Omnichannel or multichannel? You’re on your eCommerce journey, looking for the right marketing strategy for your brand, but it all seems so theoretical and complicated.
We will make things easier as this article comprehensively explains the differences between multichannel and omnichannel marketing and why the latter may be better for you.
These two marketing strategies focus on engaging with the consumer through multiple channels. While multichannel marketing focuses on each channel’s logistics, the omnichannel approach starts from the consumer’s point of view.
Without further ado, let’s look at both strategies and their key differences and outline an appropriate omnichannel strategy for your business.
In this Article:
Multichannel Marketing Definition
Multichannel marketing is a relatively new approach and became widespread as technology advancements expanded ways to reach consumers, and single-channel strategies became obsolete.
Multichannel retailing engages the consumer in multiple ways, including websites, social media, email marketing, traditional mail, retail, and brick-and-mortar stores.
Customers expect to deal with a unified entity but often interact with each channel independently. They may begin purchasing in one channel but finish in another.
A multichannel strategy may be unified or partially centralized. Still, each channel operates independently, sometimes with its own goals and objectives.
Evolution Towards Omnichannel
Widespread use of technology improved customer experience overall. If not done right, a multichannel approach may result in an impersonal and sometimes unpleasant experience, discouraging return purchases and making it difficult to retain customers, ultimately driving them towards competitors who are applying a more customer-centric experience.
Some of the most successful brands in the world use outstanding multichannel marketing strategies, offering a personalized experience and paying particular attention to customer feedback, thus getting closer to the omnichannel model.
You may also look at our article comparing multichannel to single-channel marketing.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Multichannel Marketing
- Extended audience reach.
- Benefits from different mediums and channels.
- Enhanced targeting.
- Good customer data collection from different sources.
- Demanding implementation and management of multichannel marketing systems.
- Separate channels tend to isolate sales and marketing teams.
- Considerable efforts are required from marketing teams to define personas and target customers successfully.
- Focus on reach may not attend to the customer expectations, diminishing customer retention and profit from return purchases.
Omnichannel Marketing Definition
Omnichannel is a development of multichannel marketing, as it uses more than one channel to reach customers.
What makes an omnichannel digital marketing experience outstanding is that its strategy is focused on creating a customer-centric integrated experience. All the planning starts from gathering data, understanding customer behavior, and tailoring the strategy for the right customer.
Omnichannel marketing tries to achieve a positive, personalized, and seamless experience for the user. The multiple online and offline channels are integrated and synchronized.
Whether a customers’ point of contact is a dedicated website, social media platform, or a physical store, the journey should be comprehensive, positive, and informed by the experience.
The omnichannel approach invests in customer support and makes every effort to develop relationships with customers. Instead of focusing on reach, the marketing strategy looks to keep its customer base for return purchases.
The positive relationship with customers increases data accumulation, which helps improve the existing customer base and reach new customers.
Omnichannel Marketing: Pros and Cons
- Enhanced and personalized customer experience.
- Improved customer loyalty and engagement, leading to repeat customers and increased revenue.
- Coherent brand identity, including voice and tone.
- Improved data collection and analytics.
- Challenging implementation of interconnected channels, technically and financially.
- High demand for customer support.
- Requires efficient, intensive, and continuous internal communication.
Omnichannel Marketing vs. Multichannel Marketing: Key Differences
Omnichannel and multichannel marketing look very similar in reaching consumers across more than one channel.
The two terms are sometimes mistakenly used interchangeably, as the omnichannel approach utilizes multiple channels. However, they are not the same, coming from different starting points. These are their key differences:
- The Multichannel strategy focuses on the specific channels and how the transactions are completed inside them. Despite a unified brand and marketing strategy, each channel may operate independently. Therefore, multichannel marketing is essentially channel-centric, looking for customer engagement and maximizing reach.
The starting point of Omnichannel marketing is the customer. The customer’s journey should be seamless and frictionless across multiple preferred channels and touchpoints. The omnichannel approach is, therefore, customer-centric and privileges user experience and customer support over engagement.
Multichannel Marketing Examples
Allbirds is a Kiwi-American shoe and clothing brand. Its multichannel approach includes a website and social networks.
The two brand central tenets – sustainability and comfort – are thoroughly emphasized in all different channels, giving consistency and reinforcing the brand.
The main principle in ASOS’s multichannel marketing campaign is balancing mass reach and targeting users on different social networks.
ASOS’ ads on Twitter are visual and focus on the product. In contrast, their Instagram ads try overtly to sell. In both cases, the brand’s casual voice is kept.
Under Armour (UA) has a solid online presence, reinforced by endorsements from famous athletes and actors such as Tom Brady and The Rock.
UA balances paid and organic advertisements. The paid ads feature how their products contribute to the success of some famous athlete or personality.
Their organic posts are not promotional but informative, telling the stories of selected athletes who use UA products.
Finally, in 2015 the company acquired the MyFitnessPal app, connecting with even more target audiences.
From Multichannel to Omnichannel – Apple
Apple’s multichannel approach was reshaped after acknowledging that most of its customers buy their products via online channels. Its primary marketing channels are retail stores, online stores, and streaming and subscription services.
The main goal of the retail stores is to enhance customer experience, educate users on Apple products, and strengthen the brand without pushing on-site purchases.
This gives the incentive for customers to visit the physical stores often.
The development of the iCloud and interconnectivity allowed Apple to offer an experience that evolved from multichannel to omnichannel.
Omnichannel Marketing Examples
Starbucks’ omnichannel strategy is integrated around its app, making the in-store experience far more convenient for the customer.
Customers get a free rewards card, which can be loaded with credits. They can then pay for an order through their preferred channel, which may be the physical location or the app.
The app also allows customers to see menu items and receive news, updates, and promotions via push notifications.
Nike’s omnichannel strategy started in 2006 with the Nike Plus program.
Its membership program allowed buying products at special prices, personalized offers, and downloading apps such as Run, Workout, and Discover.
The digital channels collect data which is used to customize offers to customers.
The Swedish company IKEA, internationally famous for furniture and home decor, applies its omnichannel retail strategy to online and offline channels.
It is possible for customers to purchase through their preferred channels, including retail stores, or directly from the website. The customer can pay online and receive goods at home or at pickup points. Additional services, such as assembly, can be ordered as well.
Their strategy is measured through Google ads, measuring store visits.
Walgreens, the American pharmacy store chain, uses its mobile app as the main point of contact with customers. Their app allows online and in-store purchases, vaccinations, and sets reminders to refill prescriptions.
The Walgreens app also connects to fitness apps, helping users track activities and fill out health surveys.
Many of these apps reward users in the loyalty program with points, which can be redeemed for purchases.
The King of Omnichannel – Amazon
Amazon is a pioneer and the king of omnichannel retail. The company expanded from an online bookstore to the world’s largest online marketplace, reaching cloud computing, artificial intelligence, electronics, and physical retailing.
Prime, Amazon’s membership service, offers a variety of features, including discounts, premium delivery options, access to exclusive media, or gaming.
The omnichannel experience is fully integrated and buyer-friendly. Carts are synced in all channels, from the website to the mobile app – which can be accessed on several devices, including Amazon’s proprietary tablet or smartwatch. On top of everything is the omnipresent Alexa, which further enhances the integration of devices and channels.
The Basics of an Omnichannel Marketing Strategy
The starting point for any omnichannel strategy is the customer. The customer should be the center and the guide of your marketing efforts through all the channels. Your plan should be reevaluated if the customer experience isn’t satisfactory during the journey.
You need to consider which channels and devices will be used, and deliver consistent and coherent messages and visuals in all of these channels.
Technical and financial requirements should be planned carefully to offer customers a seamless experience. Your product must meet customer expectations, and your customer support must be top-tier.
An omnichannel approach is shaped according to company goals, the customer, and technical possibilities.
Follow these steps to planning and implementing an omnichannel marketing strategy for your brand:
1. Understand Your Customer
- Understand your customers and their journey. Map out which particular channel customers used to get to your store and, ultimately, convert.
- Create user personas and follow their journeys through your channels.
- Through this mapping, you’ll be able to identify points of contact for different personas, as well as obstacles to their journeys, and adapt your channels accordingly to provide a better user experience.
2. Segment Your Target Audience
Segmentation is essential to plan specific campaigns and provide a personalized experience in multiple channels.
Consider classic factors such as demographics, location, income, behavior, and website history.
Don’t settle for traditional or vague divisions. Dividing your customer as “Male” or “Female” is not enough, you’ll need to go deeper to target properly.
For instance, a single male student’s journey will ultimately differ from a married male father’s. At the same time, the journey of an 18-year-old American student from Yale will vary from a 19-year-old student in Tampa.
The more data you collect, the better you’ll be able to segment, target, and reach your goal of providing a truly customized and positive customer experience.
Use Google Trends and Analytics to research keywords related to your products. Then research the associated terms to get deep insights into your audience and target personas.
3. Select Appropriate Marketing Channels
The priority in an omnichannel strategy is the quality of the experience provided by your channels and not adding more channels that you may not be able to implement properly. You shouldn’t spend energy and resources on channels that expand the reach but not the quality of the experience.
- Developing an omnichannel strategy takes time. Start with the low-cost alternatives – Social Media. Developing an organic marketing strategy on Social networks will take time but almost no spending.
- Expand your online presence through dedicated websites for online stores and stores in marketplaces like Etsy or eBay. Websites may be designed with dedicated online store builders such as Shopify or BigCommerce, or all-around website builders such as Wix and Squarespace. A more advanced option would be using WooCommerce or PrestaShop.
- In any case, develop a blog to generate organic traffic to your channels, reach potential customers, and inform and educate.
Creating an app may be the next step to providing integrated channels. Most of the successful omnichannel experiences centralize efforts around an app, including Amazon, Starbucks, Ikea, and Walgreens. A freelance developer can be hired to create a simple but functional app that will help take your online business to the next level.
4. Tailor the Customer Experience of Each Marketing Channel
- Keep consistency in all social media channels, but adapt the message to the user experience in that channel.
- Be active in all Social Media, tailoring your message according to the channel specificities, always keeping the brand voice and tone. Instagram, for instance, is better for engaging with young people, while older demographics prefer Facebook.
- Customize the content in any channel according to its technical advantages. More channels should add value to the customer; otherwise they are pointless.
- When implementing a new channel, walk the customer journey, solving any issues encountered along the way. If the channel makes the customer journey worse, it must be changed. Any channel should solve customers’ problems, not create others.
5. Be Innovative and Measure Your Effort
Plan which channels and messages you intend to use, but don’t be afraid to test something new:
- Define timeframes – for instance, 30 days – to test each new channel. After the end of the period, use analytics and other tools to measure traffic, interactions, and conversions.
- Continue to do what works well, and remove or change channels that aren’t working.
- Audit your channels – even the most successful ones – after a determined time frame.
Tips for an Effective eCommerce Multichannel Marketing Strategy
Keep the Focus on the Target Audience
1. Understanding your customer will take time. It starts with the initial research on the target audience, but it goes beyond that.
- Prioritize developing a relationship with the customer.
- Prospective buyers arrive at your online store from different paths, including social media, organic searches, blog posts, email marketing, or paid advertisements. You want them to become return customers. Analyze which keywords and paths lead to conversion and fidelity.
- Keep in tune with trends and changes in your repeat customer base. Keyword research and analytics should be a constant practice.
2. Create a user-friendly online store – marketplaces are fantastic for starting an online business, as they provide a broad customer base from the start. There are limitations, however, such as the lack of customization and the obligation to submit to the marketplace’s rules.
- Consider establishing a well-designed online store with a website builder or hiring a freelancer. Look for eye-catching design, smooth navigation, and plenty of functions such as customer accounts, a good range of reliable payment options, and the possibility of SEO optimization.
- Select the best products and catalogs for specific channels. Observe the search terms that lead customers to your best-performing products. Apply what is working to underperforming products, or even remove them. Be sure to keep your brand identity the same in every channel, even with slightly different catalogs.
- Ensure your fulfillment is reliable and consistent. Be aware of your partners, as the best customer support can’t do much in defense of a bad product or unreliable logistics. A low-risk solution is to invest in POD and Dropshipping with Printify.
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Select the Best Sales Channels
In an omnichannel approach, you don’t need to be everywhere. Select the channels which will provide the best customer experiences.
- Focus on the Social media networks fitting your target audience.
- Besides analytics research, create pools and questionnaires for your already existing customers. Gather data and tailor existing and new channels.
- Ask your customers – are they willing to receive SMSs and emails? Which channels do they use the most? What are their favorite products?
Love Your Customers
Customer support is central to any omnichannel experience. It should cover the user’s needs at every point of contact with the same quality and attentiveness.
If the customer makes an inquiry through a live chat or a phone call, that interaction should be informed by previous interactions, even if made in other channels such as email or contact forms.
Such a high level of support is demanding, especially for small businesses. It should be planned from the start, including technical requisites and budget. A new channel should only be added if there is a guarantee that integrated support will be provided.
For instance, an individual entrepreneur can deal with customer support for a small online store with channels on Facebook, Instagram, email, and a dedicated website. That can be managed in an integrated manner depending on the website builder – most of the available tools will provide user accounts that provide a unified overview of a customer.
Before adding other channels, such as phone support, video chat, or SMS, the entrepreneur needs to evaluate whether it will be possible to provide such support with the current operational capacities or if there will be a need for additional hiring or software.
Measure and Analyze What You Do
Most website builders are integrated in some way to Google tools, some adding built-in features. Use free, freemium, and paid tools for tracking, measuring, and adapting.
- Google offers powerful free tools such as Analytics, Trends, and the Search Console, which can be used from keyword research to track the source of traffic to your online store.
- Look for platforms that specialize in analyzing customer engagement and behavior in several channels, like MoEngage and LeanPlum.
The Right Tool for the Job
Omnichannel marketing requires appropriate tools. Fortunately, much of the necessary software is integrated into platforms such as WooCommerce, Shopify, BigCommerce, Wix, or Squarespace. In some cases, functions such as email marketing and live chat are available in premium plans, paid apps, plugins, or additional subscriptions.
- Look at our Shopify Alternatives article for a comprehensive comparison of the best builders’ features and prices.
- Owners of online stores lodged in marketplaces may use external tools tailored to the specific marketplaces. Etsy, for instance, provides tools for keyword research like Marmalead, Seller-way, or eRank.
- Consider paid subscriptions to SEO top-tier tools like SEMRush and Ahrefs.
- Specialized tools for omnichannel customer support, such as Zendesk, are a must as your business grows.
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- Multichannel marketing engages the consumer in multiple online and offline channels. The customer may begin purchasing in one channel and finish in another.
- The marketing strategy may be centralized, but each channel can operate autonomously.
- Multichannel marketing focuses on engagement and reach.
- Omnichannel marketing focuses on the customer experience, seamlessly integrating multiple channels.
- While customers may purchase products through different channels, their experience is comprehensive and based on previous interactions.
- The omnichannel strategy ensures high revenue from return customers.
Both use multiple channels to reach customers. The key difference is the focus. Omnichannel is customer-centric and increases customer retention and satisfaction through a seamless experience. Multichannel focuses on each different channels’ logistics, being channel-centric and looking for maximum reach.
So, Omni or Multi?
Both use two or more channels to serve customers. While the multichannel approach conveys extended reach, privileges specific channels and customer engagement, omnichannel focuses on increasing customer retention through memorable customer experiences.
Omnichannel marketing strategies are the natural development of multichannel retailing. In the highly competitive online environment, many businesses focusing on delivering various channels without a consistent customer experience will lose ground.
When deciding on your marketing strategy, remember – the customer is king.
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