Article | Adaptive Spaces

What Is Omnichannel Retailing?

16 May 2022 4 Minute Read

By Brandon Isner

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The term “omnichannel” has become the ubiquitous description for combining multiple channels to market, sell, buy and deliver goods. Years ago, retailers implemented omnichannel platforms as a smart growth strategy. In 2022, retailers who seek an advantage must master a multi-channeled platform which ensures ease of transition between digital and physical selling environments. 

Omnichannel Shopping

For consumers, the omnichannel shopping journey can take many forms, but all involve a combination of online (computer or mobile device) and offline (brick-and-mortar) channels. Figure 1 compares several single-channel and omnichannel shopping experiences.

Figure 1: Omnichannel Scenarios

Source: CBRE Research.

Omnichannel Retailing

Omnichannel retailers differ from single-channel operators in that they leverage both online and offline space to sell and deliver goods. While some may focus primarily on digital channels to sell goods, others may rely more heavily on their brick-and-mortar network. For example, an omnichannel retailer might generate most of its revenue online but leverage a select number of brick-and-mortar showrooms for their products to be viewed and tested. An alternate example is a mall-based retailer that derives most of its revenue from store sales but uses mobile and online channels to market and sell goods.

A significant number of retailers new to omnichannel come from the food and beverage sector. With fast-food restaurants fulfilling mobile app orders via their drive thrus and grocery operators promoting curbside pickup for online grocery orders, the number of omnichannel retailers has quickly expanded.

Figure 2: Single Channel vs. Omnichannel Retailing

Source: CBRE Research.

Some have questioned the use of the term “omnichannel” over “multichannel.” Though the two have similar meanings, omnichannel assumes the need for heightened integration between channels. For consumers, that means a seamless experience moving between online and offline channels; for retailers, that means a single platform that offers coordinated digital and physical options allowing channels to complement one another rather than compete.

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