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Omnichannel vs Multichannel Marketing

People talk about Omnichannel versus Multichannel marketing, but there is a lot of inaccurate information being shared, so I thought I’d try to clarify things a bit. It sounds like an easy distinction to make, but the lines can get blurred if you are not from the marketing world. Both approaches refer to the complete (online and offline) marketing program, and each indicates that a number of touch points are joined to create the customer journey experience. But there are differences. The main difference is less about how many channels are integrated into your strategy then it is about the focus of your strategy and approach.

A channel is the medium through which a brand or organization communicates with its customers and target audience. When it comes to the concepts of omnichannel and multichannel, you can have two different types of channels: marketing channels and customer contact channels. Marketing channels are the media through which a brand grows awareness and promotes its product or service. Contact channels refer to the ways customers can get in touch with a business, such as email, live chat or over the phone.

The main difference between omnichannel and multichannel is the strategic focus. Omnichannel involves all channels (in use) and revolves around your customer, while multichannel involves many of the channels in use and revolves around your product. With multichannel, the focus is on engaging the customer, and that is accomplished by casting a wide net to make more people aware of your business. It also means reaching and communicating with prospective customers in different ways.

Omnichannel, in contrast, focuses on the customer experience by talking to customers in the same way across all the channels in use. The omnichannel approach requires that you integrate all of the customer touchpoints together to create that consistent and cohesive experience. It’s all about engineering personalized customer experiences, so the investment is higher than it would be for a multichannel strategy, but it results in improved customer engagement, retention, and brand loyalty. So omnichannel may be more expensive to implement, but it also has a higher Return on Investment (ROI) – assuming you have implemented it well.

The strategies behind each approach are very different, with omnichannel requiring a much better integration than multichannel. That is needed to ensure that the experience, language, messaging, and branding are identical in all places. Again, it is more expensive to build out an omnichannel marketing program, but for companies that could benefit from either, omnichannel provides greater value in the long run.

Does all this mean that Omnichannel is better for every company? No, and that’s not just based on the budgetary factors. There are some companies for which the multichannel strategy works best. This is especially true of companies that sell commodity products and rely on higher volume sales to meet their revenue and profit goals.

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