Clarifying Omnichannel & Multichannel Marketing Strategies

Omnichannel & Multichannel Marketing: Omnichannel crosses the bridge by driving in multiple lanes. Multichannel drives in the lane of its choosing to cross the bridge.

Golden Gate Bridge

If you ask one marketer a question, they might provide two or three opinions. If you ask two marketers a question, you’re probably getting upwards of seven responses from various perspectives. Great for brainstorming strategy, but not so great when you’re looking for an exact definition.

When it comes to big industry buzzwords like “omnichannel” and “multichannel”, you’re probably not going to find a concise ruling on what they mean – especially when they’re frequently used interchangeably with disregard for distinction. Many fellow marketers have blogged about their understanding, and while most are knowledgeable and share common views, they tend to have slightly varied explanations.

The following is not definitive, but my best professional interpretation and explanation of omnichannel marketing, multichannel marketing, and the main difference(s) between these two strategies.

Multichannel marketing refers to the practice of using a combination of individual communication channels to enable customers to convert by way of their choosing. In other words, it offers more than one way to buy something.

Regardless of whether someone purchases your product by means of your website, retail store, phone order, email, or mobile device, each purchase is considered a conversion (the same as any other). Essentially, multichannel strategy is creating such a consistent user experience per channel that it doesn’t matter how a customer purchases your product. This provides the customer with a certain level of freedom in preference, with the ultimate goal still being achieved.

On the other hand, omnichannel refers to a seamless experience regardless of channel. The omnichannel approach ensures all channels are working together to create a universal shopping experience.

The omnichannel approach focuses on how various channels feed each other to grow your overall marketing strategy and increase your total number of conversions. It concerns itself less with each channel’s experience and more with how each channel’s experience works together to strengthen your umbrella strategy.

Without a comprehensive omnichannel strategy, your multichannel strategy may be a bit scattered. It is very difficult to fine tune each channel if you do not have a clear vision of the end user experience. To measure and create a strong omnichannel experience, you should be looking at both users who have purchased and those who only browsed, and whether there is any discrepancy between how you are presenting your brand and how customers perceive it. To measure and create a strong multichannel experience, use consistent metrics to evaluate channels and insights to make individual improvements, while considering how each channel is influencing customer behavior compared to the next (Multichannel Merchant).

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