Home » 4 Important Differences Between Multi-Channel & Omnichannel Marketing

4 Important Differences Between Multi-Channel & Omnichannel Marketing

Lindsay Tjepkema
Lindsay Tjepkema , Global Head of Content , Emarsys

With the onslaught of new technology and new marketing strategies comes a wave of terminology with which marketers need to become acquainted—and quickly. Two definitions that are becoming more and more important in today’s digital age are multi-channel marketing and omnichannel marketing.

The Difference Between Multi-Channel and Omnichannel

The lines are so blurred here, and the debate so frequent, that we have written about it several times to ensure marketers are clear on the differences. At their core, however, the definitions are similar. Let’s take a look:

Multi-Channel Marketing

Multi-channel marketing refers to the ability to interact with potential customers on various platforms. A channel might be a print ad, a retail location, a website, a promotional event, a product’s package, or word-of-mouth.

Omnichannel Marketing

Omnichannel refers to the multi-channel sales approach that provides the customer with an integrated shopping experience. The customer can be shopping online from a desktop or mobile device, via phone, or in a brick-and-mortar store, and the experience will be seamless.

It may seem, upon first glance, that the aim these two approaches is to interact with consumers through an assortment of various channels, but although the terms may appear to be only subtly different, the true meanings and resulting strategies go down two very different paths.

Woman In Shopping Mall Using Mobile Phone

To better explain the uniqueness of multi-channel and omnichannel marketing strategies, we will hone in on four key differences.

1. The Channel vs. The Customer

The multi-channel approach merely aims to get the word out via the maximum possibility of channels. Multi-channel marketing is about casting the widest net to get the most customer engagements. Companies utilising the multi-channel strategy adopt two or more channels to engage their consumers. In multi-channel marketing, most social media channels and email are the most popular.

Conversely, the omnichannel approach seeks to interconnect every channel to engage with customers at a holistic level to ensure they are having a positive experience with the brand across every channel. The focus is on building stronger relationships between consumers and the brand.

In fact, companies with well-defined omnichannel customer experience strategies in place achieve a 91% higher year-over-year increase in customer retention rate on average, compared to organisations without omnichannel programmes in place.

When it comes to omnichannel marketing, current figures suggests that within the UK, mobile customers’ share of total purchases will grow by 55% in the next five years and reach nearly £20bn within a decade. Yet, even when that becomes a reality, mobile customers will still only make up 5% of all UK retail. According to eMarketer, 84% of sales activity will still be taking place in bricks-and-mortar shops. But it won’t be the same kind of shopping. Shoppers will expect their growing mobile experience to echo that of the brick and mortar. They are looking for consistency across all interactions with a brand.

2. Consistency vs. Engagement

The focus of omnichannel is on the customer’s experience. This brings about the second key difference between the strategies: consistency. Omnichannel businesses are diligent in ensuring their customers receive the same experience and messaging across every channel.

A consistent brand image and message ensures a heightened sense of familiarity and relationship with the brand. Marketers implementing an omnichannel marketing strategy must ensure that all internal departments are aligned with the messaging. For example, PR, customer success, social media and sales teams must all portray a seamless and consistent message to ensure the strategy implementation is successful.

3. Effort vs. Effortless

Another priority of omnichannel marketing, as told by Misia Tramp, the EVP of Insights and Innovations for United States-based Tahzoo, is in “understanding how to eliminate effort from the customer experience”.

She goes on to explain: “there is a tendency to consider the many channels available to connect with consumers today as simply more options to be used. That’s more of a multi-channel approach. Omnichannel involves using data to understand where effort exists in the customer experience and how to remove, rather than add, effort.”

Omnichannel marketing seeks to foster an effortless buying experience for each and every customer’s journey with a brand.

4. Optimization

At Emarsys, we have established that many of our UK customers, including companies in the wider marketplace, have ongoing multi-channel marketing efforts. Additionally, more and more of our customers have been working across channels more productively to enable effective and measurable commerce independent of the channels.


That sense of marketing more efficiently and optimising the use of each channel caters to the heart of what omnichannel marketing stands for, which is an individualised and consistent customer experience across all channels.

Final Thoughts

Omnichannel and multi-channel marketing are two very distinct and separate marketing strategies, even though both focus on the use of multiple channels to reach consumers and potential consumers. Marketers must make the shift to focus on omnichannel efforts in order to increase customer retention and in turn, revenue.

Want to learn more about omnichannel marketing? Read our whitepaper on adapting to the pace of omnichannel marketing.

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