online or bricks-and-mortar stores, and it also tells you the name and address of your nearest store, in case you didn’t already know it.

It feels as if the brand knows you personally.  That’s an example of the omnichannel experience. 

In order to be omnichannel, it is clear that a brand or business must also be multichannel (though the opposite is not true – a strategy can be multi without being omni).  “Upgrading” from multichannel to omnichannel need not involve adding more channels, it just involves finding ways to deepen the customer experience across some touchpoints; the omnichannel experience could cover only a part of your multichannel strategy.

Western brands in East Asia’s competitive, diverse and fast-moving markets barely have a chance of survival without either an omnichannel or a multichannel strategy.  The key question is – which is right for you?  Is your product one for which customers would really benefit by the omnichannel experience?  Maybe yes, maybe no.  And, if you are beginning with a single retail channel only (JD, Lazada, Amazon or TMall, say) is your strategy scalable, so that more channels can be added while still maintaining consistency?  A shopping platform may offer you convenient options for warehousing and fulfilment, and for updating product details and pricing: can this be synched directly with other shopping platforms?  Probably not, as some brands find to their surprise when they decide to scale up.  Most likely, stock will need to be set aside for different channels and managed separately – within a single warehouse, or maybe multiple ones, making things more complex than before.  

Forethought and good decision-making at the outset can, yield multichannel solutions for all sizes and types of business, which take advantage of the extra reach that additional channels can offer, whilst ensuring consistent branding, pricing and product information.  That’s an essential foundation for market development in East Asia, whether you intend to go omnichannel someday, or not.

If you are interested in working with us, contact us at: contact@melchers.de

#asiarevisited #ASEAN #logistics #multichannel #omnichannel #retail

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