Omnichannel and multichannel are popular buzzwords circulating around the marketing space. While the terms are used interchangeably and share similarities, the difference lies in the quality of the customer experience.
In this blog, we demystify omnichannel and multichannel strategies, discuss the impact of each within ecommerce and B2B/Saas marketing, and outline which approach may suit you best.
What is omnichannel and multichannel marketing?
Omnichannel and multichannel both describe a marketing strategy where multiple channels are used to communicate with and sell to customers. Although they are similar in many respects – and have a common goal: to convert customers – they are set apart by key differences.
Before we jump in, let’s cover the basics. Omnichannel and multichannel refers to sales and marketing ‘channels’. Examples of channels include:
Social media (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, TikTok)
Print and digital publications
Retailers / marketplaces (e.g. Amazon)
Audio (e.g. podcast, radio)
Video (e.g. YouTube, TV)
A brand may leverage a selection of or all of the channels listed above in their marketing strategy.
Multichannel marketing definition
Multichannel marketing refers to a brand’s use of multiple channels – online and offline – to interact with customers and prospective customers.
Multichannel marketing is considered ‘channel centric’ because its goal is to get the brand’s message across to as many people as possible by casting a wide net. This strategy is used by many ecommerce, B2B and SaaS businesses with great success.
But it isn’t best practice.
The issue with favouring a high quantity of channels is that the customer experience can suffer. This is because in multichannel marketing, each channel is implemented through its own system and functions separately, so customers can only access information through specific channels, rather than the channels being linked in a single ecosystem.
An example of channels functioning separately is when a physical retail store is not aligned to the brand’s online ecommerce presence. They are separate entities that don’t talk to each other. The result is that customer data becomes siloed.
For example: A customer purchases a product online, and then later goes into the physical store to return the product. However, because their data is siloed, the store has no record of them and is resistant to assist with the refund. This experience will negatively impact the customer’s perception of the brand and decrease the likelihood that they will interact with it in the future.
Now, let’s look at omnichannel marketing.
Omnichannel marketing definition
Omnichannel has been defined by consulting firm Frost & Sullivan as “a seamless and effortless high-quality customer experience that occurs within and between customer channels.”
An omnichannel approach puts the customer at the center of the strategy. It enables data synchronization and merges all sales and marketing efforts to break down boundaries between channels and create a single experience.
An omnichannel approach enables consumers to jump between channels and encounter the same experience. This is because each channel automatically updates with the latest interaction a customer has with the brand, ensuring the customer experience is seamless and convenient across all touchpoints.
An example: A customer browses a product on a brand’s website, and then moves to Instagram to get a closer look at its products and services. Rather than going back to the website, they conveniently purchase the product through Instagram’s ‘Shopping’ feature.
Omnichannel vs. multichannel marketing: the key differences
Both approaches use multiple channels in their marketing strategy, but not all strategies are omnichannel.
An omnichannel approach enables businesses to leverage multiple channels to create unique customer experiences, whereas a multichannel approach is limited to the capability of a single channel.
One thing omnichannel has that multichannel doesn’t, is integration. It is what enables a seamless customer experience. A lack of integration results in siloed data, misaligned messaging, and fragmented communication.
With a multichannel approach to marketing, the focus is getting information to the customer in the hope of converting them. This means telling each channel to spread information in its own way, and then measuring the effectiveness of each channel and adjusting the strategy accordingly.
For example, if a brand is having a sale, the goal is to communicate the sale across all channels (e.g. online and offline channels). Regardless of whether the customer has interacted with the sale, they will see the messaging.
However, a multichannel approach can create issues when it comes to customer service, due to its fragmented nature. For example, a customer contacts support on their mobile device through in-app messaging, but as there is a communication break-down between channels, the customer gets transferred to email, and has to wait days for a response. This creates frustration for the customer who decides to take their business elsewhere in the future.
This approach doesn’t put the customer at the center or prioritize consistency. It doesn’t mirror the real-world experiences we have with brands today. As consumers, we think about our experiences with a brand as the sum of all the parts – from our online purchasing experience, to the ads we’re served on social, to the in-store experience we have with a sales person.
What do people value most in customer service?
PwC surveyed consumers on what they consider to be good customer service, and nearly 80% say that speed, convenience, knowledgeable help, and friendly service are the most important elements.
Other research found that 50% of B2B queries are made on a smartphone, so it is essential that channels are integrated and customer interactions are seamless.
An omnichannel marketing strategy, on the other hand, creates a unified solution where customer data is accessible through all of a brand’s channels and communication is seamless.
An example: A customer visits a brand’s website on their mobile device and adds a few products to their shopping cart. They then decide they would like a closer look at the product catalogue, so they switch to their desktop, and their cart looks the same. The customer then abandons the cart and visits the physical store to get a better look and feel of the product. Their experience in-store mirrors that of online. They receive an email reminding them about the items they left in their basket, and they convert.
Shopping cart abandonment
Did you know: The average rate of shopping cart abandonment worldwide is 80%. This means that 8 out of 10 visitors to your site add items to their basket but don’t follow through with purchasing. If a brand has omnichannel functionality, customers can pick up where they left off, even if they’re using a different channel.
Ultimately, the interconnected journey gives the customer a convenient experience across all touchpoints meaning they are more likely to purchase from the brand, again and again.
A word on supply chains
Multichannel supply chains can perpetuate organizational silos. For example, a brick-and-mortar store may have different organizational systems, warehouse systems and transportation systems to an ecommerce website, which can result in disconnection and frustration, for customers and employees alike.
A multichannel supply chain can cause:
Inconsistent pricing in-store vs. online
Inconsistent promotional codes in-store vs. online
Inconsistent stockpiles on various channels
Omnichannel supply chains, on the other hand, eliminate these inconsistencies by ensuring all channels are singing from the same hymn sheet.
An omnichannel supply chain can:
Offer customers the choice to pick up items in-store (click-and-collect) or have them delivered
Customers can order products online when they are not available in-store
Customers can delay purchasing products online in order to check out items in-store, and know the products will be available
Why most marketers would benefit from an omnichannel marketing approach
Adopting an omnichannel marketing approach has a plethora of benefits for marketers:
Consistency in brand experience
Customers expect their experience with a brand online to be consistent across all channels (i.e. website, social media, email, customer support, mobile app, etc.) when it comes to messaging, product availability, discounts, loyalty programs, and more. With omnichannel set-up, customers will receive unified messaging, right down to the smallest details. Top-quality interactions and consistent brand messaging will reflect positively on the product and services.
Personalized customer experience
A study found that 83% of consumers say they won’t buy from brands that have poor personalization, and 72% of consumers say they now only engage with marketing messages that are personalized and tailored to their interests. Fortunately, omnichannel marketing can maximise content personalization.
Customer-centric omnichannel marketing means that customer behavior is the key strategy driver. Each interaction a customer has with a brand informs the experience going forward; it’s never random.
Customers are presented with customized messaging that speaks to where they are at on their purchasing journey: their touchpoints, their interests, and whether they have converted.
Ortto customers can create seamless, personalized customer experiences across channels with marketing personalization software. With this automation tool, you can deliver messages across channels such as email, SMS, pop-ups, widgets, and more.
What’s more, Ortto’s customer data platform (CDP) unifies your customer data to give you a single view of the customer journey across all channels. Customer journeys can be tweaked depending on customer demographic and behavior, to ensure every message is in context.
Measuring ROI on marketing activities
With an omnichannel approach, measuring the effectiveness of marketing is possible as all of your data is housed in one ‘backend’ like your CDP. Having a bird’s-eye view of your customer data makes it easy to test, analyze, adjust messaging, and optimize content.
Ortto’s marketing dashboards are designed for every use case, from ecommerce to SaaS, offering a complete picture of your data. What’s more, with built-in revenue attribution, you don’t have to be a data scientist to track and analyze the impact of your campaigns.
Delivering a better customer experience
The ability to communicate with a brand through multiple means – rather than through a single channel – is a positive for many consumers. Convenience builds trust.
Top-quality customer experience is at the heart of an omnichannel approach, and it promises just that. By offering personalized and convenient interactions between the brand and the customer, loyalty, retention, and therefore sales, are increased.
Richer customer data
Omnichannel enables brands to merge data from marketing, finance, support, sales, and product into a single customer profile to better understand their journey and behavior.
Ortto customers can build audience segments using demographic, behavioral, event-based, transaction, and firmographic data. Plus, maintenance is low, as data is automatically updated and accessible in real-time, freeing up time to focus on strategy.
A step-by-step approach to setting up an omnichannel marketing strategy
Follow the 5-step guide below to kickstart your omnichannel marketing strategy.
Unify your data in a CDP like Ortto
Segment your audience (Ortto enables segmentation using any combination of demographic, firmographic, behavior, event, and transactional data)
Build your customer journeys – send marketing messaging across email, social, on-site / in-app messaging, and more
Personalize messaging – use dynamic content fields to send abandoned cart reminders, birthday greetings, and other personalized messaging
Measure the success of activities by tracking everything in dashboards and continuously optimizing customer journeys
The final word
In this digital-led world, it’s important to unify your customer data and deliver a seamless customer experience across offline and online channels. With a customer data platform like Ortto, integrating your data sources is simple, making it easy to create a single customer view, build omnichannel marketing campaigns, and deliver remarkable, personalized experiences across the entire customer journey.