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What is Omnichannel Marketing?

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.

“Omnichannel marketing” is a great example of a term whose definition is becoming lost in the noise. Most would assume it simply refers to using more than one channel to market to a given audience.

Understanding the actual definition of omnichannel marketing versus ‘multichannel marketing’ will help you think about marketing in an entirely different way and, in doing so, help you deliver on the original promise of marketing.

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 a cart abandonment email after browsing a website and adding a product to their online shopping cart
  • A customer receiving retargeting ads for abandoned cart products they added in-app

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

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.

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.

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

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6 Steps to Developing a Successful Omnichannel Marketing Strategy

The growing number of available marketing channels has made the customer journey increasingly intricate. Follow these steps to easily create an omnichannel marketing strategy to satisfy customers at all touchpoints: 

1. Think Consumer-First

A major difference that separates omnichannel and multichannel marketing is the fact that omnichannel prioritizes the customer. The first step to omnichannel success is achieved by first evaluating the customer journey

Take a look at every touchpoint a buyer comes across before becoming your customer. Do these touchpoints provide a consistent customer experience? If not, you’ll need to gather the necessary departments to make this change. Each department should be aligned with a customer-first focus and work to facilitate engaging customer experiences.

2. Leverage Customer Data

In a market landscape where consumers are option-rich and time-poor, if you want to win their engagement, you need to deliver relevant, personalized engagements. And if your business is already driving sales, chances are you already have what you need to make this happen: customer data.

By leveraging your customer data, you’ll be able to create content tailored to your customers’ interests. For example, instead of sending batch-and-blast, hopeful email campaigns, you can use your customer data to create campaigns that offer promotions on items that complement a previous purchase — or that you know similar customers have already bought. 

3. Segment Your Users & Personalize

Successful omnichannel marketing strategies are 100% reliant on 1:1 personalization. Individualized messages are better at driving engagement, making your customers feel appreciated, and growing long-lasting loyalty. 

True personalization begins with a holistic customer profile and smart audience segmentation. Before creating personalized marketing campaigns, you need to segment your customers based on the data points that are most relevant to your goals, such as: 

  • Buyer persona
  • Past purchase
  • Lifecycle stage
  • Average order value
  • Product affinities
  • Loyalty status

By doing this, you’ll build a closer understanding of who you’re communicating with, helping you to create personalized content that improves the customer experience, drives channel consistency and increases revenue.

4. Keep Messaging Consistent Across All Channels

While engaging with customers across multiple channels will increase brand exposure, the messaging you’re engaging them with needs to be consistent. If it’s not, you run the risk of delivering a disconnected brand experience that could do more harm than good. 

If you haven’t already, creating a brand Tone of Voice document can help tie your messaging together and ensure both internal and external parties are creating content that’s both true to your brand and relevant to your audience.

5. Use the Right MarTech

Once you’ve identified your customers, you must identify the tools and solutions you will use to connect with them. Choosing the tools that fit within your tech stack can be complicated, however, we recommend looking into the following solutions to start:  

6. Test & Track Your Success with the Right Metrics

For marketers to do their jobs effectively, they need easy access to accurate sales data. Fact.

Better yet, access to reporting dashboards that clearly show which customer segments, product categories and channels are driving the most revenue makes the job of any marketer infinitely easier.

Besides the standard marketing metrics you’d expect to see in a reporting tool, when next considering a customer engagement platform ask whether or not it allows you to see metrics such as:

  • Overall revenue
  • Active customers
  • Average order value
  • Repeat purchase
  • Customer churn
  • Premium customer revenue
  • Units per transaction

Tracking the right metrics using the right tools allows you to report accurate data and derive actionable insights to optimize campaigns. By capturing the right metrics, you can better report on the successes and failures of your omnichannel strategy.

With this invaluable insight, you’ll be able to identify areas for improvement, revise your strategy and deploy targeted tests to optimize future campaign results

Examples of Omnichannel Marketing

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

Brooklinen: Customer Retention With Omnichannel Marketing

Allie Donovan, Director of Email & Retention Marketing at premium bedding retailer Brooklinen, views retention as a core tenet of omnichannel marketing. 

Allie’s strategy revolves around viewing retention as a whole, as opposed to splitting it across social, email, web and other core channels. By treating it as a single marketing entity, Allie creates a single view of Brooklinen’s customers, helping them to treat their audience as individuals instead of data points.

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.

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

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