Omnichannel vs Multichannel Marketing: Important Differences

Multichannel and omnichannel are two very different marketing approaches. We dive into the differences to inform the best strategy for your business.

Spreading marketing dollars across multiple channels is a standard strategy for small businesses. After all, you can't effectively reach your audience unless you spend time in the same spots they do (both online and off).

In addition to using more than one outreach avenue, you should also consider whether an omnichannel or multichannel strategy best benefits your business. Both of these common tactics rely on more than one marketing channel for your message, but each has a distinct focus and goals. 


What Is Omnichannel? 

Omnichannel marketing focuses on optimizing the customer experience and providing high-level support for your customers’ needs, questions and concerns. If you use an omnichannel strategy, your audience will receive consistent information about your brand and your products, no matter where they connect with your company. 

Customers can make purchases directly from their social media feeds, mobile devices, desktop computers, and physical locations, while receiving the same level of service and engagement. What's more, viewers can pick up where they left off with your brand in each separate channel for an integrated experience. 

It may help to view the various channels in an omnichannel strategy as a Venn diagram. They overlap one another and work together.

To succeed in the omnichannel space, your brand needs to understand why customers use certain channels at each part of the marketing funnel. For example, they might research your products through your website, then look for reviews from others on social media feeds. 

An omnichannel strategy is designed to blur and even eliminate the boundaries between various channels so you can connect with your audience effectively anywhere.

Pros and Cons of Omnichannel Marketing

Your brand may notice these advantages of adopting an omnichannel marketing strategy:

  • Enhanced customer trust. Audiences tend to trust brands that show consistency across platforms. They're also more likely to buy (and buy again) from businesses that earn this trust, improving brand loyalty. 
  • Outstanding user experience. Customers are less likely to buy from companies that don't pay attention to the details when it comes to cross-platform connection. 
  • Higher conversion and sales rates. If you can dedicate the resources to this strategy, you can potentially see exponentially increasing profits.

On the other hand, omnichannel marketing can be costly to execute effectively. You'll need to earmark substantial time, money, and effort to make it work for your brand.

What Is Multichannel?

Multichannel marketing centers on customer engagement, with focus on connecting with the audience through multiple channels (display ads, email marketing, social media, print, TV, outreach, and other avenues). 

Multichannel strategy uses separate campaigns for each channel rather than an integrated approach. That means you may transmit a different message with distinct style and content for each channel depending on who you want to reach. Instead of a Venn diagram, it operates more like a wheel. Each channel stands for a separate spoke. They have a common goal, but never meet. 

Pros and Cons of Multichannel Marketing

You may see higher sales with a multichannel marketing strategy compared to available omnichannel revenue. In general, increasing the number of channels results in more conversions. It's also a flexible approach that can grow with your company, while an omnichannel strategy requires a significant upfront investment.

On the other hand, you may see a higher bounce rate with a multichannel strategy, meaning that fewer website visitors convert to customers. For example, a shopper may get frustrated if they browsed for the perfect item and added it to their cart on their laptop, only to find an empty cart and new log-in process when they try to take the transaction to the app. 

Omnichannel vs. Multichannel: The Main Differences

Consider these key differences between multichannel and omnichannel marketing:

  • Focus: Multichannel marketing strives to attract and engage customers while omnichannel marketing strategies are designed to give your audience a targeted, personalized experience. 
  • Number of channels: While both strategies use multiple channels, omnichannel strategies focus on the quality of the experience on fewer platforms while multichannel methods tend to cast a wider net.
  • Flexibility: Omnichannel strategies constantly adapt to customer behavior, while multichannel tactics remain fairly static. 
  • Interactivity: The channels in an omnichannel strategy work together. In a multichannel approach, they operate independently of one another.

Omnichannel vs. Multichannel: Which Is Right for Your Business?

While many businesses can benefit from an omnichannel strategy, it's easier to integrate your communication channels when starting from scratch. In comparison, it can be expensive to implement this approach if you have a brick-and-mortar business with an ecommerce element or a brand with a solid multichannel approach already in place. 

To succeed with an omnichannel strategy, you'll need to be ready to pivot when things don't go as planned. This tactic requires the flexibility to meet the customer where they are in the buying cycle without missing a beat. If you succeed, however, you can potentially maximize sales in each of your chosen channels.

It's also important to consider the resources you can dedicate to building out a true omnichannel strategy. You'll need to clarify the user experience and ensure consistency across channels, as well as invest in the IT infrastructure to make it happen. Ecommerce expertise is essential to succeed in this space.

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The Bottom Line 

Omnichannel and multichannel marketing strategies both leverage multiple channels of communication to connect with customers, but each approach has a distinct focus. The right choice for your company depends on factors from your existing marketing infrastructure to the resources you have on hand to create an engaging vision for your audience. 

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What's the main difference between omnichannel and multichannel?

Primary focus is the main difference between omnichannel and multichannel marketing strategies. Omnichannel strategies focus on the customer experience and level of support offered across platforms. Multichannel marketing strategies involve reaching potential customers through as many channels as possible without integration among channels.

What is an example of omnichannel?

Sephora's Beauty Insider program is a prime example of a successful omnichannel strategy. The cosmetics retailer connects with its customers through this program, which allows them to earn reward points for purchases along with loyalty bonuses and special promotions. At the same time, Sephora gathers valuable data about its market's buying behavior and preferences.

Is Amazon omnichannel or multichannel?

Amazon offers an omnichannel customer experience. You access the same branding and messaging whether you shop on the Amazon website, visit a physical location, or pull up the app on your phone. These channels seamlessly connect with one another so customers can engage with the brand exactly where they left off no matter how they log on.

Is Apple omnichannel or multichannel?

Apple provides omnichannel marketing and sales through its website, social media channels, phone lines, and in-person retail stores. You can interact with the brand through all these spaces without missing a beat, with an integrated array of options such as accessing photos and files through iCloud and shopping for apps and media on the iTunes store.

Meet the author
Andrea Miller
Andrea Miller has been a writer and editor for more than two decades. Specializing in business and finance, she has written for some of the major websites in the financial sector. Outside of work, she spends most of her time with her family and enjoys hiking, yoga, and reading.
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