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

What is omnichannel vs. multichannel marketing? Omnichannel marketing offers a seamless customer experience across all channels, integrating interactions from online to offline. Multichannel marketing, in contrast, uses multiple channels for outreach but operates them independently, without integration. Omnichannel focuses on a cohesive, consistent user experience, whereas multichannel prioritizes presence across various platforms without necessarily linking the experiences.

The New Year is right around the corner. Hopefully, you’ve already mapped out your 2019 marketing plan, but if you haven’t, there’s no time like the present. Either way, we have an important question: will you take an omnichannel or multichannel approach?

Say what?

No, it’s not a trick question – it’s really important, but far too few marketers ever consider it on a yearly basis as they grow. Are you sending a consistent message to your customers, no matter what platforms they’re watching you on? Or are you planning separate messages and strategies for each platform, creating confusion? Let’s figure it out together in this omnichannel vs. multichannel primer.

What is Multichannel Marketing?

Multichannel marketing is the process of using a wide variety of marketing platforms to get a message out to a customer. These may include the company website, print ads, television ads, social media channels, and even email. The goal isn’t as much about building client relationships as it is about casting a wide net and gaining the attention of as many people as humanly possible.

Companies that use multichannel marketing techniques are doing their best to cater to the idea that their customers have a ton of choices when it comes to consuming information. Yes, they still see television commercials and hear radio ads, but now they’re exposed to new media channels, too. Brands need to figure out how to cater to the people who prefer older marketing styles, as well as others caught up in today’s fast-moving social world.

Now, here’s the drawback: companies focusing on multi-channel marketing often place more emphasis on ensuring multichannel messaging exists than they do on the customer experience. The messages may each ultimately direct a potential customer to the same place, but they’re so different in terms of content that they leave customers who are exposed to multiple platforms feeling a bit confused about the conflicting messages they’re seeing. That’s where omnichannel concepts step in.

What is Omnichannel Marketing?

Omnichannel marketing doesn’t disregard the idea that different customer demographics exist on different platforms. As a concept, its marketing plans are personalized to the platforms but also cater to each unique audience. Customers who view branded content on different platforms perceive omnichannel marketing attempts as a continuation of content, versus something totally different.

It may be surprising, but contrary to popular belief, omnichannel marketing doesn’t aim to cast a wide net. Instead, marketers are challenged to put themselves in consumer’s shoes when they decide how to create a consistent experience. Yes, the end goal is still making a sale (that’s the basis of marketing). But the message the customer sees as they move from an email to a social platform, and then to the website, builds upon the same message and the same core concepts. Each step in the process adds a unique piece of information, but it’s all geared towards marketing the same goal or service. Each piece of the puzzle complements the rest.

Which is Really Better?

If we had to choose, we’d say omnichannel marketing is the way to go. That said, omnichannel and multichannel marketing can (and should) be used together. Think of omnichannel marketing as a method of elevating the multichannel approach from an impersonal strategy to an interpersonal relationship with the customer. Multichannel marketing is a technique; omnichannel marketing is a strategy.

As an example, let’s look at consistency and engagement. The omnichannel approach towards engagement with customers makes them feel heard, appreciated, and understood. The multichannel approach of consistency in posting gives customers a platform for that engagement to take place. The trick is to make sure the marketing team is sending the same message to all platforms so that the PR or social media teams are all on the same page when they’re crafting replies.

Omnichannel marketing strategies incorporate multichannel principles, but they’re often research-driven. Marketers tend to spend more time testing their ads and ordering options, especially across different channels, to make sure customers have seamless experiences. This means their internal and external testers are placing website orders and Facebook platform orders to ensure they’re easy to follow through with from beginning to end. Their goal? To create a process and flow that’s easy to follow.

Omnichannel marketing data and research is also very different from multichannel research. Yes, it’s still important to measure how well each campaign did as a whole. It’s also important to take a close look at how the customers themselves reacted. Did they purchase more in the store or on the web? Were the messages relevant and targeted properly? How can you better segment your audiences in the future while still sending a consistent overall message?

Brands utilizing omnichannel strategies are more conscious of how people use multiple platforms. For example, you might visit a brand’s website on your mobile phone and place an item in your cart. You get distracted or haven’t made up your mind, so you navigate away. Later, you visit that same brand’s website from your desktop computer, but you don’t touch the cart or make a purchase.

Two days later, you get an email with an urgent subject line letting you know the item you were eyeballing is selling out quickly. Being conscious of the platform and device changes along the way allowed the brand to better monitor your shopping habits and create a sense of urgency to nudge your purchase along.

Summing it Up

To sum it up, multichannel strategies aren’t always omnichannel, but all omnichannel strategies are multichannel. The difference is that omnichannel approaches are customer-oriented, taking special care to understand their habits, wants, and needs.

Brands incorporating omnichannel strategies tend to be more receptive and excel at making sure all their marketing platforms are sending the same message, loud and clear. They bend over backwards to make sure the customer experience is almost effortless, and it shows in their sales.

A strong omnichannel approach starts with the product and includes the marketing team, sales department, client service group, and customer success and retention teams. Ensuring everyone is on the same page strengthens your brand and, in turn, increases your bottom line. Remember – always put the customer first. Doing so will ensure the rest falls into place.

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SEO virtuoso, CEO @Sachs Marketing Group. Focused on being of service to business owners - helping to better position them in the eyes of their audiences.

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