Multichannel, cross-channel or omnichannel: what to do?

How do you want to serve your customers in a post-Covid-19 world? Are you opting for a multichannel, cross-channel or omnichannel strategy? In this blog, we’ll explain the differences between these three strategies and how to implement them for your garden centre.

At Garden Connect, we believe every garden centre should try to go for an omnichannel approach: the online and offline experience should be fully integrated. That’s what your customers expect from you: today and in the future. You should focus on your customers and should think outside-in instead of inside-out. 

But you can’t get there instantly. 

You need to start with multichannel, move to cross-channel, and eventually, you can offer an omnichannel shopping experience to your customers. 

Single channel, multi-channel, cross-channel, omnichannel


Multichannel: no integration between webshop & garden centre

Most garden centres we are working with are using a multichannel approach. This means the 2 channels they have are not integrated:

  • Webshop
  • Garden centre

Good examples of issues with this setup are:

  • Customers can’t see the actual stock in-store. IT systems aren’t integrated or stock information isn’t available. Customers who want to know if they can pick up something in-store can’t see this online and have to reach out by phone. 
  • The webshop includes a very limited number of products or contains other products than the store. This usually happens when garden centres use dropshipping from the suppliers stock.
  • The loyalty card won’t work on the webshop. Customers can’t save credit on their online purchases or redeem personal vouchers. 
  • Ads, online and offline, are focussed on one channel: the webshop or the garden centre. There’s no overlap between the two. 

More importantly, the 'online department' working on the webshop is either a member of staff who just happens to be knowledgeable about IT or the internet or he’s a loner in the organisation. 

Multichannel marketing

“The webshop? Yeah, Robbie is working on it I think.”

Issues “Robbie” is experiencing, in this case, are mostly that the team at the shop floor isn’t really thinking about online opportunities. If products are selling well in-store, you might want to put them online as well. But doesn’t get that information which is a missed opportunity. 

Another issue in this setup: garden centre owners are looking at the webshop as a 1:1 business which should generate a profit. So if the budget for the webshop is £50,000 per year, the turnover should be at least £150,000. They ignore the dynamics which are in place between online & offline.

Customers look online and buy offline and vice versa. That makes it hard to put a single tag on every order.

Don’t get us wrong: multi-channel is the first step most garden centres make. Which is fine, but you have to move forward. Otherwise, you’ll never make a next step forward as a business!


Cross-channel: two channels which work in conjunction

A cross-channel strategy is the first step to an integrated solution. The webshop and garden centre are more integrated but down the line, still considered different channels.

Examples of cross-channel solutions:

  • Customers can buy online and opt to pick-up a product in the nearest store to save shipping costs
  • Stock information is shown on product pages via the exact figure or traffic light method (green, orange & red if out of stock)
  • Customers can log in on the webshop with their loyalty card to save time entering their contact information

So although the webshop and store are still considered different channels, they work in tandem instead of against each other.

The online team working on the webshop understands it’s important to drive footfall to the garden centre. They encourage visitors to take a look in-store. The other way around, if customers aren’t sure if they want to buy that expensive lounge set, the team at the shop gives them options. For instance, they can think about it and either come back to buy it in-store or go online to buy it from the garden centre webshop.

If you have a cross-channel setup, your online team should meet every now and then with your team working on the shop floor to discuss opportunities. 

Customers enjoy some benefits but you don’t offer them full flexibility. You still decide for them what they can do on what channel since every channel has different products and options. 

Yes, you can buy online from our garden centre. But only the products we want you to buy online. You have to go to another channel (the store) to find out more. And that special Black Friday offer we’ve advertised in the local newspaper? That’s in-store only!


Omnichannel: the future for garden centres

Omnichannel means your customers will have the same experience both online and offline. 

What options can you give customers when you adopt an omnichannel strategy:

  • Customers can buy online, return in-store, collect online orders, and so on
  • Coupons can be redeemed online & offline, customers can spend a loyalty credit on any channel
  • The in-store staff can help customers to make an online purchase for delivery
  • Customers can track delivery orders online, via an app or by logging in on the garden centre website. So not just online purchases but all deliveries
  • Promotions are valid in-store and online

This requires a fully integrated platform. Don’t try to do this by having one system doing everything you want: that’s impossible. 

In theory, you can build a house with just a hammer and a few nails but it’s easier to use a saw, screwdriver, and a spirit level as well. 

So why would you expect to find one tool offering everything you need to have a full omnichannel solution?

The main difference between cross-channel and omnichannel is that in the latter, the customers are in charge. They decide when to shop and how to shop. 

Omnichannel means you can buy the same products across all channels. More importantly, your loyalty card is fully integrated among all channels. On your website and in-store and, ideally, via a mobile app. 


The future of retail lies in an omnichannel approach and the Covid-19 crisis only increased the speed of change. There’s no need to be scared, however. Omnichannel means you need to have multiple channels and while the average garden centre is still struggling with a multichannel approach, the backbone of the business (brick & mortar garden centres) is inspiring and offers a unique shopping experience. 


So what’s your next step to take? 

Feel free to reach out to us via or call +44 203 475 5541 for more information. We’re happy to help you.

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