Kris Nicolaou - Web Strategist - Founder and CEO of Brain Box
Kris Nicolaou

Omnichannel vs. Multichannel: What’s the Difference?

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Most retailers today use some form of multi-channel marketing, but true omni-channel marketing is less widely employed.

Although even some marketers conflate multichannel and omnichannel marketing, the two ways of reaching customers are distinct from each other. Most retailers today use some form of multi-channel marketing, but true omni-channel marketing is less widely employed.

Multichannel Marketing Reaches Customers Through Multiple Mediums

Multichannel marketing simply means that a retailer reaches current and potential customers through more than one medium.

For example, most physical retailers now also have an online store. That’s two selling mediums and a simple form of multichannel marketing. Other channels could include traditional sales calls, vending at festivals and direct mailings. Even within the world of ecommerce alone, a retailer could employ multichannel marketing by selling via a web store, email newsletter, online platform (e.g. Amazon or Etsy) and social media.

Multichannel Marketing Usually Keeps Channels Separate

In many multichannel marketing setups, the different channels are kept separate from each other. They’re siloed so that one channel doesn’t overlap with another.

For instance, the traditional retailer that sells in brick-and-mortar stores and online may keep the two sales channels completely separate. Some go so far as to have separate inventory, separate customer service departments and separate return policies for their various channels.

For the customer, the siloed structure of most multichannel marketing setups creates obvious frustrations. Items ordered through one channel can’t be returned via another, and many times even a customer service rep with one channel will have no information about orders from another channel.

For the business, the siloed structure creates redundancies and inefficiencies. More capital is tied up in inventory and employees waste time directing customers to other channels’ representatives. In many cases, even the marketing across each channel is kept separate -- which prevents retailers from capitalizing on data that they already have on current customers.

Omnichannel's Meaning Integrates Channels Together

Omnichannel's meaning addresses these issues by integrating the multiple channels used by multichannel marketing. Rather than having to interact with the same company through complete separate entities, customers can interact in a congruent way as they shop through the business’ various channels.

Omni Channel Marketing Provides a Better Customer Experience

For customers, the benefits of omnichannel marketing are significant. Customers don’t view a business’ various sales channels as separate entities but as one. Just as customers see a single logo and one company name, they also expect a single experience regardless of what channel they’re shopping through. This is what omni channel marketing offers.

Omni Channel Retailing Requires Investment

For businesses, omni-channel retailing requires an investment in programs and structures that integrate various sales channels. The investment will pay off as the customer experience is improved and inefficiencies are eliminated.

Omnichannel vs. Multichannel Marketing

In the battle of omnichannel vs. multichannel marketing, the future is clear. Omnichannel marketing is the way forward as it benefits both customers and businesses. If your business is using several sales channels but hasn’t integrated them yet, it’s time to switch from multichannel to omnichannel marketing.

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