Why not opt for Martini-channel when seeking to convince others that you are in retailing’s technological vanguard?

In the week that etailer Kiddicare adds a bricks and mortar arm with its first standalone store due to open on Wednesday, in Nottingham, it’s worth pondering on one of the current non-debates of our time: what’s the difference between multi-channel and omni-channel?

Apparently, omni-channel is ‘everything, all the time’, as the cliché has it. This can equate to a store with a computer in the corner and a bit of a website, but the sense may be that a retailer is moving with the times if this label is deployed. Then there are multi-channel operators. These have been around for ages and they may have a ‘kiosk’ (a computer) in the corner and a bit of a website, but they are a bit old hat as who doesn’t trade from multiple channels these days?

At the heart of things, Kiddicare notwithstanding, lies the store, at least that is the case for most retailers that have been around for more than a decade or so. Little wonder then that they are anxious to move with the times, having observed the creeping colonisation of their territory by the likes of Amazon.

But alongside this need to be seen as in being in touch with the techno-zeitgeist is fear. Fear, that is, that if you are not able at least to claim to be an omni-channel operator then you really aren’t in the game and are likely to be overlooked by the iPad and, since last Friday, iPhone 5-toting masses.

The somewhat disappointing news however is that multi-channel and omni-channel may very well be exactly the same thing and that somebody, somewhere, coined the latter term in a bid to claim the retail techno-high ground. And at last week’s World Retail Congress in London, there were few, it appeared, who could separate one term from another.

So should we be bothering with trying to discriminate between the two? Well here’s a proposal that may supercede both. How about Martini-channel? Those old enough to have been sentient in the late 1970s and early 1980s may recall a strapline that went: “Any time, any place, anywhere, there’s a wonderful world you can share”. This referred to an Italian aperitif, but in today’s brave new world it could equally apply to retailers seeking to be in the vanguard of progress.

Drink too many dry Martinis however and you tend to fall over. The same is probably true of those trying to find new ways to describe the same old, same old in retail.