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What is the difference between omnichannel and multichannel marketing online?

Catharina Mensak
March 15, 2022
Image representing digital connections between people on various devices like mobile and computer

Omnichannel and multichannel marketing are similar, so it’s no wonder they’re often erroneously used as interchangeable terms. However, they are two separate marketing strategies. Omnichannel marketing and multichannel marketing can refer to several marketing mediums, but knowing the distinction between these strategies is especially important when you’re planning your e-commerce marketing strategy. The key differences in these marketing strategies come down to focusing on your product, or your customer experience.

Omnichannel marketing

“Omni” means “all,” so you can think of an Omnichannel strategy as one that uses all marketing channels with the customer at the center. In this customer-centric strategy, the customer can use any type of medium, such as social media or your website, and the purchasing experience will be seamless and consistent.

With omnichannel marketing, your focus is on the customer experience, and every channel you have available to that customer should engage the customer and provide a clear outlook and voice for your brand. The goal of an omnichannel marketing strategy is to ensure that you’re building an unbreakable relationship between your brand and your customers.

Omnichannel pros

When you implement omnichannel marketing in your e-commerce marketing efforts, your customers get consistent messaging and buying experience with your brand, no matter what channel they use to find your product. The purpose of this is to smooth out customer experience increasing customer retention and referrals. By paying attention to how your customer interacts with your brand and ensuring it can be done through all channels, you’re placing an emphasis on customer happiness.

When you adopt an omnichannel marketing strategy, you’re also creating a consistent brand voice and story that’s told over and over again through all channels. This is useful because it helps customers become familiar with your brand and its values. Your logo, messaging, and even your brand colors become easily recognizable to customers who have engaged with your brand on multiple channels.

Omnichannel cons

To truly develop an effective omnichannel marketing strategy, you’ll need to collect data on your potential customer and experiment with the customer experience you provide. Implementing headless commerce can facilitate granular experimentation with back end systems without disrupting customers’ experiences on the front end. Learning what your customer wants and the experience and interaction that’s expected from your brand is crucial when figuring out how to create a seamless customer experience.

When you’re selling products on different channels, it can also be harder to track your data and know what’s working. While it’s encouraging that you’re receiving revenue and engagement from multiple channels, it can be tough to keep an eye on which mediums are working the best and which are underperforming.

However, as long as you can take the time to understand your ideal customer and figure out how to track your data, mastering an omnichannel marketing strategy may be the most effective. According to the Harvard Business Review, “customers only know what they have experienced.” Provide customers with memorable experiences and they’re likely to come back.

Multichannel marketing

“Multi” means “many,” so you can think of a multichannel marketing strategy as using many channels to get the word out about your product or brand. With this strategy, you’re essentially focused on selling your product over several channels and less focused on the customer or the user experience. You’ll use two or more channels to reach potential customers. The two most common online channels are social media and email marketing.

Multichannel pros

Developing a multichannel marketing strategy is less involved than the process to develop an omnichannel marketing strategy. While you’re still using many channels, you’re less focused on identifying and pinpointing your ideal customer. Without a focus on creating a seamless customer experience throughout all channels, it’s easier to develop your content. It’s important to have an order management system in place, so the orders you receive from these channels can be organized, processed, and shipped efficiently.

Multichannel cons

While a multichannel marketing strategy is easier to develop, it’s sometimes not as effective. Essentially, you’re simply casting a net over each channel you’re involved in to see what sticks. Without a laser focus on the customers you’re trying to attract, a consistent brand voice, and a fine-tuned customer experience, you may not be developing as much brand recognition or customer retention.

If your customers aren’t wowed by the experience and don’t feel a connection to your brand, they’re less likely to come back and buy another product or refer your brand to a friend or family member. While a multichannel marketing strategy may not be as effective as an omnichannel strategy, it’s still better to market over multiple channels than to only stick with promoting a single website or sending out a mailer.

Cross-channel and hybrid channel marketing

To add to the confusion of multichannel and omnichannel marketing, you may also hear the terms “cross-channel” and “hybrid channel marketing.” While these can seem like completely different marketing strategies, they’re simply generalized marketing terms that refer to using more than one channel within your marketing strategy. These terms encapsulate both omnichannel and multichannel marketing since they reference all marketing strategies that involve multiple channels.

Omnichannel and multichannel integration

Both omnichannel marketing and multichannel marketing require significant planning and management for success. Integration software can help you to manage these processes and procedures. For example, if you implement a successful multichannel marketing strategy that’s bringing in tons of sales, it’s important to have integrated software solutions to ensure all your marketing and logistics data are accessible. The better you are able to leverage data and deliver a positive customer experience, the more likely your product and brand reputation is to remain positive.

Your omnichannel marketing strategy relies on data and experimentation, so software that can help you collect this data and analyze the results is crucial to the process. Ultimately, the goal is to determine what features or blend of functionality creates the best customer experience combined with streamlined fulfillment. With a firm strategy in place and an organized backend system, your brand can gain exposure, increasing your sales, growth, and the number of life-long customers you have.

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