The 5 senses. They are also the 5 main advantages that a multi-channel business has over an ecommerce only one.

– The buzz and excitement you hear in an Apple store

– The sight of how the diamonds sparkle in a ring when it catches the light

– The smell of fresh coffee from a Starbucks

– The taste from the free sample the supermarket offers you of their new product

– The way the furniture feels when you sit down.


An ecommerce store cannot hope to recreate these advantages in the same way, but they are making great strides in closing the gaps.

Customer reviews allow visitors to hear how other people experienced the products. The integration of social platforms such as Facebook, mean they can find out if their friend has also experienced them.

Videos allow customers to see the products moving, being worn, and consider how they might look on themselves.

Augmented reality will offer up a range of exciting possibilities for combinations between desktops and phones. The idea of virtually being able to browse a store without leaving the house is something futurists have been interested in for decades.

If Ecommerce businesses are minimising some of the advantages multi-channel businesses have, how are they fighting back?

Too many multi-channel businesses compete as second rate Amazons. They try to compete on the same terms as they do, and wonder why they are losing market share.

Any half decent tactician knows that when you are weaker in a certain area, you change the focus of the battle to where you are stronger. The smartest online businesses have finally been taking these steps by answering the question of what multi-channel businesses can do that online only ones cannot.

It is all about the leveraging of their offline stores. A recent stat said that 1 in 10 purchases online in the UK are now click and collect and most of the major high street retailers have made this a key component of their strategy.

In the case of companies like M&S, their large store portfolio means they really can make collection convenient to their customers. John Lewis are trialling smaller format stores to give them more of a high street presence, and House of Fraser have opened 2 click-and-collect-only stores, in Liverpool and Aberdeen.

Tesco has launched an app with a barcode scanner so customers can shop online and not need to even go through the offline till if they don’t want to – customers can be pretending to shop in Waitrose whilst taking advantage of Tesco prices on goods they both sell.

The Harrods app, whilst not being transactional, a major flaw, offers a map to allow people to navigate around a complex store layout.

M&S have kiosks in-store where you can purchase online as well as touch screens where you can build an outfit out of different clothing items.

In other words, multi-channel businesses are now competing where the digital and offline worlds collide.

There are still many companies out there who are working under the mistaken belief they can compete on price. The graveyard is littered with them and it is looking like GAME, HMV, Dixons are in danger of meeting the same end.

Multi-channel businesses have so many strengths that Ecommerce-only businesses do not have.

Highlight them.