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Multichannel vs Omnichannel Marketing

omnichannel marketing

As we start a new year and a new decade, you might have decided that now is the opportune moment to review your marketing strategy and see what you could be doing to bring even bigger and better results. Since you’ve decided to do that, you might have found yourself hit with a wall of marketing jargon. As technology and methods evolve, so too does language, so let’s begin to demystify the difference between Omnichannel and Multichannel Marketing.

omnichannel marketing

You have probably encountered the prefixes “omni-” and “multi-” before – meaning “all” and “several” respectively – but you might be confused by the use of the word “channel”. In marketing, Channels” means any method of communication between your business and your customers; this could be via social media or an email, in print, or on a billboard, for example: in digital marketing, channels can also mean any route to your website or sales point that a user can take.

We can’t think of a better time to lend a hand in a debate where lines are so blurred and offer a definitive distinction between the two concepts. In marketer’s terms, the two concepts are defined as such:

Multichannel marketing refers to the practice of businesses reaching customers over the maximum number of channels or touchpoints, giving them as much space to interact with the brand as possible. It acknowledges that different channels have different strengths and places emphasis on finding good messages for the channel.

Omnichannel marketing places critical importance on consistency and cross-channel customers. Whilst it also uses multiple channels to reach users, it also ensures a seamless experience across channels, ensuring that the messaging is unified and consistent.

Primarily, the reason that the lines are blurred between these two strategies is that fundamentally they use similar tools to achieve their goals; both are ways in which you can use multiple channels to reach your target market. 

That, however, is where the similarities end.

Multichannel marketing ensures that as many channels as possible are used to pump out marketing messages, merely aiming to get the word out as quickly as possible to the target market. 

Omnichannel strategies place the customer experience at their core; ensuring that, regardless of how many channels a customer uses, they find familiarity in your brand. The focus is on building that relationship, honing and crafting it over several months.

This key difference means that these strategies manifest differently and suit different business types. Omnichannel marketers are more likely to carefully assess which channels they use and select only those over which they can confidently communicate their brand values  – what’s important is that the right message is communicated.

Multichannel marketers are more malleable with their messaging – what’s important is that the messages are exposed to the maximum number of users and that the message is right for the channel. These messages might be disparate from one another, though, morphed through each channel.

Where omnichannel marketing places importance on consistency and customer journey, multichannel marketing places importance on frequency and coverage.

Why might I choose one strategy over another?

Very few businesses should be choosing a multichannel strategy – and, for the vast majority of firms, an omnichannel strategy is really just a multi-channel strategy done right. In the digital age, there are virtually zero single-channel customers, and as such your brand messaging needs to be consistent across your channels. Failure to do this will leave customers on your site feeling confused and insecure, enticed by the messaging on one platform and disengaged by the messaging on another.

So, there you have it. Armed with your new knowledge, go and explore and evaluate your marketing strategies, and make 2020 the best year your business has ever had!