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The Differences Between Multichannel & Omnichannel Marketing

Michael Becker
Michael Becker

With new technology and the evolution of strategies in today’s marketing landscape comes a new wave of terminology with which marketers need to become acquainted. Two new-age definitions that immediately come to mind are multichannel marketing and omnichannel marketing.

Omnichannel and multichannel 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.

What’s the Difference Between Multichannel and Omnichannel?

The lines are so blurred here, and the debate so frequent, that we want to help draw a distinction between the two. At their core, there does not appear to be much of a difference. Take their definitions for instance:

Multichannel Marketing

Multichannel 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 multichannel 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.

Upon first glance, it seems as though the aim of each approach is to interact with consumers via an assortment of different channels, but although the terms may appear to be only subtly different, the true meanings and resulting strategies lead companies down two distinctly different paths.

3 Important Differences Between Multichannel & Omnichannel Marketing

Multi- and omnichannel approaches differ in that omnichannel marketing really puts the customer at the core to ensure a completely consistent, unified experience at every touch point as opposed to simply enabling that touch point. You can think of it this way, too: multichannel means many, omnichannel means all (the customer is literally at the center).

To better explain the uniqueness of multichannel and omnichannel marketing strategies, we can hone in on four key differences.

1. Channel vs. Customer

The multichannel approach merely aims to get the word out via the maximum possible number of channels. Multichannel marketing is about casting the widest net to get the most customer engagements; the more the merrier. Companies utilizing the multichannel strategy are adopting two or more channels to engage their consumers; most popular are social media and email.

Conversely, the omnichannel approach inter-relates every channel to engage with customers as a holistic whole, to ensure they are having a wonderful overall experience with the brand throughout each and every channel. The focus is on building a stronger relationship 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 organizations without omnichannel programs in place.

2. Consistency vs. Engagement

Omnichannel’s focus on the customer’s experience brings about the second key difference between the strategies: consistency. Omnichannel businesses are diligent in ensuring their customers receive the same experience and messaging through each and every channel.

A consistent brand image and message ensure a heightened sense of familiarity and relationship with the brand. Marketers implementing an omnichannel marketing strategy must ensure that all internal departments are on board and in-tune with the messaging. For example, PR, customer success, social media and sales teams, must all be portraying this 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 Tahzoois, in “understanding how to eliminate effort from the customer experience”.

Tramp 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 multichannel approach. Omnichannel involves using data to understand where effort exists in the customer experience and how to remove, rather than add, effort.”

Omnichannel marketing wants to foster an effortless buying experience for consumers.

➤ Learn more about executing omnichannel strategies that convert, grow, and retain your customer base. 

Omnichannel in Action: City Beach’s Story

Mike Doyle and Mike Cheng at City Beach were looking to improve omnichannel efforts and increase customer lifetime value. Check out their story, including how they were able to automate completely personalized campaigns, populate unique emails for each individual contact in their email database, and drive more repeat purchases:

Pros and Cons of Multi- vs. Omnichannel

There are no cons to either approach, per se. The perception across the industry is generally that “omnichannel” is that north star — the top of the mountain. While having and enabling multiple channels certainly isn’t bad, connecting them together should be the goal.

Source: PostFunnel

The only “pro” of a multi-channel approach might be minimally superior performance (since the channel would likely stand alone) or measurement (and therefore attribution) to single touch points. But the disconnect will still exist, making cross-channel data exchange difficult. In short, channels won’t “talk to each other” as easily. These cons are while mostly every brand is pushing strongly for omnichannel, where each interaction the customer has is reflective of their exact stage in the journey.

Conclusion

The bottom line is that omnichannel and multichannel marketing are two unique strategies that both aim to reach consumers and potential consumers by leveraging multiple channels. Marketers must make the shift to focus on omnichannel efforts in order to increase customer retention and in turn, revenue.

Interested in learning more about multichannel vs omnichannel strategies? Be sure to check out this infographic.

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