OptiChannel over OmniChannel – Not All Channels are Created Equal for Your Ecommerce Business

The way ecommerce businesses interact with their customers across various channels — and the quality of those interactions — has become a focal point for driving sales and ensuring customer satisfaction. Traditionally, an “omnichannel” approach has been the go-to strategy, aiming to provide a seamless customer experience across every possible channel. However, as digital strategies evolve, a new approach has gained popularity, known as “optichannel” — prioritizing the most important channels based on customer behavior and business goals.

The main idea behind this strategic shift is simple — supporting all channels for your customers doesn’t necessarily mean all channels are equally valuable or useful. The optichannel approach acknowledges this, emphasizing the focused use of high-performing channels that deliver the best return on investment and the highest customer satisfaction.

In this 5-minute read we’ll explore:

  • The shortcomings of the omnichannel approach to CX
  • How an optichannel strategy can deliver better outcomes
  • Challenges involved in an optichannel implementation
  • How to select the most effective CX channels to focus on
  • The role of CX specialists in delivering optichannel success

Understanding omnichannel and optichannel strategies

The concept of omnichannel marketing has developed organically, as available communication channels have proliferated in the digital age. With every new platform or channel that emerges, businesses have felt obliged to cater to it — working on the principle that they should “be where their customers are”. The result is ever more complicated “Contact Us” pages, listing not only an email address and phone number, but over time adding social media accounts, web chat options, messaging tools, videoconferencing platforms, and even virtual or augmented reality experiences.

The intention behind an omnichannel strategy is good in principle — customers should be able to pick from as many different options as possible to get in touch with a business, according to their preferences. However, it can be difficult to put into practice. Providing a unified experience across all platforms is increasingly seen as impractical and labor-intensive. Companies striving for an ideal omnichannel experience often find themselves grappling with high costs and a dilution of focus and resources. This leads to less than satisfactory customer interactions — which defeats the original purpose.

In contrast, the optichannel approach optimizes individual channel performance based on customer expectations, personal preferences, and anticipated return on investment. Instead of spreading resources thinly across all channels, optichannel strategy emphasizes “being where it matters most”. This approach is not just about availability; it’s about meaningful engagement and maximizing the impact of each customer interaction. As the digital marketing community ClickZ has commented, it’s a “return to rationality”.

Analyzing the shortcomings of omnichannel strategies

The allure of an omnichannel strategy is understandable: it promises a seamless and consistent customer experience across every conceivable touchpoint. However, this strategy often comes with significant shortcomings. One of the primary challenges is the impracticality of maintaining high-quality interactions at such a scale.

The omnichannel approach can be resource-intensive, involving huge costs in technology, training, and maintenance. These investments may not always yield proportional benefits, as not all channels are equally effective or preferred by customers. Additionally, the lack of focus inherent in an omnichannel strategy can lead to slow progress and competing priorities, ultimately resulting in a disjointed experience for customers — reflecting poorly on ecommerce brands.

In any case, few companies have come close to achieving the ideal omnichannel experience — despite their best efforts. Research by Insider Intelligence revealed that only 3% of US companies have “all” channels connected, and just a further 9% report “most” channels are connected. So with true omnichannel engagement almost unachievable in real-world applications, forward-thinking ecommerce brands are turning to optichannel approaches — as a more manageable and effective solution.

Exploring the benefits of optichannel strategies

In contrast to the almost insurmountable challenges — and expense — involved in an omnichannel approach to CX, an optichannel strategy offers several compelling advantages.

More focused allocation of resources

By focusing on the channels that offer the highest engagement and return on investment, ecommerce brands can create a more personalized customer experience that drives profitability. This approach allows companies to concentrate their efforts and resources on channels that genuinely matter to their customers, leading to improved customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Higher quality, more engaging interactions

Optimizing the customer experience through a restricted and carefully selected range of preferred channels enables companies to ensure that their efforts resonate more effectively with their target audience. This tailored approach not only enhances the customer experience but also increases the likelihood of customer retention and repeat business.

Deeper insights into customer thinking

A focused optichannel strategy enables businesses to gain deeper insights into customer preferences and motivations. By focusing on core channels, ecommerce companies can gather more relevant profile data, leading to better-informed decision-making. This targeted approach also allows for more effective tracking, measurement, and analysis of customer behavior, enabling businesses to continuously refine and improve their CX, engagement, and marketing strategies.

More pragmatic, higher-impact communication

Finally, the optichannel approach aligns perfectly with the need for rationality and pragmatism in marketing. It replaces the need to “be everywhere, all at once” with a strategic mission to “be where it matters most”. This focus not only optimizes resources but also ensures that customer communication — from marketing to support — is more relevant and impactful, by concentrating on channels that perform best in engaging specific customer segments.

Implementing an optichannel strategy in e-commerce

Transitioning to an optichannel strategy requires a thoughtful and strategic approach. The first step involves identifying the most effective channels for your business. This identification process can be guided by analyzing customer interactions, preferences, and behaviors across different channels. Using advanced analytics, businesses can gain insights into which channels are most frequented by their customers and the nature of their interactions on these platforms.

McKinsey recommends a quadrant-based analysis comparing customer journeys in terms of “customers’ propensity to use multiple channels”, with “the importance of that journey to the customer” — and prioritizing those customer journeys which score highly in both aspects. For example — for an ISP — the customer journey when dealing with a loss of service would be a higher priority than that of checking the remaining balance on their data allowance.

Once the key journeys and the associated channels are identified, the next step is to focus on building functionalities that align with customer preferences in these channels — what types of communication are most appropriate, and at what points in the journey. Ensuring that information flows freely across these selected channels is crucial for creating a personalized omnichannel experience.

Understanding customer segments, such as age, geography, and income, is also vital in tailoring the omnichannel experience to customer needs. For instance, an ecommerce business targeting young adults might find more success concentrating its efforts on social media platforms like Instagram, whereas a brand selling to older customers might do better focusing on traditional support channels such as phone and email.

As with all CX initiatives, successfully implementing an optichannel strategy also involves flexibility and adaptability, with regular reviews to determine the continued relevance and performance of key channels. As market trends and customer preferences evolve, so must the channel strategy.

Channel management as a specialized role

An optichannel communications strategy, as with any business process, is only as successful as the people charged with implementing it. As the role of CX teams within ecommerce has evolved, brands increasingly recognize the importance of customer experience, satisfaction, and feedback to the wider organization — with impacts on product development, marketing strategy, and profitability.

In this context, CX specialization is increasingly necessary in order to effectively manage communication across multiple channels, use advanced AI and machine learning tools to uncover key customer trends, and incorporate voice-of-the-customer insights into the wider organizational strategy. That requires careful planning in terms of upskilling existing teams or recruiting the right mix of skills to fill key knowledge gaps.

For ecommerce brands with limited in-house resources, outsourcing customer experience functions to specialist teams is a potential route — especially where it’s necessary to quickly scale up CX teams to power growth while building in-house capability in the background. Outsourcing can complement internal efforts by bringing in specialized expertise — especially useful where the company may lack resources or capabilities in the use of specific channels or CX tools.


The shift from an omnichannel to an optichannel approach marks a significant transformation in e-commerce and digital marketing strategies — introducing a more sustainable, effective, and customer-centric model, and focusing on channels that deliver the most significant CX impact and return on investment.

By concentrating resources and efforts on select channels that resonate most with their target audience, companies can create more meaningful and success-focused interactions. This not only enhances the customer experience but also ensures that marketing and engagement efforts are not spread across multiple platforms — diluting their impact.

For businesses looking to reap the benefits of optichannel, and further specialize their CX function, working with an expert partner such as SourceCX can expedite the process and help brands ensure a robust, scalable, and sustainable process is put in place, bringing both technological knowledge and flexible, scalable human talent to the table.

Embracing an optichannel approach is not just about being strategic in channel selection; it’s about being smart in how to connect with, engage, and satisfy the modern consumer — and for ecommerce brands that can get it right, the potential impact on growth and profitability is significant.