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Are multichannel and omnichannel the same?

Updated: Oct 22

omnichannel e-commerce solution

What is multichannel?

While widely regarded as a marketing term, multichannel is used by marketing, customer service, and customer experience professionals to describe how a brand interacts with potential customers across multiple channels.

These channels can be online or offline, but the goal of companies is to determine which channels their customers can use and when and how to formulate their interaction strategies around what they find most straightforward and most engaging to use.

What is omnichannel?

Omnichannel - also known as omnichannel e-commerce solution - is a multichannel approach to sales that seeks to provide customers with a happy shopping experience, whether they shop online on a laptop or mobile, over the phone or physical store. An omnichannel e-commerce solution approach means integrating the distribution, promotion and communication channels.

A customer service representative interacting with a customer in a store can instantly search the customer's past purchases and preferences as easily as a customer service representative on the phone or a customer service web chat representative.

Or the customer can use a Laptop or computer to check the store's stock on the company's website, purchase the item later with a smartphone or tablet, and pick it up at their chosen location. Thus, an omnichannel e-commerce solution approach improves customer service by providing multiple communication options. In addition, the channel backend integration also allows for greater flexibility as the customer can switch between channels during an interaction with an omnichannel e-commerce solution.

Multichannel and omnichannel marketing: similarities

In this article, we draw significant comparisons between multichannel and omnichannel e-commerce solutions in the areas of goals, scope, strategy, data management, technology maturity, and more.

The four main similarities

1. Omni-channel operation: The most apparent similarity between omnichannel e-commerce solutions and multichannel e-commerce solutions is that both approaches recognise that buyers and potential customers use multiple channels or platforms throughout their purchase journey and beyond. This means that brands need to be present in each channel for customer acquisition, engagement and retention.

2. Message consistency: Both marketing approaches strive to deliver consistent brand messages across multiple channels.

3. Channel-specific content marketing: multichannel and omnichannel marketing recognises that each marketing platform has its context and needs appropriate content that aligns with the platform/channel requirements and best practices.

4. Channel-specific data: multichannel and omnichannel marketing relies on data from their respective channels for performance analysis and campaign improvements.

Multichannel and omnichannel marketing: Main differences

Multi-Channel Marketing vs Omni-Channel Marketing: The Top 4 Differences

Here are the main differences between multichannel and omnichannel marketing:

1. Data in silos vs centralised data

Centralising data is key to orchestrating contextual and personalised customer experience journeys. If data remains hidden across individual channels or platforms, the final view of customer context, history, experience and history remains fragmented. For example, customer X interacted with your brand across all channels such as A, B, and C. To understand the actual customer requirements and stage of the buying journey, you need to know their interactions across all these channels.

This means that marketing messages targeted at that customer, looking only at fragmented and channel-specific data, will be much less accurate than actual omnichannel marketing messages contextual to the entire customer journey.

Omnichannel e-commerce solution marketing aims to centralise data as much as possible. At the peak of technology maturity, an organisation may opt for a data management system (CDM), such as DMP or CDP, to centralise and activate customised and orchestrated customer/audience engagement campaigns.

On the other hand, multichannel marketing does not attempt to concentrate this data and only works with channel-specific data. In many ways, this distinction tells the whole story. The remaining points are causes or results of data centralisation or lack thereof.

2. Channel-centric or customer-centric approach

For organisations that place the customer as a fundamental business model, omnichannel marketing is the only goal. The extent to which existing tools and technology investments will enable this will vary with available resources. Still, the goal indeed remains to have a unified, contextual view of the customer. However, for companies that are not very reliant on technology for marketing and sales, particularly in the B2C sector, and that only aim to spread brand awareness to the masses, only a multichannel approach will suffice for such companies.

3. Main objectives

The primary focus of multichannel marketers is reaching (as wide as possible across all channels), frequency of tap (to be visible across all channels and platforms where customers are located) and conversion (as defined by the campaign and its objectives);. In contrast, omnichannel e-commerce solution marketing focuses on maximising engagement and delivering a seamless customer experience wherever the customer chooses to interact or transact (regardless of channels).

The goal is not conversion but providing an effortless experience where everything the customer wants (interacts, engage, transact) is activated and facilitated as smoothly as possible across all relevant channels. For example, a brand would produce and launch a campaign across all channels in the multichannel approach - its website, social media channels, or image ads - with a few tweaks to suit the medium.

The campaign would run across all channels, and customer response to the campaign on any channel would be recorded as a conversion and assigned to that specific channel. Despite the answer, the campaign would continue to run on other media (which isn't ideal for marketing budgets) because the customer would still be seen as a potential customer by audience managers for different channels.

However, the marketing team would aim to personalise the content and campaigns based on the channel in an omnichannel approach. Also, connect these channels so that the customer has an advanced interaction with the brand, and immediately after the If conversion occurs in any medium, communication will move to the following best action, using dynamic content assets based on each customer's stage in the purchase journey.

4. Purpose of the work

As we said initially, choosing a multichannel e-commerce solution or omnichannel e-commerce solution approach depends on many considerations, from the business phase, model and priority, to the budget, skills and technology available. When the goal and priority are the acquisition, a multichannel approach can serve the purpose. An organisation that wants to retain its customers or a subscription model marketer can see the value in investing in an omnichannel e-commerce solution approach to achieve your conservation goals.

The technological aspect also deserves to be investigated before concluding. An omnichannel strategy requires, first of all, robust customer data management skills, including identity resolution and data unification, analysis and enablement. A customer data platform might be the right choice here. Second, it needs a strong link between unified data and enabling that data to run orchestrated campaigns, ultimately delivering a seamless customer experience that stands the test of time and competition.

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