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The goal of multichannel marketing is to give consumers a choice and allow them to buy whenever and wherever they want to.

Simple, right? Not really. In fact, at Emarsys, we think the term “multichannel marketing” is actually somewhat limiting. To help break down multichannel marketing and provide more clarity around the term and the industry, we’ve outlined below the perceived benefits, challenges, common questions, resources, and more.

What Is Multichannel Marketing?

Multichannel marketing can be defined in a number of ways, but at the most basic level it breaks down as follows:

Multichannel marketing is the implementation of a single strategy across multiple channels or platforms, thus maximizing opportunities to interact with prospective customers. A channel might be email, print, a retail location, a website, a promotional event, a mobile app, SMS messaging, or word of mouth.

Why Is Multichannel Marketing Important?

The bottom line is, customers are no longer on just one channel. We use our phones while typing on our laptops and watching TV. We ask our friends (both on social media in person) for product recommendations, and before we even think about contacting a company, we do as much research as possible. Customers are more informed than ever, and as marketers, we have to make sure we are giving them the information they want — when and where they want it.

Besides the obvious benefit of reaching customers in channels they know, love, and use frequently, multichannel marketing also has a positive impact on customer experience and customer loyalty. 

Which brand would you trust more: the one that sends batch-and-blast email shots, has no tonal consistency across channels, and tries to entice you with products you have zero interest in purchasing? Or the brand that takes your personal preferences into account, communicates consistently across channels, and not only recommends products you love, but sweetens the deal with enticing discounts and special offers tailored specifically to you?

Not surprisingly, customers who have a positive, personalized experience with a brand across multiple channels are more likely to become loyal customers. Not only does multichannel marketing allow for consistent 1:1 cross-channel experiences, but it also helps companies gather more data and insights about their customers’ behavior and preferences, which can be used to further personalize marketing efforts and improve the overall customer experience.

Benefits of Multichannel Marketing

There are a number of benefits to multichannel marketing, but as any marketer knows, there’s always more to the story:

  • Increased Awareness. The multichannel marketing approach is about casting the widest net to get maximum customer engagement. However, the multichannel approach only accounts for a certain number of touchpoints, versus trying to give customers the best holistic experience throughout all touchpoints.
  • Consistent Messaging.  One benefit of multichannel marketing is the allure of a consistent brand message. Delivering brand messaging consistently across each and every channel is a challenge all companies face, and one many are still trying to figure out. While a multichannel strategy can help ensure your brand’s message remains consistent, multichannel marketing itself (without a cohesive strategy) can sometimes lead to siloed departments pushing their own messaging on their own channels.
  • Channel Preference. Reach your customers on their preferred channel — sounds ideal, right? Yes… and no. For companies with a longer buying cycle, you need to hit potential customers more than once, and that means targeting them with the right message, in the right place, at the right time within their journey. Multichannel marketing may allow you to reach customers on the channel of their choice, but it doesn’t necessarily move them along to purchase.
  • More Data. More touchpoints mean more data. However, since a multichannel approach merely aims to get the word out via the maximum possible number of channels, the data reveals more information about the channel itself than the actual customer (think email subject lines vs. customer behavior across channels).

Key Challenges of Multichannel Marketing

Every marketing strategy has its own set of challenges. It’s why we have jobs, right? The same applies to multichannel marketing:

  • Marketing vs. Strategy. The biggest issue with the term multichannel marketing is that it doesn’t necessarily account for strategy. When people think about multichannel, they simply think about the different mediums used to reach their customers. A multichannel strategy, on the other hand, considers how customers move and interact across various platforms. It may seem like semantics but it’s an important difference.
  • More Touchpoints Equal More Complexity. Creating a multichannel strategy means having a cohesive message across a number of channels and a continuous evolution of that message as more data is gathered per customer. This often means new tools or data platforms are needed — after all, someone has to be able to understand the data, and all departments have to be constantly aligned.
  • Time and Resources. Just as new tools or software are needed, more time and resources are required to truly build a successful multichannel marketing strategy — something not all companies have or are prepared to navigate.
  • Attribution. Who gets the credit for leads and revenue? The email marketing team, the social media team, or the search team? Multichannel marketing without the right strategy and attribution model can lead to confusion, and make it hard for the marketing team to make informed decisions on budgeting and resources.

How to Create a Successful Multichannel Marketing Strategy in 2023

Creating a successful multichannel marketing strategy is no easy feat, but there are certain considerations that come into play. Here are some helpful ways to get started:

Integrate Marketing Departments

As mentioned previously, to run a truly successful multichannel program, departments must be aligned. Break down existing silos to create an integrated marketing team.

Understand Your Buyer

To create a multichannel strategy, you first must understand your buyer. Create personas, talk to actual customers, and create tests on the various platforms, testing messaging, timing, sequences, and more.

Establish a Multichannel Platform

The goal of your program should inevitably be to create a single 360-degree customer view that constantly evolves based on data and campaign testing. To do this, you will need to have a multichannel marketing platform that consolidates data and allows you to create 1:1 marketing programs based on said data.

Create a Unified Experience

Multichannel marketing can’t just be about getting your message out there in as many places as possible. Give customers a unified and personalized experience across your various marketing channels. We know it takes work, but it’ll be worth it in the end.

Multichannel Marketing vs. Omnichannel Marketing

While multichannel marketing certainly has its benefits, it is only part of the picture. Yes, multichannel makes it possible to interact with more prospective customers at an increased frequency. However, brands must have a strategy to unite the customer experience across these various channels. Enter: omnichannel marketing.

As noted above, multichannel marketing tends to refer to the simple distribution of messages across as many channels as possible, while omnichannel refers to the strategic establishment of a holistic customer experience.

On the other hand, omnichannel marketing can be described as follows:

Omnichannel marketing is a multichannel approach to sales that offers customers a unified, unbroken shopping experience. The customer can engage with a brand online, from a desktop or mobile device, via app, web, or phone, or in a brick-and-mortar store, and as they move from channel to channel, the experience will be consistent and seamless. 

Omnichannel marketing focuses on the customers first. It considers their complete engagement with the brand, uses data to make informed (and often automated) decisions, and optimizes campaigns as they go.

Common Questions about Multichannel Marketing

Multichannel marketing can be complicated, and we often hear many of the same questions from our customers. We’ve outlined a few below to help you better understand the nuances of multichannel:

Which Marketing Channels Work Best Together?

We’d love to give you a simple answer to this, but it will vary from business to business. We’ve seen an increase in offline integrating with online (think hashtags on TV shows) and online integrating with offline (car dealership ads on Pandora). The key is creating a strategy that allows you to track the impact each campaign is having, and start to measure which channels work best together.

How Do I Measure Multichannel Marketing Efforts?

There are a number of steps that will need to be taken, but first and foremost, an agreed-upon attribution model will be imperative. Most companies are moving away from first or last-touch models and toward W- or U-shaped models. Along with attribution, you will also need to set benchmarks and measure against those benchmarks until you have a clear understanding of performance.

What’s the Relationship Between Big Data and Multichannel Marketing?

We hear this question frequently enough that we decided to write a blog post about the ways in which big data and multichannel marketing work together. Big data became a major buzzword in the past few years, yet it seems many people still are unsure of how to use it. For marketers, big data can be a challenge, but with the right platform and the right knowledge, it can certainly work in your favor.

The Future of Multichannel Marketing and the Shift to Omnichannel Marketing

As customer expectations rise and technology evolves, the shift from multichannel to omnichannel continues to be  vital for brands. Customers want a seamless experience, and that experience has to be unified across multiple platforms.

As mentioned previously, while multichannel allows businesses to reach customers on various platforms, it does not offer the unified experience customers expect. Omnichannel on the other hand, does just that.

It may take some time for brands to catch up and siloes to be torn down, but for businesses who want to grow customers and drive more revenue, they need to evolve from a multichannel marketing strategy to an omnichannel marketing strategy.