Tech 101: What does "omnichannel" mean?

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Tech 101: What does "omnichannel" mean?

If you're in the retail business, get ready for "omnichannel" to become a cliche. So, what is it?

The word is relatively new, but the underlying concept is well established - providing a consistent experience to customers regardless of whether they deal with you via your shop, kiosk, your web site, using their phone, or your call centre. 

The idea is to allow your customers to switch smoothly between each of these ways of dealing with your business.
 
So if a customer purchases an item on your web site and it is faulty or unsuitable, they may expect to be able to return it to one of your physical shops.
 
Or they may expect to be able to use your web site to check that a certain item is in stock in their local branch before visiting the shops.
 
Why is omnichannel likely to become a cliche in 2013?
 
First, retailers increasingly understand the importance of providing consistent ways for customers to deal with your business.
 
Also, software companies are coming up with new systems that make this possible - like Microsoft Dynamics (and yes, Microsoft is among those companies that seem to on the "omnichannel" bandwagon).
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