Omnichannel marketing & multichannel marketing guide: the difference, strategy, and platform

Nicolas Algoedt

Jul 28, 2020

Nicolas Algoedt

Jul 28, 2020

Think of all the ways you can communicate with a company–by phone, email, social media–these separate channels are part of a multichannel marketing strategy, and often managed by multiple employees if not multiple departments. An omnichannel marketing strategy brings those channels together by connecting them to a central platform. This enables the company to share and retain information, reduce communication breakdowns, better understand their customers, and ultimately enhance customer experience.

If your goal is to deliver a better online customer experience with your company, omnichannel marketing is one of the best strategies to achieve that and more. Omnichannel marketing is all about creating a positive experience for the customer, reducing churn, improving revenue, and delivering a positive brand reputation.

Table of Contents
  1. What is the difference between omnichannel, multichannel, and cross-channel marketing

  2. Is omnichannel marketing popular?

  3. Building an omnichannel marketing campaign

  4. What makes the perfect omnichannel experience?

  5. Building the perfect omnichannel marketing strategy

  6. Omnichannel strategy in action

  7. Why Your Brand Needs to Adopt an Omnichannel Strategy Sooner Rather Than Later

Before there were AI platforms like UseInsider’s Architect, most companies would rely on a multichannel marketing approach by default.  

Multichannel marketing is a communication strategy for reaching customers across multiple channels, such as desktops, tablets, Facebook, and email. They can be devices or any medium of communication, and they aren’t necessarily synched up in a multichannel marketing model. 

For example: John Smith gets a promotional email about a last-minute booking at The TranquilTravels Hotel. He responds to the email with a question about special accommodations, provides his contact information, and is guaranteed a response within 48 hours. 

The next day, John happens to see the same ad while scrolling through Facebook. He messages the TranquilTravels page, asking the same question, adding he needs to book that day, submits his contact information again, and is told someone from the right department will be in touch shortly. 

Running out of time, John finds a phone number and tries to reach someone… and he’s put on hold. He hangs up in frustration even though the wait time was only one minute.

The next day, while relaxing at the SereneStays hotel, John gets an email notifying him that his accommodation request has been approved. 

This is an example of a multichannel marketing customer experience, where John has multiple avenues for reaching the hotel, but each channel is not connected to a centralized platform that can quickly and efficiently share information between each department. This is why John had to repeat himself, why he was frustrated, why he received an email too late, and why TranquilTravels lost out on John’s business. 

In an omnichannel marketing example, the channels are connected to a central platform that allows them to share information. Let’s say TranquilTravels had invested in this strategy: As soon as John sends that first email, every other department from the social media team to the hotel receptionists has access to his contact information, knows what his question is, and will be aware of any further questions he asks. That way, when John messages the Facebook page, the representative can give him an update on his question if not a direct answer. With the information so readily available, the TranquilTravels customer service team also has the ability to anticipate John’s questions and needs and reach out to him sooner to close the sale. 

Of course, omnichannel marketing experiences have existed before platform AIs like Architect, but the model was difficult, expensive, and strenuous for even the best teams to maintain. Even in the best omnichannel marketing models run by humans, customers would only be able to get in touch during business hours, or companies would have to find ways to justify the cost of expanding their business hours. Communication breakdowns were inevitable. Employee absences could be disastrous. 

But with the right platform management system, everything can be automated and seamless–bringing all devices and channels together under one management system, which takes care of storing, sharing, and organizing information so that managers have more capacity to focus on important decisions and less overwhelm to contend with.

What is the difference between omnichannel, multichannel, and cross-channel marketing

Across different theories of marketing, the terms omnichannel, multichannel, and cross-channel marketing are often used interchangeably. After all, these strategies all involve multiple channels meant to acquire, engage, and retain customers. We define the difference in how they are connected:

– In multichannel marketing, all the communication channels work in isolation with no connection between any of them. We saw an example of this with the fictional hotel company TranquilTravels.

Cross-channel marketing usually describes integrating different channels into a sales funnel, and select communication channels are connected to a primary communication channel. For example, TranquilTravels reaches most of its customers on Facebook, its primary communication channel. They invest in an SEO blog strategy in hopes of finding unique customers to bring into that sales funnel.

Omnichannel marketing connects all channels to one platform which allows your customers to have one experience with one brand no matter what channel they use. It enables your company to “remember” conversations, keep track of customer behavior and data, and provide a truly personalized experience. 

Multichannel marketing is still a valid strategy for advertising. The goal of this strategy is to get as many eyes on your brand as possible by reaching out to as many people on as many channels as possible. 

Likewise, cross-channel marketing is good for integrating additional channels into a sales funnel, but omnichannel marketing takes that further by expanding the sales funnel into a personalized customer experience. 

The disadvantage of multichannel and cross-channel models is the lack of speed and automation that comes with an AI-managed omnichannel model. Once you have a customer’s attention in a multichannel model, it’s difficult to retain their interest, attention, and loyalty because it’s difficult to provide the seamless experience. It’s also much easier to collect data and monitor customer behavior with an omnichannel marketing model with an AI platform that tracks, stores, and shares that data. 

Compared to a cross-channel model, the omnichannel model uses the data in real time to automatically anticipate opportunities to provide relevant updates to the customer, automatically leading them along their journey. In traditional cross-channel models, a team would have to monitor, reach out, and contend with the same sorts of challenges we saw in John’s experience.

Is omnichannel marketing popular?

In essence, omnichannel marketing is growing in popularity because it enables marketers and teams to do more with less effort and cost. 

Omnichannel marketing keeps your brand messaging and user experience consistent and seamless across multiple channels and devices. This enables brands and marketers to reimagine digital experiences by curating a journey for customers.

But how do consumers respond?

A study conducted by Harvard Business Review found that of 46,000 customers shopping with a major US retailer, 73% used multiple channels during their shopping journey. Not only were they using the retailer’s touchpoints, but they used price-checking apps, digital catalogues–sometimes making purchases in-store and having the items shipped, sometimes pre-purchasing to have items picked up at the store. 

“With every additional channel they used, the shoppers spent more money in the store… our findings suggest that deliberate searching beforehand led customers to greater in-store purchases… In addition to having bigger shopping baskets, omnichannel shoppers were also more loyal… we can say from our study that omnichannel shoppers are more valuable to the retailer with confidence.  ”

In other words, buyers who are able to make informed purchases and engage more with a company will invest more in the company. 

Building an omnichannel marketing campaign

It’s important to remember that every company should create its own omnichannel marketing strategy—something that is unique to the brand’s goals, style, and strategy. Several departments can be involved in the development of the brand’s omnichannel strategy development, and the main ones involved are usually

  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Product
  • Customer Support

Feedback from these departments can help you better understand how to curate your ideal customer experience. Ask about things like what language to use with your customers, how soon to follow up, how to best share information, and what tasks can be automated. 

The marketing team will now be able to access more information and data about user behavior. The sales team will be able to fine-tune timing of messages and keep track of customer journeys. The product teams will have more access to customer feedback without needing to ask for it. And a lot of pressure will be taken off customer support in terms of fielding quick questions and sharing information with other departments.

An AI-managed omnichannel platform does not necessarily replace teams or take away jobs–it helps take pressure off teams and lets people do their jobs.

What makes the perfect omnichannel experience?

In the past, companies would struggle to incentivise customers to use specific channels or touchpoints. In other words, they would ask customers to learn how to integrate into their brand-specific channel. The perfect omnichannel experience turns this model on its head by integrating the brand into whatever channel the customer already prefers to use.

The first step towards creating the perfect omnichannel experience for your brand is to understand your customer. Not just in terms of online or offline behavior, but a deeper understanding of the human beings you serve. As we saw in the retail shopping example, customers are using a plethora of third-party apps as part of their shopping experience, and it’s not just important for brands to understand what to integrate with, why customers enjoy using a given app, so that you can better understand how you can integrate into that app, and in turn, integrate that app into your omnichannel marketing strategy. 

A centralized platform like Architect gives you the ability to connect to a wide variety of commonly used apps. Of course, no single platform can connect to everything right off the bat, but as you grow and understand where your customers are (or where they’re moving to) an omnichannel strategy allows you to focus on building bridges to your platform rather than brand new isolated channels that need to be independently managed.

Building the perfect omnichannel marketing strategy

Once you understand your customer’s needs and have feedback from your teams for how you can optimize your operation, it’s time to fine-tune your strategy. 

  • Build your customer experience plan – get to know the channels your customers are using, how they behave across these channels, and how you can curate an experience that flows. You might try creating a story with a beginning, middle, and end, you might use an existing sales funnel and fine tune it to be more efficient–in any case you want to think about how you can make the customer feel taken care of.
  • Put the data to good use – Behavioral pattern data, online search behavior, and search intent insights can be great identifiers of what customers are looking for and how you can make that information readily available to them within their journey.
  • Individualize each customer’s journey – Think about how you can personalize the experience by giving customers options to choose how and when they would prefer to interact. You can anticipate preferences by categorizing users into different user segments based on certain behavior patterns. This level of micro-segmentation will help you create individualized journeys for each customer segment.
  • Focus on contextualized engagement – The make or break deal of an omnichannel marketing strategy is often getting the context right. When customers get an irrelevant message or a notification at the wrong time, that reflects poorly on your brand and diminishes engagement. This is why it’s so important to have your team behind the automations–nobody will be able to design and fine-tune the timing of certain notifications specific to your brand better than your sales team.
  • Adopt a customer-centric approach – What ultimately sets omnichannel marketing apart is making the customer’s experience, rather than their behavior or data, the center of attention. It transforms the dynamic from transactional to relationship. Customers engaging with a multichannel marketing model may feel like the brand is trying to extract information from them, whereas in an omnichannel model, they feel like the brand is trying to help them.

Omnichannel strategy in action

Jane Doe arrives at a car manufacturer’s website to browse SUVs. The aim of the car manufacturer, AmeriCar, is to make the user move on from browsing to booking a test drive. But for some reason, Jane leaves the website without booking the test drive.

In order to re-engage the customer, AmeriCar needs to reach out to the user strategically, engaging them on the right channel with the right messaging. Any irrelevant communication in this phase can deter Jane from returning to the website.

Thankfully, AmeriCar has partnered with Architect, Insider’s customer journey builder tool. Architect uses predictive segmentation to tailor journeys to your customers in real time, and can also identify touchpoints and drop-offs. 

user journey on different platforms

In Jane’s example, a custom omnichannel journey for the car manufacturer could look something like this:

  • Two hours after Jane dropped off the website, a mobile web push notification is sent to her mobile device reminding Jane of her plan to buy an SUV. Or, if Jane did not have a concrete plan to buy, Architect could provide her with must-read information on what to consider when purchasing a new car.
  • If Jane has still not booked a test-drive, then a second reminder—a desktop web push is sent to her desktop browser reminding her of the option to book a test-drive or having the AmeriCar dealership bring her an SUV for a test-drive.
  • In case Jane still has not booked a test-drive, the third layer of engagement, after waiting for two days, can be built into the journey. This time Jane can be reached on ad channels, such as Facebook ads.

This way, the user receives relevant and timely messaging from the car manufacturer across multiple channels and devices they use. If you’re curious about how you can design and deliver an omnichannel experience to your customers with Architect, feel free to get in touch with our industry experts or request a demo.

increase in conversions samsung
Virgin customer retention

Why Your Brand Needs to Adopt an Omnichannel Strategy Sooner Rather Than Later

Omnichannel marketing strategy gives companies a competitive advantage today, and is likely to become a standard of business and marketing in the near future. And with technology evolving exponentially, nobody is going to want to fall behind the curve.

The aforementioned Harvard Business Review study was conducted from 2015-2016, finding nearly ¾ of the 46,000 participants were already engaging with omnichannel models and spending more because of them. Technology has continued making significant strides since then, and people are using it more than ever. 

The continuing evolution and improvement of platforms like Insider’s Architect are enabling companies to integrate better and better with channels that customers use.

Today, companies still have the opportunity to pioneer omnichannel platform technology, to grow with Insider and create the new standard of customer experience.

Those who don’t will be playing catch-up. The more multichannel marketing channels they build today, the more uprooting of outdated and dysfunctional systems they will have to contend with tomorrow.

In today’s digital world, competition for customer acquisition and retention is higher than ever before. Insider’s platform was built to help brands engage their customers effectively across channels and devices. Insider offers a variety of AI-driven tools that can help your team achieve marketing goals, gather more data, reduce inefficiencies, and free up focus for creating customer experiences like never before. 

Learn more about related concepts

Be sure to subscribe to our blog for tips on how to optimize your strategies and drive growth for your brand.

Nicolas is VP of Marketing EMEA at Insider. Passionate about new technologies and e-commerce, Nicolas has held various position at leading e-commerce and tech companies including Groupon, Microsoft and Bwin.