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.

What Is Omnichannel Marketing?

Curious about omnichannel vs multichannel marketing and wondering which is the best fit for your brand? It’s important to first understand exactly what each of them is. 

Omnichannel definition:

Omnichannel is a cross-channel content strategy used to improve the customer experience and drive better relationships across all possible channels and touchpoints. This includes traditional and digital channels, point-of-sale, and physical and online experiences.

Omnichannel marketing definition:

Peel back the layers and at the core of omnichannel marketing you’ll find seamlessly integrated customer, product and sales data. 

This seamless integration allows for the creation of holistic customer profiles. This gives marketers both better visibility as to how customers are engaging as they move from one channel to the next AND allows marketers to create unified (or integrated) shopping experiences.

Each channel works together to create a unified experience – customers 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 and consistent.

Examples of omnichannel marketing include: 

  • A customer receiving a SMS message about a sale or promotion while shopping in-store
  • A customer receiving retargeting ads for abandoned cart products they added in-app
  • A customer receiving a cart abandonment email after browsing a website and adding a product to their online shopping cart

What is Multichannel Marketing?

So, we now have a baseline understanding of omnichannel marketing. Next up, let’s take a look at multichannel marketing:

Multichannel definition:

Multichannel refers to the practice of businesses using multiple channels or platforms to interact with their customers, such as email, social media, websites, mobile apps, physical stores, and more.

Multichannel marketing definition:

Multichannel marketing involves the creation and distribution of marketing content across a business’ channels with the aim of reaching their audience, driving engagement, and driving sales. These channels typically aren’t integrated, however, which can lead to disconnected, inconsistent and clunky experiences for the customer. 

Examples of Multichannel marketing include: 

  • Sending promotional emails with links to product pages on the company website.
  • Running targeted ads on social media platforms to drive traffic to an online store.
  • Distributing flyers or direct mail coupons to customers’ physical mailboxes to encourage in-store visits.
  • Hosting live events/webinars to showcase products/services and interacting via online chat or Q&A sessions.
  • Offering customer support through multiple channels such as phone, email, live chat and social media.

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.

5 Key Differences Between Multichannel and Omnichannel Marketing

Multi- and omnichannel are unique approaches to marketing, with a number of key differences. Before you settle on which is right for you, it’s important to understand what they are. Let’s take a look at the top five differences between omnichannel and multichannel marketing: 

1. Channel vs. customer

  • Multichannel marketing: Focuses on utilizing multiple channels to reach customers, prioritizing the distribution of messages across various platforms.
  • Omnichannel marketing: Prioritizes understanding and serving the customer, ensuring a seamless experience across all channels by integrating them to provide a cohesive journey tailored to individual preferences and behaviors.

2. Reach vs. consistency

  • Multichannel marketing: Strives for reach across different channels but may lack engagement and consistency in messaging as interactions are often siloed.
  • Omnichannel marketing: Emphasizes reach, consistency and engagement by delivering personalized and relevant content across all channels, fostering deeper engagement with customers.

3. Effort vs. effortless

  • Multichannel marketing: Requires effort to manage and coordinate separate, disconnected campaigns across multiple channels, potentially leading to disjointed customer experiences and higher operational complexity.
  • Omnichannel marketing: Aims for an effortless customer experience by seamlessly integrating channels, allowing for automated processes and unified customer data to deliver personalized interactions without added friction or inconvenience.

4. Reactive vs. proactive

  • Multichannel marketing: Often focuses on reactive, manual interactions with customers, such as sending batch-and-blast email campaigns, without considering the broader customer journey. 
  • Omnichannel marketing: Takes a proactive approach, leveraging data and automation to anticipate customer needs and target them with the right content, on the right channels, at the right time. This enables personalized, timely engagement throughout the entire customer lifecycle. 

5. Transactional vs. relational:

  • Multichannel Marketing: Tends to focus on transactional interactions aimed at driving immediate sales or conversions, with less emphasis on building long-term relationships.
  • Omnichannel Marketing: Places a greater emphasis on building and nurturing long-term relationships with customers by delivering consistent, personalized experiences across all touchpoints, leading to increased loyalty and lifetime value.

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.

Want an omnichannel marketing strategy that drives growth and revenue? Learn the 6 Pillars Powering Cross-Channel Personalization.

Get the Ebook

When to Use Multichannel or Omnichannel Marketing

Omnichannel and multichannel marketing both have distinct use cases and advantages, and understanding when to deploy each of them is key to maximizing your marketing efforts and delivering on business outcomes. Let’s take a look at when you might choose one over the other: 

Situations for multichannel marketing

  • Limited resources: Team tight on budget, personnel or technology? Multichannel can be a more manageable solution, as it allows you to establish a presence on various platforms without the need for extensive integration and data synchronization. 
  • Initial market penetration: Just starting out in a new market, or launching a new product? A multichannel approach can help you quickly establish visibility across key marketing channels. 
  • Campaign-specific goals: Looking to run a short-term campaign, or a promotion with specific, time-limited goals? Multichannel can work well here. For example, a quick holiday sales campaign might not require the level of channel and data integration offered by omnichannel marketing.
  • Content-driven engagement: Is your primary focus on distributing existing content like blog posts and infographics with the goal of growing reach and traffic, as opposed to creating net-new, personalized engagements? Multichannel could work well. 

Situations for omnichannel marketing

  • Customer-obsessed brands: Does your brand focus heavily on customer experience, engagement and satisfaction? Omnichannel marketing is essential. Omnichannel marketing ensures that every engagement is tailored to each customer’s unique preferences. 
  • Enhancing the customer journey: Is improving the end-to-end customer journey a priority for you? If so, look no further than omnichannel marketing. By integrating your data and channels, omnichannel marketing helps you deliver consistent, cohesive experiences that guide customers from discovery and purchase to retention and loyalty. 
  • Data-driven personalization: Keen to leverage your data and take your customer engagement to the next level? Omnichannel marketing platforms can help you integrate your customer, sales and product data, giving you the single customer view you need to provide targeted, 1:1 personalized marketing. 
  • Connecting in-store and online experiences: Operate both bricks and mortar and online storefronts? Omnichannel marketing can connect these two channels into a seamless journey, allowing in-store customers to continue their experience online, and vice-versa.

Omnichannel and Multichannel Examples

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

Automating and optimizing omnichannel retargeting: Bowlero

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.

The road to omnichannel relies on customer feedback: Kendra Scott

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. 

Better brand outcomes with personalization of a customer’s preferred channel: Sally Europe

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. 

Targeted omnichannel incentivization for repeat purchases: Bulk

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.

See first-hand how the Emarsys Omnichannel Customer Engagement Platform helps marketers deliver personalized, 1:1 engagement across channels.

Watch Our 3-Minute Demo