What is omnichannel retail?

The way that consumers shop has changed. The eCommerce explosion has created a vastly different retail landscape, unrecognisable to that of even 5 years ago. The result is a fragmented, confusing and disparate retail environment. Omnichannel retail is now the buzzword on the lips of retailers battling to meet the needs of a new generation of buyers.

Omnichannel retail is the idea that wherever a customer interacts with a retailer, be it online, over the phone or in-store, the experience is consistent, fluid and personalised. Omnichannel retailers allow customers to move between channels without disruption or interference. Personalisation is also integral to omnichannel retailing with customers being served tailored offers, products and home pages to enhance their shopping experience.

OMNIS by Iconography

Did you know that our Unified Commerce platform mixes eCommerce, RMS, CRM and EPoS to provide an award winning omnichannel solution?

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Omnichannel vs Multichannel

It’s not uncommon to hear people ask ‘what's the difference between omnichannel vs multichannel, aren’t they just the same?’ Although they’re similar, they are different. The differences between omnichannel vs multichannel might be subtle but they’re important all the same.

Multichannel Retail

Multichannel retail describes a retailer that is selling products through multiple channels. This could be over the phone, online, instore and at events and concession stands. These multiple sales channels are what make them a multichannel retailer.

Usually, each of these channels have their own processes and systems, like a separate EPoS and eCommerce system. This means that multichannel retail is siloed and often these channels, and the data generated from each, aren’t connected. It’s therefore difficult to offer services like click and collect or instore returns and view sales and stock reports from all channels in one system.

Omnichannel retail

Omnichannel retail, on the other hand, describes a situation where all of a retailer's sales channels are connected, and the data is centralised in one database. The difference here is that information generated by each channel can be accessed by all channels. This is particularly useful for retailers with online and offline sales channels.

So, where a multichannel retailer may have specific stock allocated to their eCommerce channel for example, once it’s gone, it’s gone. An omnichannel retailer in this scenario can allocate stock from a store to eCommerce orders if there is a sudden increase in demand. The impact is that omnichannel retailers can sell more products at full margin and avoid a dreaded stock-out.

Omnichannel retailing is really an evolution of multichannel retail. Retailers are recognising that customers no longer see ‘channels’ and want to shop however and whenever they want. The result is that convenience and customer experience is key, more so than price in some cases.


Speed, convenience, helpful employees and friendly service matter the most to consumers, each hitting over 70% in importance.

An omnichannel example from a leading omnichannel retailer

And So To Bed (ASTB) are a long established retailer on the high street and have been advising bed buyers on how to ensure a great night's sleep for over 40 years. A timely investment by ASTB during 2019 in the OMNIS unified commerce solution has delivered the right systems at the right time for the Pandemic lockdown and its impact.

With twenty stores in the UK and an established way of doing business the strategic problem for ASTB in recent years was the need to stay relevant in a changing market. The customer demographic had shifted, buyer behaviour and expectations were rapidly evolving with the spread of mobile technology and new entrants and disruptors like Eve Sleep and Casper were threatening to pinch mattress market share.

In 2019 ASTB saw the opportunity to fully embrace the 21st century shopper with a commitment to unifying the online and instore experience. This meant taking an omnichannel approach, installing digital kiosks in showrooms and finding one solution that would combine the ecommerce, EPoS, CRM and retail management functions into one.

ASTB retail staff were consulted to find out what they wanted from the new systems and this encouraged digital ownership of the new features. Digital kiosks were installed in showrooms and the unified system allows for the retrieval online of quotes initially put together instore. This delivers great customer service and allows instore and online sales to work in harmony.

Since launching with OMNIS in October 2019 internet sales have increased by 60%. It shows that a commitment to modernising your business and retail management systems can pay off in unexpected ways, especially when an unprecedented Pandemic turns up.

Why omnichannel retail is important - key statistics

Omnichannel retailing is important because it creates a customer-centric approach. It puts the customer at the heart of all decision making and asks ‘how can we deliver an exceptional customer experience?’

A great omnichannel strategy will help retailers to answer this question with a data-driven approach. Knowing who, what, why, when and how people are buying enables retailers to do more of what’s working and less of what’s not, ultimately maximising sales and profits. 

With data being collected from all channels and stored centrally it can be analysed in real-time allowing decisions to be made that have an immediate impact on revenue and efficiency.

These 10 stunning statistics reveal why omnichannel retailing is important if you want to attract and retain more customers.

  1. 46% of shoppers surveyed confirm inventory online before going to the store. (Think With Google)

  1. 95% of retailers cited that enabling ship-from-store had resulted in a positive or significantly positive uplift in online revenue. (Business to Community)

  1. Companies with omnichannel customer engagement strategies retain on average 89% of their customers, compared to 33% for companies with weak omnichannel customer engagement. (Digital Commerce 360)

  1. 15 years ago the average consumer typically used twotouch-pointswhen buying an item and only 7% regularly used more than four. Today consumers use an average of almost six touch-points with nearly 50% regularly using more than four. (Marketing Week Study)

  1. 39% of consumers are unlikely or very unlikely to visit a retailer’s store if the online store does not provide physical store inventory information. (Forrester)

  1. 91% of consumers are more likely to shop with brands who provide relevant offers and recommendations. (Accenture)

  1. 81% of retailers say they will deploy a Unified Commerce platform by the end of 2020. (Boston Retail Partners)

  1. 61% of customers have not been able to easily switch from one channel to another when interacting with customer service. (Aspect)

  1. 64% of customers expect to receive real-time assistance regardless of the customer service channel they use. (Zendesk)

  1. 73% of consumers shop in more than one channel. (HBR)

Omnichannel retail trends

Although omnichannel retailing may seem like a new retail concept the truth is it’s been around for a while. In fact, RSR suggests that the concept of omnichannel retail can be traced back to 2003. More recently omnichannel has been in the spotlight leading us to notice a number of omnichannel trends emerging within the retail space.

Cross channel personalisation Is critical

A PWC report found that 73% consumers said that the customer experience directly impacts their purchasing decision. However, personalisation goes beyond personal communications. Consumers now expect personalised ads, product recommendations, discounts and even homepages when they visit your website. Without the relevant data from multiple channels this is impossible to achieve.

Finance payment options are expected

Klarna, AfterPay and PayPal Credit are increasing their reach within the eCommerce space at an impressive rate. Younger generations in particular now expect there to be a flexible, interest free payment option when buying online. According to a BigCommerce report, the availability of a buy now, pay later finance option would influence 55% of Gen Z and 55% of Millennials to buy something they would not have otherwise bought. 

Cross channel shopping is the norm

According to Google, about 85% of online shoppers start a purchase on one device and finish on another. This means that wherever your customer is shopping, in an app, on a desktop or using a mobile they must be able to pick up where they left off. Examples include picking up abandoned baskets and checking delivery and order updates.

Engagement goes beyond a single transaction

84% of consumers are more likely to choose brands that offer meaningful loyalty programs. Attracting customers is one thing, retaining them is another. The best brands have robust loyalty programmes in place that are available across every channel, at every time. We recently wrote an article about how to combine online and offline loyalty programmes

Key benefits of offering an omnichannel retail experience

It’s clear then that transitioning towards becoming a modern omnichannel retailer is critical for keeping up to date with consumer demand and staying ahead of competitors, but what are the real-world benefits?




Better business insight

As data is collected from all channels and stored centrally businesses benefit from a real-time approach to data creation, management and information distribution. This enables data-driven decision making leading to better inventory management, more efficient sales resource deployment and effective omnichannel promotion creation and delivery. 

Deliver better customer experiences

With a fully integral CRM and centralised data collection customer journeys and interactions can be mapped and reviewed across all channels. This true single customer view supports the delivery of customer centric marketing and loyalty programmes and customer focused services like click and collect, quote in store and buy online and buy online - return to store.

Reduced training, licencing and support costs

One system means working with one, dedicated vendor. Retailers no longer have to deal with the ‘blame game’ when integrations fail and have access to a single dedicated vendor support channel. Training staff on one system is simpler and a better use of time creating a more efficient and cost effective retail environment. 

Increased operational efficiency

Omnichannel retail software can be tailored to your business which means you get the system you want, configured to your particular needs and way of working. Having one system also eliminates duplication of effort (often seen when retailers have to input the same data for instore systems and for eCommerce) and improves accuracy across your retail channels.

No integrations between systems

Omnichannel retail software is one coherent system which means no unreliable integrations which are prone to failure. Data is always accessible in the cloud enabling managers and decision makers to pursue data-driven decision making. Omnichannel retailers don’t need to wait for systems to update and sync at the end of the day or week. Data is available from every channel, whenever you need it, in one system.  

Fully scalable

Because omnichannel retail software is one coherent system every sales channel is always connected. This means that scaling up with new channels and retail locations is quick and easy. Simply set up new stores and add new users and the data will flow into the system from day one.  

An omnichannel perspective from omnichannel retail experts

Julia Jones - “We have worked closely with the great team at Iconography to deploy the eCommerce,  EPoS and retail management elements of OMNIS into a solution customised to our particular workflow and needs. As well as making the business far more efficient we have been able to land a lot of new orders because I can do things with this system that were impossible before”

ASTB - “We now see ASTB as a fully embraced Omnichannel business. Everything we do from the print ad to a digital ad, to the in store experience, to the web site - they are now all fully interconnected. We want customer trust in us to be really solid and one way to do that is to make sure the online experience and the in-store experience are presenting the same message to the end-consumer.”

Footbalance - "Our brief was complex - we needed a multi-brand eCommerce site which provided the consumer with different buying and booking options, as well as a till system for our retail stores. FootBalance UK now has a fully responsive site, connected to the instore till system which allows for fully automated stock control, preventing the ability to oversell items as the stock is instantly updated on the database. It’s so much better than the traditional 10 to 15 minute lag time with a third party integration."

The components of omnichannel retail software

Because omnichannel retail covers 90% of the operational retail space there are a number of elements to consider. From inventory to eCommerce to EPoS these are the key areas and technologies that factor into a successful omnichannel retail strategy.  



An EPoS is the heart of instore retail. Having the right solution can make an incredible difference to instore sales. EPoS that’s part of an omnichannel retail software package will enable retailers to view product information, stock levels, availability and stock location. You can also provide individual store level discounts and process returns and refunds for purchases made using any channel. Intuitive touch screen and mobile POS empowers staff helping to deliver more sales and drive better margins.

Enterprise eCommerce

Personalisation is integral to the omnichannel retail experience. This can only be achieved when you collect the right data and use it to inform your eCommerce experiences. An enterprise omnichannel eCommerce platform will enable you to deliver a highly personalised experience through personalised product recommendations, home pages, banners, product listings and discounts and promotions.


CRM binds everything together from a customer data perspective. It helps omnichannel retailers to gain a true single customer view and understand individual purchasing patterns and preferences. CRM also supports retailers in delivering value added customer focused services like click and collect and quote instore - buy online. 

Retail Management Software

Omnichannel retail software helps you improve inventory and order management processing. Product catalogues can be created and managed for use online and instore through EPoS and kiosks. Automated purchase order creation means you will never have stock outs and accurate, real-time sales reporting can be broken down by channel, store and retail staff members.

Choosing the right omnichannel retailing software

Succeeding in omnichannel retail means making the right investments in systems that allow a single view of the customer, inventory, and orders so that you can deliver the end-to-end experience customers expect. In the 2020s this is no longer a competitive advantage, but a basic requirement to thrive. 

These are our top 10 key considerations when researching new unified commerce software.

  1. What do you actually want? - List out the specific requirements that you have including those you don’t get from your existing system. Are you interested in advanced CRM functions? Is your current inventory control too reliant on manual input? Do you want to make the case for having tablet devices on the shopfloor?  

  1. Hardware or software? - Knowing how many hardware devices are supporting the RMS is useful, as is their location and what software products are installed. Knowing your license position will support a thorough cost-benefit analysis, limit over-deployment of software and indicate how budget could be redeployed.  

  1. Growth plans - The type of solution and software integration that works well for a small independent retailer is inadequate for a chain retailer operating stores in several locations. How you choose to scale your operations and leverage technology to help you get there is a critical question to answer up front. 

  1. Retail sector - While it may seem like a simple decision to consider a particular solution based on your retail category, the key to getting this right is to minimise integration. Understanding what your distinct functional and technical requirements are will help narrow the field of vendors.

  1. Fragmented or unified? - Facing the frustration of your current systems will help you unpick what’s not working and why. The questions are around how the core components of the current solution integrate with other key aspects of your business? Integrations are never seamless and so avoiding them is a priority. Having one unified system is mre efficient and eliminates the duplication of effort when it comes to data entry and product updates.

  1. Non core RMS software - Get clear about how your system talks to your existing peripheral software e.g. back office accounting.  What are the needs? What levels of technical support do you require and what are they costing you? How could this be improved?

  1. Customer support - When comparing potential RMS solutions to replace what you have currently, ask questions about the customer support policy and read the fine print. Is the support team in-house or a third-party agent? What are the hours of operation for tech support and the policy for onsite assistance? Will they meet your needs?

  1. Technology platform - Old systems are often at full stretch and nearing breaking point. Be realistic about what you have. Retailers reviewing RMS software need to consider the technology choices vendors have made during the design and build of their systems. These choices matter for reasons of interoperability, performance, scalability, security and cost.

  1. SaaS in the cloud or on-premise? - SaaS, or software-as-a-service, solutions are cloud based and web first. This means a faster time to value as you’ll have little downtime during implementation. Vendors are responsible for this process as well as any ongoing maintenance.

  1. Functionality - It's important to know what you're missing and to then compare this with what you could have. Remember that how this functionality is delivered is as important as what it does. The benefit of a fully unified system where one data source feeds the ecommerce, EPOS and RMS is an ideal solution to work towards.

Making the move to omnichannel retailing

Given the increasing gap between multichannel vs omnichannel retail, there’s never been a stronger case for making the move to becoming an omnichannel retailer. Customers now expect to be able to check stock online, reserve items for instore collection and return items to any store and channel they choose. 


For many retailers making the move to omnichannel retailing may seem like a daunting task. The reality is that couldn’t be further from the truth. Because omnichannel retail software is, or should, one system, it simplifies and streamlines your retail environment. Licensing costs are reduced, training staff is easier and more efficient and scalability is as simple as adding new stores and users.


If you’re looking for award winning omnichannel retail software that can be tailored to your needs, that comes with dedicated vendor support and that enables you to deliver ambitious businesses outcomes with reduced cost and higher efficiency, download our guide to The OMNIS advantage. 

OMNIS was born out of the needs of a leading direct to consumer brand to support their online and instore retailing formats in the UK market. They were facing the same problems and challenges that present obstacles for any retailer.

As a progressive and forwarding thinking brand, our client wanted to remove the limitations, constraints and operational inefficiencies associated with integrating an eCommerce website with offline EPoS and legacy back office retail software.

We quickly saw the vast potential OMNIS possessed. It’s a need we’ve recognised with many other retailers and DTC brands that have similar aspirations and want to remove the restrictions of old retail technology and software.

So, if you’re ready to move away from the year (2005) that USB flash drives were ‘new technology’ and a time when the iPhone wasn’t even a spec on the horizon then we should talk!

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OMNIS Retail is a pioneering new retail solution that has been driven by D2C brands & niche retailers looking to the future. A single database eliminates any data integration issues between outdated systems, instead providing a cloud-based omnicommerce retail solution fit for the 21st century.

Online and instore retail

OMNIS Retail is a pioneering new retail solution that has been driven by D2C brands & niche retailers looking to the future. A single database eliminates any data integration issues between outdated systems, instead providing a cloud-based omnicommerce retail solution fit for the 21st century.

Would you like to know more?

4th November 2020