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Multichannel vs. Omnichannel Marketing: What Mobile Marketers Need to Know

Shivkumar M 20+ yrs shaping technology Product & GTM strategy. Fintech, healthcare & retail industry expertise. Leads product launches, adoption & GTM as Director, Product Marketing.
Multichannel vs. Omnichannel Marketing: What Mobile Marketers Need to Know

Omnichannel Marketing isn’t just another meaningless buzzword. It marks a significant shift in how brands need to interact with potential customers.
90% of consumers start a task on one device and finish it on another.* When the customer journey can start or end at any time, on any channel or mobile device, it’s critical for brands to provide a seamless experience across them all.
It’s what makes digital marketing today so complex — and why so many companies are embracing omnichannel marketing strategies to engage, convert, and retain customers.
So how do you define omnichannel marketing success? And how does it compare to multichannel strategies?

Omnichannel vs Multichannel Marketing: What’s in Common?

Both multi-channel and omnichannel marketing use multiple channels to reach potential customers, and at first glance, there doesn’t appear to be much difference between omnichannel and multichannel. But dig a bit deeper and you’ll see they’re very different when it comes to strategy and execution.
To start, we’ll define omnichannel marketing as well as multi-channel:

Multichannel Marketing Definition

Multichannel marketing is simply this: interacting with potential customers across several platforms, such as website, email, social media, paid ads, remarketing ads, and product packaging.
To define multi channel marketing, you need to realize it’s an important way to message users because they may not receive your communication on only one channel. By sending it out on a wide variety of channels — in effect, by using multi channel messaging — you greatly increase the chances that a potential customer engages with your brand.

Omnichannel Marketing Definition

What is omnichannel marketing? Omnichannel marketing provides potential customers with an integrated brand experience that is seamless between all channels, from desktop and mobile phone to brick-and-mortar. And to incorporate it into your campaigns, you need an omni channel platform, meaning you send your marketing campaigns through a martech platform capable of ochestrating one experience on many channels.
As Hubspot puts it,* “Instead of thinking of a desktop experience, mobile experience, tablet experience, and smart device experience, marketers need to think in terms of a single, holistic experience across all channels.”

Difference Between Omnichannel and Multichannel Marketing

Although the differences may appear to be subtle, the strategies themselves have very different approaches and goals.
Multi-channel marketing aims to widen a campaign’s reach by broadcasting on the maximum number of channels. Most companies have a paid media strategy, social media strategy, email marketing strategy, and so on. The goal is to cast a wide net and reach potential customers wherever they are, keeping the brand top-of-mind.
All omnichannel campaigns use multiple channels, but not all multi-channel campaigns are omnichannel. You can have engaging social media campaigns, popular blog content, and a stunning website — but if it doesn’t all work together, it’s not omnichannel.
Omnichannel marketing unifies campaigns and messaging across channels to deliver a complete, consistent customer experience. Every touchpoint nudges them in the same direction.
With omnichannel, the focus is on building a stronger brand relationship by ensuring customers receive the same experience and messaging on every single channel and device — and not just with marketing, but across PR, product, customer support, and sales. And it works: companies using a strong omnichannel strategy are retaining 89% of their customers.*

Infographic: The Difference Between Omnichannel and Multichannel


INFOGRAPHIC: The Difference Between Omnichannel and Multichannel

CleverTap Journeys: Build Automated Omnichannel Marketing Campaigns on a Visual Canvas

Omnichannel vs Multichannel Examples: 4 Outstanding Customer Experiences

Brands who are successful in creating a strong omnichannel strategy understand how their customers learn about, purchase, and use their product or service, and then apply that understanding to remove as many barriers as possible from the customer journey.
Here are a few omnichannel marketing examples from brands who are doing omnichannel right.  

Amazon

Multichannel vs omnichannel retailing is very different. But Amazon’s strategy in this area is always on point.
Granted, Amazon is a behemoth with a well-developed omnichannel strategy that may seem out of reach for smaller companies. Their recent acquisition of Whole Foods, for example, enables them to sell the Echo, Fire TV, and Kindle devices at fully staffed pop-up stores within certain Whole Foods locations, giving them a cohesive in-store as well as online presence.*
But Amazon is also a great example of getting the little things right. For instance, add an item to your cart on the mobile app, and it instantly appears in your cart on the website.
Omnichannel mobile cart experience persists data across multiple devices on Amazon Omnichannel web cart experience with product added on mobile remaining in cart
They know that many shoppers browsing products in a brick-and-mortar store will consult their Amazon app to read reviews and check prices before completing a purchase. Because they understand the buying process, they make it easy for users who find a better deal or superior product on the Amazon app to add the item to their cart and either complete their purchase immediately or save it in their carts for later. When it comes to omnichannel vs multichannel ecommerce, Amazon’s dedication to the omnichannel experience shows that it brings in the revenue.

Starbucks

Starbucks is a master at using the personalization and convenience of mobile to engage customers.
App users can load money on a rewards card, earn free food and drinks, save customized drink preferences, find nearby locations, submit an order, and pay all on mobile. The app will automatically calculate transit time to ensure the customer’s drink is hot and waiting the moment they arrive, with no standing in line.
Users can check and reload their card via the mobile app, website, or in-store, and any change to the card or user profile gets updated across all channels instantly. Waiting to order a latte and realize your balance is low? Add money via the mobile app and the cashier will see the new balance by the time you check out.
mobile app omnichannel marketing from starbucks allows users to order and pay within the app for pickup at the brick-and-mortar location
Starbucks knows that music is a key part of their customer experience, and their mobile app highlights this. A “Music” button is featured on their top navigation bar, which lets users connect to curated playlists on Spotify, replicating the customer’s cafe experience no matter where they are. What’s more, users can influence the music that’s piped through the in-store speakers by “liking” songs.
Starbucks offers a full omnichannel experience allowing customers to take the music heard within stores with them on mobile

Netflix

Back in 2015, Netflix redesigned their massively popular website to match what users experience on their phones, tablets, and TVs. The user experience is now completely seamless between devices, making it easy for users to pick up right where they left off in a matter of seconds.
Netflix uses viewing routines to make meaningful suggestions and cross-device progress maintaining a seamless omnichannel user experience. Netflix re-designed their apps to perform consistently across every device and experience
Image: UserTesting.com
Here’s the difference between omnichannel and multichannel: with omnichannel, you can pick up where you left off. In Netflix’s case, if you stop watching a video on your phone or tablet, you can hit play on your smart TV or laptop to continue. Every show you start watching is conveniently accessible in a featured “Continue Watching” list, or you can rewatch an old favorite from the “Watch It Again” list.
Keeping track of viewing progression throughout many pieces of content and devices maintains a seamless viewer experience across devices.
Image: NNGroup.com

Warby Parker

Omnichannel vs multichannel ecommerce is another area that is rife with examples of effective brands. Warby Parker, a popular online glasses retailer is a perfect example of a consistent cross-channel customer experience. Design and messaging are unified on their website, mobile app, and social channels for a cohesive brand experience.
Consistent omnichannel design and messaging creates a cohesive customer experience across platforms and devices
Their popular Home Try On feature gives users a convenient, risk-free way to test drive frames without pressure to buy, and the Warby Parker app takes the experience a step further. It uses the iPhone X’s front-facing camera to scan the user’s face and recommend complementary frames, which they can then try free for a full 5 days.
Warby parker’s user experience and mobile eye exam offer a streamlined capabilities and less friction for customers
Warby Parker knows that a big hurdle that keeps potential customers from using their service is getting a prescription from an eye doctor. So they created an app called Prescription Check that lets users skip the trip to the doctor’s office. It walks users through a brief eye exam that’s automatically sent to a doctor, who can then assess how you’re seeing through your glasses and provide an updated prescription.

Omnichannel Vs. Cross Channel

There’s one more clarification we need to make before ending this piece and that’s with the terms cross channel vs omnichannel. Once again, while the ideas are similar, the results are quite different.

Cross Channel Marketing Definition

The cross channel marketing definition consolidates marketing tactics across channels. So if a user receives a coupon in your app then goes to your brick-and-mortar location, they can use that coupon in store. Users can move from one channel to another without noticing that their smooth customer journey has been strategically planned by well-crafted cross-channel messaging. Data, however, is typically siloed in each channel — meaning your email marketers see they sent a coupon, and your store managers see the customer redeemed the coupon. But that’s the extent of it. If you try to define cross channel marketing, it really just boils down to marketing to prospects from within siloed channels.
But in the debate of omnichannel vs cross channel, omnichannel marketing wins because it goes several steps further than cross channel marketing, meaning it unifies all marketing efforts across channels. More importantly, it unifies the data from each channel. Your marketers gain a complete view of each customer across all interactions and channels. Your marketing team can see the customer got an emailed coupon, went to the store to redeem it, and looked at a few more items online while in store to compare price. You better take care of that loyal customer!

Ready to Create Your Omnichannel Strategy? Start Here

With consumers becoming more connected than ever, the customer journey will keep evolving. It becomes critical to learn the difference between omnichannel and multichannel marketing. After all, why focus on every channel available when it’s more important to reach the user on the channel where they’re spending the most time?
This is why omnichannel will continue to be the future of marketing for brands looking to create lasting relationships with their customers. Learn how CleverTap Journeys makes building automated omnichannel marketing campaigns simple and start building brand loyalty for your app.

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Last updated on February 23, 2024