The pace of technological change is moving along an exponential curve. For marketers, this is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it’s becoming easier with each passing year for us to deliver on the original promise of marketing: the right message to the right person at the right time.

On the other, we’re lost in an ocean of complexity — frankensteinian tech stacks, siloed data, muddled reporting, a growing list of channels, and competing views on what fundamental marketing terms mean.

“Multichannel Marketing and “Omnichannel marketing” are great examples of terms whose definitions are becoming lost in the noise. Understanding the difference between the two will help you think about marketing in an entirely different way and, in doing so, help you deliver on the original promise of marketing.

Multichannel vs. Omnichannel Marketing

Omnichannel and multichannel marketing are worlds apart, even though both focus on the use of multiple channels to reach consumers and prospects.

The lines are so blurred here, and the debate so frequent, that we want to help draw a distinction between the two. 

  • Multichannel marketing refers to using more than one channel to execute campaigns. This is often done manually on a channel-by-channel basis. Content with little to no differentiation or personalization is published in every available channel with rudimental segmentation on a ‘quantity over quality’ basis. 
  • Omnichannel marketing is 100% customer-centric. It uses a data-led, AI-driven approach to understand complex data points such as customer behavior, preferred channels and lifecycle stage (to name a few) to determine, you guessed it, which messages to send to which customers through which channels at what times. The result is a seamless, deeply personalized customer experience that has a much higher probability of driving sales.

3 Important Differences Between Multichannel & Omnichannel Marketing

Multichannel 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.

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 number of channels. Multichannel marketing is about casting the widest net to get the most customer engagements; the more the merrier. Companies utilizing a multichannel strategy are adopting two or more channels to engage their consumers; most popular are social media and email.

Conversely, the omnichannel approach unifies and integrates every channel to engage with customers holistically.

For far too long customers have been targeted with one-size-fits all multichannel marketing. At best customers and prospects will find this mildly irritating. At worst it will have them racing to hit the ‘unsubscribe’ or ‘report’ button. 

Well-executed omnichannel campaigns have the opposite effect. By paying attention to the nuances of customer behavior and purchase history and using that insight to fuel personalization, the message you send to customers is clear: We see you, we hear you. and we are here for you.

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 customer experience brings about the second key difference between the strategies: consistency. Omnichannel marketing ensures customers receive the same experience and messaging through each and every channel.

A consistent brand image and message create a heightened sense of familiarity and foster deeper brand relationships. 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 need clarity and alignment to ensure that omnichannel implementation succeeds.

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 both the effortless deployment of campaigns across multiple channels to multiple audiences and an effortless buying experience for consumers.

Benefits of Omnichannel Marketing

The perception across the industry is generally that “omnichannel” is that north star. While having and enabling multiple channels certainly isn’t bad, seamless unification and integration and automated execution should be the goal.

A successful omnichannel marketing strategy can help your organization realize the following benefits:

1. Boost Customer Loyalty

Customers purchase from the brands they value and trust. Omnichannel marketing efforts provide a consistent experience across all platforms and offer a personalized experience for each audience member. This approach improves the overall customer experience and leads to increased customer loyalty and retention. 

2. Improve Brand Recall

Omnichannel marketing’s emphasis on cross-channel consistency ensures your customers will see your brand in the same way across platforms and devices. This consistency helps strengthen brand recall for your customers. A strong sense of brand recall will increase the likelihood of purchase across your customer base. 

3. Realize Increases in Revenue

Omnichannel strategies improve customer loyalty, strengthen brand recall, and promote repeat purchases. These efforts help brands retain customers and attract new customers through content personalization and word-of-mouth marketing. With more customers, comes more business and, of course, more revenue.

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Examples of Omnichannel Marketing

Seeking inspiration for your brand’s omnichannel strategy? Discover how these four leading brands orchestrate consistent, personalized messaging across their key marketing channels. 

Bowlero: Automating & Optimizing Omnichannel Retargeting

American Bowling Center operator, Bowlero, relied on traditional sales team follow-ups to drive sales – but VP Marketing Megan Wintersteen knew more could be done by integrating email and social. 

Megan’s team devised a CRM strategy whereby anyone who dropped off the sales funnel would automatically receive email and social retargeting. This worked in tandem with their existing sales process, where any prospective customers who’d abandoned checkout the previous day would be passed over as warm leads ready for direct sales follow-up.

Kendra Scott: The Road to Omnichannel Relies on Customer Feedback

With so many moving parts in an omnichannel strategy, how do you prioritize your work? This was the challenge that jewelry store Kendra Scott faced. Initially, they prioritized on predicted ROI impact, but this quickly became a difficult task, since most of their marketing initiatives were new and had never been tested before.

So, they switched their focus to the one metric that really mattered: the customer. From talking to them in-store to conducting external focus groups, Kendra Scott do everything they can to gain a deeper understanding of their customers, and use that feedback to focus on what’s important to them right now. 

Sally Europe: Better Brand Outcomes with Personalization of a Customer’s Preferred Channel

With such a breadth of channels at their disposal, salon services provider Sally Europe is able to target their customers on their preferred channel, with messaging that’s personalized by using Sally’s 1st-party data. 

By tracking the results of these campaigns, Sally Europe can determine the success of their omnichannel strategy not just through engagement, but also on how they drive business ROI. 

Bulk: Targeted Omnichannel Incentivization for Repeat Purchases

Sports nutrition is a discount-heavy industry, and margins grow tighter by the year. However, Bulk devised a strategy to break free from the ‘race to the lowest price’ mentality of their market. 

By connecting their 1st-party data to their omnichannel strategy, Bulk gained a deeper insight of their audience and began tailoring discounts to each customer. Combining email, SMS, and Emarsys-powered web feeds and CRM ads, Bulk now personalizes discounts based on how much incentive each customer needs to buy. With this strategy in place, Bulk doesn’t only drive more sales and reward customers for their loyalty — they also make sure they don’t give away unnecessary margin.

Final Thoughts

Using omnichannel marketing, you will be better able to provide customers with a unified, personalized experience. These efforts not only lead to a seamless user experience, but they also improve customer loyalty, increase sales, and drive greater brand awareness. Marketers must make the shift to focus on omnichannel efforts to increase customer retention and in turn, revenue.

Editors Note: This blog was originally published in 2016, and has been refreshed and updated for 2022.

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