Multichannel vs Omnichannel & What Strategy You Should Choose

As a company, you exist to serve customers. The better you address customer desires, the better you will perform, due to customer satisfaction and customers’ feeling appreciated. In terms of optimising your position in the market, the more you address customer requirements, the greater the chance of them returning with repeat business. To this end, developing customer retention strategies and finding ways to amplify personalisation are winning tactics to employ.


Changing your strategies towards a more customer-centric ideal can secure important repeat business and give you an edge over your competitors. For starters, 76% of customers today consider it significantly easier to take their business elsewhere if their expectations aren’t met, and 73% of customers will seriously consider switching brands if they don’t have, at least partially, an optimised marketing strategy that allows for a company to easily address them when they need it.


Furthermore, 75% of customers expect cohesive experiences across multiple channels that work together to move them forward in the buyer journey. This brings us onto two commonly confused approaches to reaching and serving customers: multichannel marketing vs omnichannel marketing. Here, we examine the differences, and detail how businesses can address the needs of customers by using channels simultaneously and seamlessly to reach out and communicate with customers and drive repeat business.


The principle difference of omnichannel vs multichannel pertains to customer philosophy, channel intentions, message intentions, journey representation, and channel integration. Essentially, the experience the customer has is completely different depending on which strategy you apply.


In this post we explore the five essential elements that differentiate omnichannel marketing from multichannel marketing. For each, we have applied some real-life examples to help differentiate the fundamental differences.


The differences we will cover today are:

Multichannel vs Omnichannel

Introduction to Multiple-Channel Marketing

It is not often you stumble across a business with only one source of reaching customers in today's digital world. A small company may choose to only reside on one digital channel alone, but even that is hard to come by. When being present on both digital channels (like email, television, live chats and social media) and physical channels (like billboards, packaging, catalogues and brick & mortar stores), you’ll soon realise that most businesses use at least two to three channels (the popular trio of physical store, Facebook and Instagram for instance).


At SnellMedia we focus on digital channel marketing and therefore this article will explore the digital perspective of multi vs omni channel marketing. In the coming section we will explore five essential differences between multichannel marketing and omnichannel marketing. Ready? Let’s go.



Must Know Differences between Multichannel and Omnichannel

5 Must-Know Differences between Multichannel and Omnichannel

On the surface it may seem like multichannel marketing and omnichannel marketing are the same thing since both strategies use a multitude of platforms, however a key difference is in how those channels are used. Omnichannel is a cross-channel marketing discipline that provides a seamless experiences to improve the overall customer experience and drive better relationships. Multichannel marketing is focused on maximising reach and communicates different messages based on each channel.


For a deeper dive into the ins and outs of omnichannel marketing, check out our earlier post on omnichannel marketing for B2B businesses.


Below you will find the most significant differences we have identified in our experience of devising optimised omnichannel strategies:



Multichannel Customer Service vs Omnichannel Customer Experience

1. Customer Philosophy (Customer Service vs Customer Experience)

This initial element differentiating multichannel and omnichannel marketing is the true underlying premise, the customer philosophy behind a company’s marketing. In our experience, few marketers can successfully articulate the difference in the represented customer philosophy when it comes to these two approaches, however, this is one of the clearest elements to define.

Both approaches have their individual level of customer-centricity, yet omnichannel shows significantly more diligence for an optimised customer experience. Omnichannel marketing embodies customer experiences and incorporates the entire customer journey. Omnichannel marketing is proactive in terms of maximising the customer’s experience during and after sales.

This proactive approach allows you to be agile and data-driven with customers in real-time. At its core, this changes the way customers engage with brands and the experience they have by closing the gap between problem and solution and eliminating siloed services. The customer experience is personalised based on context from the full-service history. This enables businesses to be extra flexible to adapt to the changing needs of their customers.

With multichannel, a business focuses more on the politeness of customer service and being responsive to the customer. The intention is to provide basic support on the separate channels to facilitate the customer to take action rather than effectively moving the customer into the buyer journey. Specifically, the customer service philosophy of multichannel is a segmented piece of the customer interaction puzzle, separated into diverse channels. 

In summary, the difference here falls to the level of holistic ideals in the customer philosophy. In the customer service (multichannel) approach, the contact with the customer is limited to the channel, the point in time, and the specific issue. In the customer experience (omnichannel) approach, the business focuses on the overall impression they are giving, the development of a relationship based on data from earlier support interactions, and learning from past interactions to inform how they can recommend additional support to individual customers in the future.

[EXAMPLE] A company can simply respond with ‘hello’, ‘thank you’ or ‘have a nice day’ and finalise a customers’ query without looking forward (multichannel) or the company can go the extra mile by making recommendations based on service history and proactively listening to and

addressing customer preferences (omnichannel).



Customer Journey Customer Awareness vs Customer Engagement

2. Customer Journey (Customer Awareness vs Customer Engagement)

Another element that separates multichannel and omnichannel marketing is the representation of all touchpoints along the customer journey. With omnichannel, one of the top-tier ideals is to move the customer forward in their buyer journey and have them reach conversion easily through the use of their preferred channels without having to re-initiate their inquiry due to potential disruptions. 

Contrary to that, multichannel marketers do not support the customer journey, and their aim is to maximise brand exposure more than build service-minded communication and relationships with existing customers. When working in a multichannel-verse, the ideal is to gain reach and facilitate the establishment of contact. With that, the approach is built to satisfy initial touchpoints exclusively and regardless of the platform. 

 

Awareness

This is where the consumer first encounters your brand. It marks the first point at which you are considered a possible solution for them. Perhaps they see an ad on social media or hear about your company from an existing customer.

 

Engagement

This is the longest phase of the customer journey and the most important one to get right. Keeping customers engaged is key to building a loyal following. Are your customers continuing to purchase old favourites? Are they staying up-to-date with new releases? Delivering new experiences and highly personalised content keeps the relationship fresh and interesting.  

  

[EXAMPLE] Imagine yourself on your way to work, having a conversation with a company selling a solution your company needs. You’re chatting on the company’s messenger while on the bus. Here, the basic difference is found in whether you can continue the chat once you get to work via the supplier’s website or email on your business computer (omnichannel) - or if you have to re-engage with the potential supplier due to the disruption (multichannel). This also works for disruptions in terms of decision-making touchpoints. 

Additional to our example for customer journey representation, take a look at our analogy, which clearly explains how attentive the approaches are to the customer journey.

Strategies Maximise Reach with Multichannel vs Maximize Retention with Omnichannel

3. Contact Intentions (Maximise Reach vs Maximise Retention)

The third element that separates multichannel from omnichannel is the intention of building contact with the customer, i.e. whether the company seeks to purely maximise reach or incorporate the servicing of your customers. In other words, what is the rooted purpose of establishing contact with the audience on more channels than one?


Multichannel marketing companies build contact in order to boost their exposure. With different audiences residing on different channels and platforms, the number of channels incorporated into the marketing effort supports the intention of reaching new audiences and exposing the brand to new segments. 


For omnichannel businesses, building contact is about meeting the customer’s needs and issues where they are and facilitating them in a continuous process of moving forward until a goal is reached. With that, the number of channels integrated with one another helps support the customer continuously and eliminates obstacles interfering with his or her buyer journey.



‘Retention

This is where you recognise that members of your audience are at risk of leaving, determine why they are losing interest, and either keep them from wandering off the trail or make it easy for them to come back in the future. Data can help you notice when engagement dips and tools like exit surveys can provide insights for future outreach.’


[EXAMPLE] To put that definition into a real life context, it’s the basic difference between receiving a newsletter from a company email address that you can’t reply to (multi-channel) versus receiving an email from an individual at a company (ie. the founder) that you can send a reply to and know you’ll get a response asap (omni-channel). 



Branding Multichannel Channel Specific vs Omnichannel Unified

4. Branding (Channel Specific vs Unified)

To expand on the previous difference, let’s talk about message intentions. While each approach serves messages to their customers, there is an apparent difference in the intention of messages. Omnichannel marketing is about serving a consistent experience to customers and potential customers across channels or devices based on where they reside. In contrast, multichannel marketing uses different channels to deliver different marketing messages. 


While omnichannel works as an interconnected network where all messages are synchronous, multichannel marketing uses selected channels in a disassociated fashion and pushes out content in comprehensive campaigns in order to reach people on their platforms of choice. The intention of omnichannel marketing is to publish messages that maximise conversions and build relationships, while multichannel focuses on increasing brand reach and pushing out information that does not necessarily invite conversation.


Each side of the spectrum represents the intention to talk to versus talk with customers. For the omnipresent business, multiple platforms are incorporated to enable a customer to convert in an easy fashion without having to re-engage with the business and start their query from the beginning when they switch channels. It is about addressing their needs right where they are at that moment in the journey. 


[EXAMPLE] Multichannel expects businesses to behave within the confines of the specific channel. For example, a buyer can engage with a business on Instagram, Pinterest, or LinkedIn and get completely different messages presented in different ways. Each message structure is determined by the team handling that specific channel - but one thing is certain: all the messages are attention-grabbers, here to catch your eyes. The information speaks to the customers, aiming for developing the brand’s exposure - not the customer’s journey.

Omnichannel eliminates confined silo-based gaps, and builds a seamless accord between channels and offers customer experiences within and between channels. For instance, a group of omnichannel marketers will cooperatively build cohesive messages to share on their Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn that guide the buyer forward in their buying decisions and remove the boundaries between different sales and marketing channels.



Customer Communication Channel Specific vs Continuous

5. Customer Communication (Channel Specific vs Continuous)

One of the most well-known contrasts between the two approaches is whether the incorporated channels are integrated with one another. With both approaches, the customer is provided different alternatives for accessing information through channels, but multichannel marketing doesn’t have them working together. This is because each channel provides different tailored services and messages and each channel runs separately from the rest.

With customer experience being at the forefront of omnichannel marketing, the approach concentrates on offering a seamless interaction across all channels. Omnichannel marketing has the customer at the centre and focuses on the needs of each individual customer. With that, they are provided personalised messages across platforms for a unified experience. 

This integration and seamless venture through channels (and the buyer journey) is exponentially turning into deep-seated expectation and demand. 60% of young adults, i.e. the influential generation of millennials, expect consistent brand experiences that move them forward. Also, 73% of consumers purchase on more than one channel, so there is a definitive need to keep a strong integration between channels.

While this may seem overwhelming and like a lot of work, remember that there is no rule that says that omnichannel is a 100% or 0% deal. You can approach it in incremental steps, integrating one channel at a time. So start off slowly by merely integrating two channels with each other, and build the seamlessness of your marketing continually. That way, you are also less likely to confuse the process and you will achieve better results.

[EXAMPLE] A company has a Facebook, an email and a Youtube channel. On each platform, they talk about very different things, with different design elements, and you, as a customer, can tell that they are trying to tell you something, not invite you into something. You see them on all the platforms, and it shows that their aim is to be seen. This is multichannel, i.e. the channel-based approach.

Now, the guiding principle of omnichannel marketing is that it’s customer-based, not channel-based. Imagine a consistent design experience across those platforms, where you can freely move around the platforms without losing sight of your needs and intentions, and having almost a partnership with the company as they support you towards your purchase. The posts and videos you see are speaking to you, inviting you to join while simultaneously speaking to your needs and problems in a cohesive manner. This is omnichannel.

 



An Analogy for Multichannel vs Omnichannel

Multichannel vs Omnichannel: An Analogy

At SnellMedia, we understand that it’s not easy to grasp the differences of omnichannel and multichannel - they can easily seem vague and fluffy. To address that, we’ve created two meaningful analogies to clarify the differences. 


Imagine that you are at an amusement park (pro tip: we recommend Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen).

First, we have the multichannel approach. In our perspective, a good old fashioned swing attraction makes a great analogy for this separated approach to marketing. As a customer, you would get onto the ride and choose one swing. While on the ride, you might find yourself wanting to try out one of the other swings instead (a different color or double swing maybe). If so, you would have to finish the ride, get out and get back in line for another go at the experience. Once you’ve re-engaged, you pick your new swing and try the ride again.


In the analogy, the swings represent different channels. As they are not connected in any way, a person can’t jump from one swing to the next until the journey is over (and therefore experience the ultimate version of the journey for them) and they would have to complete one channel experience and move over to the next until they finally feel satisfied. This can quickly turn into an ongoing loop for the customer, with substantial risks of the customer feeling unseen and dissatisfied. Ultimately, that could lead to a lost customer.


Now let's dive into the omnichannel ride. For this approach, imagine that you are on a roller coaster attraction with loops, turns, deep dives and high climbs. Each of these exciting occurrences represents different channels that the customer can engage with from the start to the finish of their buyer journey as a customer. 


When the ride is over, so is the customer journey and the interaction during each channel represents progression from one touchpoint to another. The end of the ride represents the end of the journey, and having sped through the various parts of the ride, the customer has made their way through a continuous journey that keeps building until they’ve come to the end and made an inquiry or purchase.

SnellMedia Omnichannel Example

A SnellMedia Omnichannel Example

Shaping an omnichannel strategy is not as grating as it can seem. It is actually a very frictionless, easy connection of channels - especially if you only connect two channels to start with. To display just how easy it can be, we will share one of the ways we utilise the omnichannel approach at SnellMedia. The example highlights merging chat-options.

At our digital B2B agency, we integrate our website’s live chat with our Facebook Messenger to create a seamless experience for prospective buyers who have found us on Facebook after discovering one of our posts covering a specific digital marketing hack. The potential customer can easily start a conversation with our team on Messenger, and re-join the conversation later (hours, days, weeks or months) in a live chat on our website without having to start the query all over again.

If on Messenger the buyer was interested in knowing more about prices on our various, complex services, our team can easily recall the previous conversation and the specifics touched upon (services, prices, negotiated terms, and any discounts offered at the time). 

Omnichannel focuses on customer experience (vs customer service) and places the customer at the centre of a seamless interaction. This instills expertise, and minimises friction, as opposed to the buyer having to re-engage with a sales colleague who could potentially offer other solutions, or even worse, other pricings and sales terms. 

This occurrence can be especially likely to happen when discussing complex services like ours (and many of our clients’ products). If this was to happen, we would not only spend more time trying to consummate the deal, but we would also be faced with an increased risk of losing the buyer altogether - on this and future deals.

Digital Marketing Agency SnellMedia

Key Takeaways

  • While omnichannel marketing and multichannel marketing are both built on the aspiration of using multiple platforms and channels to make contact with prospective buyers, there are still some essential elements that set the approaches far apart.
  • The biggest difference between omni and multichannel marketing are the customer philosophies represented and the potential integration of channels. While omnichannel focuses on a seamless integration and customer experience, multichannel gives priority to siloed messaging focusing on brand exposure and customer service confined by the specific channel.
  • Customers want businesses to be more attentive to their needs, bringing in consistency and personalisation into their marketing, i.e. move towards a customer-centric approach like omnichannel marketing. Doing so, however, does not have to be a full blown, intricate process. To minimise friction and amplify the success of your improvement effort, start by integrating two channels and bring in more as you go along.


Are you interested in learning more about the different marketing approaches and find out which one works best for you? Are you part of a B2B company looking to optimise your customer experience tactics this year? Or are you looking to connect better with your clients to assure higher numbers of conversions and loyal customers?


If that is the case, then welcome to SnellMedia. We are an omnichannel digital marketing agency for B2B businesses in Europe and North America. At SnellMedia, our ideal is to help create customised marketing strategies for each unique, complex business and guide you towards better solutions that address your values and goals.


No matter what kind of digital marketing solution you’re after, we are here to help and guide you! Our team is devoted to helping B2B businesses reach their marketing potentials and grow their ROI in all the campaigns we serve. If you have any questions or marketing ideas you want to discuss, get a proposal out today.