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Omnichannel Marketing vs. Multichannel Marketing: What’s the Difference?

Alex Timlin
Alex Timlin

Omnichannel’ is a term that has been popping up in a lot of marketing blogs and materials over the last 6 to 12 months.

Internally, we’ve had a little bit of a debate as to what the differences are between omnichannel marketing and multichannel marketing and the question raised was – do we really need another buzzword?

The Difference in Philosophy

Perhaps we do, because there needs to be some distinction between customers who have a strategy across ‘multiple channels’ and those who have a ‘multichannel strategy.’ Our most successful clients use multichannel marketing solutions to create an omnichannel experience for their customers, ensuring they remain at the heart of all personalised communication. Here is a great diagram that really illustrates the differences in each philosophy:

http://mimeographs.wordpress.com/2013/07/28/multichannel-vs-omnichannel/

As mentioned, this distinction is only just emerging in some businesses but is already central to the thinking of others. John Donahoe, CEO of eBay, put it rather more directly than most when confronted by a question from a journalist about the threat of ‘f-commerce’ (used to describe Facebook Commerce): “In the eyes of the consumer, e-commerce and retail are now one. It’s just shopping, right?

As in the diagram above, we do need to take into account different channels and the communication across them, but they shouldn’t work in silos – the customer profile should be as comprehensive as possible and the experience as seamless as you can make it.

The Communication Framework

We’ve moved on from marketing the same products along different channels. Now the channels themselves dictate the content. “Customers behave very differently according to the channel, both in terms of responsiveness and in buying strategy; fitting that into a multi-step communication framework is the challenge we currently face,” Daniel Eisenhut, Head of Professional Services at Emarsys.

This is why a lot of the latest conversations around Big Data have really been focussed on working with data from different sources and different channels – with the aim of finding out more about customers and lost opportunities.

But a Big Data project is often the answer to a question, not the question itself – by that I mean that we need to have a clear vision of what we’re looking to achieve by bringing together data from different channels. We need to make a conscious decision to put the customer at the centre of the equation.

Many of our clients have multichannel marketing efforts, but more recently more of those clients, and companies in the wider marketplace, have been trying to work across those channels more effectively and enable commerce to happen effectively and measurably – independent of the channel itself.

Final Thoughts

So, rather than the question being ‘do we call it omnichannel or multichannel marketing’, we should be thinking ‘do we have a genuine ‘multichannel strategy’ or do we just work across multiple channels?’

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