Omnichannel vs. Multichannel Marketing: Why Their Differences Matter

Omnichannel vs. Multichannel Marketing: Why Their Differences Matter

A marketing team always faces one of its more crucial decisions when determining if a marketing strategy should be multichannel or omnichannel. While there is overlap, each represents a different approach to connecting with customers and helps define what channels and content are best for a company’s brand.   A multichannel marketing strategy considers each channel (radio, television, website), platform (Twitter, Instagram, email, ads), and device (smartphone, tablet, iOS, laptop) a separate market, each with a different strategy. Following this, a company implements multiple strategies tailored to each channel, device, or platform being targeted.   An omnichannel marketing strategy sees every channel it uses as part of the same strategy, based on the expectation that customers will follow the journey built by the company that drives them to conversion. 
Both strategies are important for growth, and a company’s specific resources, goals, and market positioning will determine which path is taken.
To help in this decision, we’ll examine their key differences to see how each approach can be leveraged to get the most of your marketing strategy.    

Multichannel: strategizing for engagement 

When you have precise data to pinpoint your audience’s wants and needs for specific platforms, this granularity makes multichannel marketing very powerful. For example, if customers always engage with your Instagram images, this data point becomes an insight from which to strategize content, helping you decide what visuals, graphics, or videos you need to produce to maximize engagement on IG.   But IG may not be able to handle what other platforms can. Twitter, for example, maybe more capable to share your product information, specials, and news to a large group of customers, with easier linking directly to your website to drive a purchase.   Even in this simple example, we can see that each platform evokes varying audience engagement and targets different customer needs, and therefore need different strategies.  
A multichannel strategy lets you capitalize on audience segmentation.
As you develop a better understanding of each channel’s audience, you can operationalize these insights into best practices to maximize engagement for each platform, where each stream will flow back to your website to capture your customers’ information or to make the sale.   While a multi-channel strategy is an excellent way to gain new followers on social media, there is a major gap in its execution that leaves it wanting: consistency.   

The missing piece: consistency 

Customers increasingly expect the information they access to make purchasing decisions will not just be easily available, but consistent, regardless of channel. The last thing they want to do is hop around different channels trying to piece together the whole picture of your brand’s offerings.   Multi-channel marketing quickly devolves into frustration when a customer, say, sees specific product information in a tweet but is stumped to find a totally different set of messages and information in another channel.   In this way, ironically, digital engagement drops, as customers themselves feel left out of the messaging that was designed to target them.    

Omnichannel marketing: human-centric consistency 

With a single, uniform strategy that spans all the channels chosen to use – that is, one story that unfolds over time as your customers move from channel to channel – omnichannel marketing meets customer expectations of consistency.   Putting the primary focus on the customer is why this style of design, strategy, or marketing is often referred to as “human-centric” or “user-centric”. Rather than isolating different journeys on each channel or platform, omnichannel marketing relies on building up a fully developed customer journey that can be followed across channels.  And when you create a map of all the different paths a user might take, giving them the right information at the right time to complete that journey, customers will always have a consistent and strong brand experience, regardless of channel, platform, or device.  
Omnichannel marketing doesn’t just remove barriers between channels but, just as important, removes silos from the workplace.
Every team – including marketing, sales, data, IT, content, and community teams – needs to work together to build the customer journey from the ground up before implementing an omnichannel strategy, and this free-flowing communication helps ensure a comprehensive and fully satisfying customer experience.    

Marketing, for people 

Omnichannel and multichannel marketing are both invaluable in their ways, driving digital engagement and customer experiences in different ways and directions. And how you choose between them depends on what works best for your company and where it is in its growth, budget, and expectations of ROI. 
Remember, it’s quality that counts, not quantity. What matters is not how many channels you use, but how consistent you are in your marketing strategy when you use them.  
And one way to ensure this consistency, regardless of which strategy you employ, is always to keep your users front-of-mind. They are the one variable in your marketing strategy that will always be there, waiting to hear from you.