The terms “multichannel” and “omnichannel” have gained prevalence in recent years as both marketing tactics and consumer/client knowledge have expanded. While many think they are synonymous, there are key differences between the two marketing styles, especially in determining which model is best for your business.
What is Omnichannel Marketing?
First, let’s dive in with omnichannel marketing, as it’s one of the buzzier approaches in recent years. With omnichannel marketing, the focus is on the consumer rather than the product or service itself. So, the objective is to leverage multiple marketing channels and consumer touchpoints (regardless of location, device, and experience) and integrate all channels with a similar look/tone/feel, messaging, imagery, and presentation. Essentially, you are synchronizing what the consumer sees across all channels to keep the same message at every touchpoint.
In the commerce and e-commerce space specifically, roughly a third of transactions have more than one touchpoint. It could start with an ad in the user’s Facebook News Feed, then seeing a sponsored pin on Pinterest, and then a consumer finally completing a transaction through a Paid Search ad. Across each of these touchpoints, the consumer is seeing the same message, the same ad, and being led through the sales funnel with the same messaging.
What is Multichannel Marketing?
For multichannel marketing, your business is still active on several channels spanning digital, traditional, PR, and so on, but there is one major difference: The focus is purely on the product or service. With multichannel marketing, most of the channels operate independently from one another, creating a vacuum effect on what a potential consumer sees at each touchpoint.
In the case of multichannel marketing, potential consumers tend to interact and react with different messaging based on the platform they are using. Your high-performing Meta Ads copy and creative may not work as well on a Paid Search ad, leading to different messaging for each channel. With this style of marketing, you’ll see differing performance and personas on each channel, along with a reduced multistep consumer journey.
Which Strategy is Best for Your Business?
Despite the nuanced differences between omnichannel and multichannel marketing, there are several similarities.
- Both involve using multiple channels to reach customers, including digital, brick-and-mortar, traditional media, public relations, and more.
- Both have the ultimate goal of gaining consumers and building up your business.
- Both involve work and knowledge to establish successful marketing.
Unsurprisingly, there is no clear-cut answer to this question, especially if you’re running a regional business. In most cases, you’re likely going to find yourself running a multichannel marketing campaign, as omnichannel requires some additional intent and planning to execute effectively.
To determine which approach could work best for you, it can be helpful to ask a few questions:
- Are you already using a strategy and didn’t even know it? With most businesses, this isn’t something that’s decided, especially when focusing on performance marketing. Making time for channel experimentation and exploration will naturally show you which path to take.
- Do your consumers already take multiple touchpoints to complete a transaction with your business? What messaging drove those, and is it the same across all touchpoints?
Many businesses start off with a multichannel approach. This provides a great starting point. Once data starts populating, messaging and imagery can change and unify on individual channels—which can then lead to an omnichannel approach, where decisions are data- and performance-driven rather than simply chosen at the outset.
In short, data should be the main driver of whether your business is using an omnichannel or multichannel marketing strategy. You’ll get this data from experimentation and exploration, and then you can ultimately determine what is best for both your consumer and your business.