Omnichannel has taken over from multichannel as the best way to engage a range of business activities from operations to supply chain management to distribution strategy. The overarching goal is to provide real-time insight to all areas of business, from customer service to product management to marketing targets.

Omnichannel is an extension of multichannel. It is the answer to increasing customer demands for improved performance, reduced costs, faster services and better access to tracking and sourcing.

Omnichannel marketing is now the goal of digital marketing strategy. Understanding how it differs from multichannel marketing and how to plan a strategy that meets with the goals of omnichannel marketing are the aims of our discussion.

Multichannel Marketing vs. Omnichannel Marketing

Multichannel means many, while omnichannel means all, in a broad sense. Although both involve selling across multiple physical and digital channels, the key difference is how the customer experience is linked across those channels.

Multichannel marketing spans several different channels, like social, mobile, direct mail, and a physical location. Every channel is separate and independent from the others and works in a vacuum, each with its own strategy and goals. The lack of integration from a multichannel approach can create a confusing and impersonal experience that often turns potential leads away from closing.

Omnichannel marketing focuses on delivering a consistent, personalized experience for shoppers across all channels and devices. The guiding principle of omnichannel marketing is that it’s shopper-based, not channel-based. The main goal is to make the shopper experience as easy as possible, and that means consistent engagement no matter where or how a shopper is interacting with your business.

Let’s take a closer look at how each marketing strategy works.

Multichannel Marketing

Multichannel marketing is characterized by a combination of distribution and promotional channels that offer customer purchasing access on their preferred channel. This could include a physical storefront, a website, or social media.

Multichannel marketing strategies tend to include:

  • Channels operating largely in isolation.

Email campaigns and social media offers do not largely crossover. You might offer a 30% discount voucher to email subscribers, and a 10% offer on all social media purchases. Multichannel marketing campaigns can sometimes inform each other. Keywords optimized for website visitors might influence social media campaigns, but they largely operate independently. This means that often your key market is targeted on multiple channels with incongruous campaigns.

  • Customer information stored in silos.

Multichannel marketing strategies traditionally relied on offline and online data stored in separate databases, sometimes comporting to the channel. This is why customer data obtained through a sales call might be three or four steps removed from a service call, depending on the size and age of a company and their software. It’s also common for discrete channels to have channel-specific campaigns, reporting structure, revenue goals, and so on.

  • Users have a hierarchical access to data.

Sometimes important data is withheld from departments for privacy or security reasons. By the time the data has been cleared of sensitive information and made available to those with various levels of access, it can be too late to still be relevant.

Multichannel marketing evolved faster than the data systems that supported them. The issues with non-relevant, delayed or overlapping marketing strategies that targeted the same audience with conflicting strategy is not the flaw of the method, but simply an issue endemic to the strategy.

Omnichannel Marketing

Omnichannel marketing aims to eliminate any inconvenience customers face when interacting with operationally distinct communication channels. The aim is to offer people a seamless customer journey across devices, platforms and interactions.

Omnichannel marketing includes:

  • Centralized data and decentralized use.

To provide consistent customer experience, omnichannel marketing utilizes data stored in a central database with accessibility for a range of related business software with your CRM as the focal point. Your CRM is your essential business and marketing tool, connecting the right departments with the right information from a single source, updated in real-time.

  • Tracking of minute customer touchpoints.

Customer interactions are closely monitored to personalize the customer experience.  From email marketing to customers’ purchase histories and preferences, each stage of the buying journey is tailored to the customer. The data acquired through tracking customer touchpoints contributes to the overall customer relationship, sales process optimization, and customer service performance. It also informs broader strategies relating to brand messaging and accurately reporting on campaign performance and marketing ROI.

  • A personalized, automated customer experience.

Using customer data it is easier to make a personalized campaign for each lead. For example, a lead browses your website, which is recorded (with their data usage permission acceptance) and the lead is tracked. They visit your site on their phone, this time putting a few items in a cart but not finalising the sale. Later they are scrolling through social media, and your brand is advertised, perhaps showcasing the items they were interested in or alternatives you offer. This is common practise and it helps convert leads to sales by essentially following your lead and putting your brand before them at every opportunity.

Omnichannel customer experience is now familiar to most consumers. In fact, it can be frustrating for the consumer when they can’t access a streamlined experience that seems intuitive and saves the buyer time. Switching channels before making a purchase are the equivalent of walking around the shopping mall in the 1990s. It’s your job as a retailer to keep reminding the lead of what you have to offer and why it is easier to shop with your brand.

Why Omnichannel over Multichannel?

If you are still focused on a multichannel approach, your reason might include a lack of investment in CRM software, a lack of understanding or complacency over the future of your business. Be it B2C, B2B, brick-and-mortar or online, you need to be providing customers with the opportunity to connect with your business in the simplest and most time effective manner, or you will lose sales.

The generation that created this shift is now reaching an age of higher disposable income. If you are not appealing to this demographic, you are losing sales. This market expects a seamless and intuitive experience across devices and platforms. From finding your site on their laptop to looking to finalise a purchase the following day on their smartphone, your business needs to provide omnichannel access.

Omnichannel Marketing in the Customer Journey

Guiding the customer experience generally means targeting the prospect with personalized messaging tailored to their stage in the customer journey. The idea of a simple ‘funnel’ is no longer relevant to most customer journeys. There tends to be a less linear process that involves bouncing between methods, such as geotargeting, email marketing, paid ads, pop-ups and other ways of placing your brand before your customer each time they access a device.

Building Awareness

This stage pertains to prospects who haven’t expressed interest in any particular products or even in making a purchase. This includes website visitors, mobile app downloads, window shoppers, and so on.

Fostering Consideration

At this stage, customers have registered an account, submitted their email address, provided their phone number or some other essential point of contact data. They may have clicked on a search engine or social media ad. This allows your marketing campaign to really take root.

Considering a Purchase

After generating and nurturing leads, your potential customers may be lingering over a product or service, but aren’t ready to commit. This is the time to use persuasive sales techniques.

Cross-Selling and Upselling

The lead made their decision and they’re making the purchase. This is a good time to offer discounts to encourage higher spending or show them how their purchase pairs with other products that you offer.

Building Advocacy

This is the time to develop your relationship with genuine follow up. Allow the customer to review your product or service, offer discounts on future purchases, or simply follow up with an email or message thanking the customer for their purchase.

And Lastly

The goal of omnichannel marketing is to create a streamlined customer experience. As a retailer, you want to engage your customers and encourage them to return to you for their future purchases. Omnichannel allows you to develop a relationship with your customers in a way that personalizes and accelerates the customer experience. The cost of CRM software is far outweighed by the ROI if used correctly to optimize your customer service experience and marketing opportunities.