Omnichannel Marketing Automation

Omnichannel vs. Multichannel: What’s the Difference and How To Choose?

By Ian Donnelly


Omnichannel Marketing Automation

Omnichannel vs. Multichannel: What’s the Difference and How To Choose?

Are you confused about the difference between omnichannel vs. multichannel marketing? If so, you're not alone. 

Since both involve using more than one marketing channel to reach an audience, these terms are often used interchangeably. But there are important distinctions between them that are vital for marketers to understand. 

In this article, we'll dive into the key differences between these two marketing approaches and help you determine which is right for your business.

The Difference Between Omnichannel and Multichannel Marketing

Both omnichannel and multichannel marketing involve using multiple channels to engage with customers. And utilizing an array of channels — both direct and indirect, online and offline — is a smart strategy to reach the widest audience possible for your brand. 

However, there are some notable differences in these two ideas. Multichannel marketing involves reaching and interacting with customers using more than one channel, but it stops there.

Omnichannel marketing goes beyond amassing individual channels and treats the entirety of your marketing touchpoints as a comprehensive brand experience. It is a holistic approach to engaging customers across every channel, creating a seamless customer journey no matter where they interact with your brand. 

This difference may seem minor, but it has major implications for your digital marketing strategy. 

Channel-Focused vs. Customer-Focused

The debate between omnichannel vs. multichannel really boils down to a channel-focused vs. a customer-focused marketing strategy.

With multichannel marketing, the ultimate goal is to use all your marketing channels (such as email, SMS, social media, etc.) to reach as many customers as possible. Each channel functions as a tool unto itself, speaking to its audience without input or insights from your other touchpoints.

Omnichannel marketing, on the other hand, focuses on providing a seamless and personalized customer experience across all channels. The goal is to make it easy for customers to interact with your brand, no matter how they choose to do so. 

It puts the customer at the center of your entire marketing efforts, allowing them to move between channels and still receive a consistent experience with your brand. 

Quantity of Touchpoints vs. Quality of Touchpoints

Because channels are siloed with a multichannel approach to marketing, it relies on a large quantity of touchpoints to work. You need as many channels working to make your message as visible as possible, presuming that the more your customers see your brand, the better. 

This strategy inevitably leads to an inconsistent experience for your customers — it’s likely that the messaging they receive won’t speak directly to where they are in the buying process, and they may see the exact same message multiple times through different channels.

Omnichannel marketing, on the other hand, focuses on quality over quantity. The messages each customer receives are customized to the specific channel they’re using, the previous interactions they’ve had with your brand in the past, and the current stage they’re at in their customer journey.

Static Messaging vs. Customized Messaging

As we mentioned above, a multichannel strategy often involves using the same message across all channels. While this can be efficient, it can also be impersonal and ineffective.

If your company is having a sale on women’s flip flops, you don’t want the same static message bombarding your audience across multiple channels — especially if they’re not interested in women’s flip flops. 

Omnichannel marketing, on the other hand, involves customizing the message for each channel and each customer. Because every touchpoint is treated as a part of the entire customer experience, you can make sure all your channels are working together, not just alongside each other. This can lead to more engaging and effective customer experiences.

An Example of Omnichannel vs. Multichannel Marketing

To give you a better idea of the differences between these approaches, let's take a look at some examples of how these two strategies play out.

An Example of Multichannel Marketing

To understand how multichannel marketing works, you just have to consider the last online experience you had with a company that overwhelmed you with marketing ads. We’ve all been irritated by a marketing campaign that follows us everywhere we go, saying the same thing over and over. 

You might receive an email from a business advertising a sale on a specific product, then receive direct mail with the same sale, and see the message again as a banner ad when you visit a website or your favorite social media channels. 

While these touchpoints may be effective, they don’t take into consideration that the message didn’t work the first time you saw it, or the second, or the third. Soon, it feels like the advertisement is following you around, chasing you to purchase, even though it doesn’t personally speak to your wants or needs.

An Example of Omnichannel Marketing

With omnichannel marketing, companies can make sure their messaging is always catered to their customers. It’s the most effective way to connect with your audience on a deeper level, which is why companies like Whisker have adopted an omnichannel approach to strengthen their efforts.

Whisker is a leader in connected pet care accessories, including bringing the first automated, self-cleaning litter box to market in 2000. Before opting for an omnichannel strategy, the company was hindered by data silos, which were preventing Whisker from creating truly personalized experiences for its customers. It needed a way to connect its marketing channels, collect all its user data and behaviors, and also understand what messaging resonates (or doesn’t) with customers. 

To find the best omnichannel approach for its marketing, Whisker turned to Bloomreach Engagement to run A/B and multivariate tests on its messaging to see how customers interact with the content. 

The company wanted to be sure its marketing efforts were meeting the needs of the audience and speaking to where they were in the buying process, so it tested showing users persistent campaign messaging to see how that would impact results when compared to those who were shown different messages throughout the customer journey. 

This initial test drove a 107% lift in conversion rates, as well as a 112% increase in revenue for users that clicked through to the website — all because Whisker worked to find the exact right message for their ideal audience. 

How To Develop a Successful Omnichannel Marketing Strategy

If you're interested in developing an omnichannel marketing strategy for your business, here are some key steps to get started.

Unify Your Data To Understand Your Customers

When customer data is fragmented, it can be challenging for marketers to get a complete picture of each customer journey and deliver omnichannel experiences. This is the biggest drawback of multichannel marketing — your channels don’t work together, so all your data can’t unite for a better understanding of your customers. That’s why unifying your customer data into a single source of truth is so important. 

By bringing together and cataloging data from various sources, marketers can gain a comprehensive view of each customer and their unique buying patterns and behaviors. This is a crucial step to crafting an omnichannel strategy that speaks directly to each customer’s needs. 

To achieve this, you need a single customer view — a database with customer profiles that indexes all the relevant data (such as purchase history, site activity, product recommendations, etc.) for every individual person who interacts with your business.

With a single customer view, marketers know all the details they need to deliver more relevant, targeted messages, improving the customer journey and strengthening the customer relationship. 

Read This Next: A Definitive Guide to CDPs

Map Out Your Customer Journey

Once you’ve unified your data, it’s time to look at your customer interactions across all your touchpoints. You need to map out your customer journey and truly grasp where your customers are and how they are engaging with your brand.

What channel works best for speaking to a new audience that has barely ever interacted with your brand? Has email proven to be the best channel for your remarketing campaigns, or have abandoned cart campaigns been more successful through SMS? These are all valuable questions you can ask to analyze your customer interactions, segment your customers, and map out your customer journey. 

Read This Next: The Ultimate Guide to Journey Orchestration

Connect and Align Your Channels

Once you've brought all your data together and understand where your customers interact with your brand, the next big step is to make sure that your channels can work together. When all your channels are operating in tandem, you can create a seamless customer experience that is informed by the data gleaned from previous interactions.

The best way to align your channels is to choose a comprehensive marketing solution that lets you create and orchestrate all your campaigns in one place. Your channels need to collaborate, operating as one to form a customer journey that feels connected and consistent.

While piecing together separate solutions is an option, getting them to integrate properly can be an uphill battle. With your channels woven together in a single platform, you can tailor all your campaigns across all channels to pivot when needed. Comprehensive solutions do this intuitively, with no barriers between your various channels and campaigns. 

Read This Next: Why Siloed Email and SMS Marketing Platforms Fall Short Where All-in-One Solutions Succeed

Personalize Your Omnichannel Messaging

Personalization is the ultimate goal of an omnichannel strategy. You’re aiming to give customers a consistent, cross-channel experience that adapts to customer needs and goals in real time.

To do this, your marketing needs to be an up-to-the-minute conversation your brand is having with your audience — every interaction they have with your brand, across any touchpoint, needs to inform the next phase of your marketing efforts with that particular customer. 

If a customer visited your site and browsed your selection of bathing suits, you could target them with summer-themed product recommendations. If they viewed your site on their phone, you could try appealing to them with an SMS campaign. And if they put an item in their cart and left your site without making a purchase, you could entice them back to your site with a price drop alert if the product goes on sale.

All of these examples illustrate omnichannel personalization on a one-to-one scale, offering customers exactly what they need in their particular stage of the buying journey. 

Analyze and Test Your Strategy

Once you’ve implemented the previous steps, you can’t just sit back and watch your KPIs grow — omnichannel strategies require continued analysis and testing to reach their full potential.

Remember, your marketing is always responding to the needs and wants of the customer, which change over time. This means that your marketing approach needs to adapt along with it, and the only way to ensure your efforts are as nimble as they need to be is by keeping track of what works and what doesn’t. Fine-tuning is crucial to provide the most seamless experience possible. 

With diligent analysis and smart testing, you can build better customer relationships that have a lasting impact on your business — like increased loyalty, customer lifetime value, and more. 

Bloomreach Engagement: The Complete Omnichannel Marketing Platform

Ready to offer your audience a seamless omnichannel experience? Bloomreach Engagement is the perfect tool for the job.

Our comprehensive platform creates a unified view of all of your customer data and delivers personalized experiences that resonate with each individual, regardless of where they are in the customer journey. And with real-time omnichannel personalization across 13 channels, you have everything you need to align your campaigns and refine each touchpoint to craft the best customer experience possible. 

Explore our site to learn more on how Bloomreach Engagement can help you orchestrate the ideal customer journey.

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Ian Donnelly

Content Marketing Manager at Bloomreach

Ian has years of copywriting and digital marketing experience that he brings to his role as Content Marketing Manager at Bloomreach. With a keen eye for fresh angles and new perspectives, he aims to highlight the endless possibilities available to savvy businesses with cutting-edge digital commerce.

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