The surge in modern technology coupled with new marketing strategies, brings a new wave of marketing jargon that every marketer has to get acquainted with and adapt accordingly.
Today, people consume information via various screens and devices. The early 2000s used to be so comfortable, right? Online information and media consumption wasn’t so scattered. Desktop was our only way to the world wide web and all the information was available on a single window.
That’s not the case anymore, thanks to the revolution of smart devices that started with Apple’s launch of the iPhone. The world rapidly grew into a more digitally-connected place. It’s astonishing to think about the number of devices that are now used to connect people with the world of information(I mean the internet).
Today there are plethora of devices — smartphones, tablets, wearables, smart TVs, etc., — and it’s just the start. Tech giants are experimenting with even more realistic tech. Things like AI based personal assistants are now showing up at everyone’s home (Think Google Home and Amazon Echo). Augmented reality based wearable like HoloLens by Microsoft allows you to discover things around the world without leaving the comfort of your home. The modern world is getting scattered when it comes to consumption of information.
This begs the question: How does a digital marketer utilize the communication channels that these devices bring with them and provide the right information to the consumer at the right time? Or, how does a top brand approach a world where there is no scarcity of devices to access information on the go? A world where every device has equal importance, and missing even a single device might lead to losing a huge chunk of potential customers.
And this is when two wildly popular marketing tactics comes to our mind, Omnichannel marketing and multichannel marketing. Let’s take a look at how these tactics are tackling this complex problem.
The Multichannel Marketing Approach
To counter the growing diversity of media consumption, marketers came out with a multichannel approach.
Multichannel marketing refers to the practice of interacting with customers using a combination of direct and indirect communication channels like the website, mobile app, email, offline advertisements, etc. This enables the user to take action (preferably to buy your product or use your service) accordingly via any of the channels.
Omnichannel Marketing Approach
Omnichannel marketing is a cohesive partnership between all engagement channels, where information is served based on data-driven decisions. This approach also utilizes all available channels, but in a smarter way, to interact with the user.
Omnichannel marketing utilizes user data like demographics, location, user activity, user behavior to serve information via the right medium or channel to the user.
Wait a minute, isn’t that what Multichannel marketing is?
The multichannel approach is considered to be the idea behind the origination of omnichannel marketing. Omnichannel marketing also utilizes various channels and so does the former one.
All this confusion lead many marketers to think that multichannel marketing and omnichannel marketing are the same things.
But, most people miss the stark difference between them. Let an example help you out here:
Let’s say, you just launched a new product and you want to promote it to your users.
Using multichannel approach one would spread the word across all channels regardless of the user’s activity level on each and every channel. So in theory, the user will receive the same information, on their mobile app, email, desktop app and so forth.
This is a jarring user experience, as the user might have already checked the new release via his or her mobile device and there is no use of sending the same message to their mailbox. A user will find it repetitive and counter-intuitive.
On the other hand, the Omnichannel approach will provide the same information to the user on the device he or she is most active on. A smarter omnichannel system takes it a level further, by optimizing the delivery time window, so that the user receives the message when they are using their phone. Hence, increasing the chances of message discovery and user engagement.
Here is a simple example:
If you’re a mobile first user of a product, then you’ll get a push notification about the product release first. If the push notification doesn’t engage the user, then the omnichannel system will notice it and trigger an email to your account in order to increase the chances of engaging the user.
Multichannel marketing tries to implement a seamless experience for your customers whereas Omnichannel marketing truly provides a seamless experience to your customers.
To put things into perspective – Multichannel approach was born in the year 2004 and Omnichannel approach came into existence 9 years later, in 2013. These are times when Google started seeing a sharp increase in search for these keywords.
It is the very period when Google’s Android phones and Apple’s iPhone were becoming mainstream mobiles in the market.
The need for an omnichannel experience
The omnichannel approach came into existence to tackle the inefficiency of multichannel marketing, which was based on the idea — the larger the net, the more fish you catch.
And therefore, Omnichannel marketing today is considered to be one of the breakthrough marketing tactics. It enables us to reach a user at the right time, with the right information on the right channel. It provides a seamless experience as I mentioned above.
Today, most stores and brands whose mode of revenue is offline are also augmenting their efforts towards an online approach. The reason behind such a transition is the changing mindset of a modern consumer.
One of the best ways to explain what I said above would be referring to what folks at UX magazine said:
“When customers call your company, they don’t view your support channels separately; to them, everything is managed as a whole, not a bunch of different departments. And they’re not wrong to view the customer experience this way—91% of customers want to pick up where they left off when they switch between channels.”
A simple example would be how seamless a purchase experience is on Amazon.
Last week when I decided to buy a Playstation 4 Pro for myself. I was at my office desk at that moment and decided to buy one via their website. I went ahead and added the PS4 Pro to my cart. And like any average consumer, the “price is too high” syndrome hit me. I started searching for a better deal, and as a result I totally forgot about going back to Amazon.
3 hours later, after going through 24 websites and over 40 listings, I was not able to find a cheaper deal. It was already past office hours, so I decided to make the purchase through Amazon later on.
Once I was home, I realized I left my laptop at the office. So I picked up my smartphone to resume the purchase.
Due to a smart omnichannel implementation on Amazon, I quickly opened their mobile app, opened my cart which is synced across multiple devices, and made the purchase. A few taps and the PlayStation arrived the next day.
The takeaway here is that, the smart yet simple omnichannel experience that Amazon delivered. Amazon knew that its users have a habit of continuing a purchase cycle via multiple devices and that’s how they decided that all the user activity should be synced across all their applications, whether it’s their mobile application or website. Even if I would have decided against buying the console, Amazon’s omnichannel marketing engine, would trigger an app based notification on my cellphone to reduce their cart-abandonment rates.
Key Differences – Omnichannel Marketing vs Multichannel Marketing
Customer First, Channel Second
The biggest drawback of multi-channel also used to be it’s the greatest strength before omnichannel engagement came into the picture.
Multichannel marketing targets all the channels available to engage with the user. Marketers thought that if they could leave no channel unexplored, engagement is bound to jump by leaps and bounds, and that is crux of multichannel marketing.
In contrast, the omnichannel approach intertwines all the channels together with cross compatibility. The channels engage with users holistically to ensure they have a wonderful experience. Consider the example about Amazon I gave in the previous section. The omnichannel approach is an understanding that the customer comes first and the channel second, the message has to be conveyed to the user regardless of the channel without compromising on their experience.
User A might be a mobile first user and therefore he’ll get a notification about a sale on his mobile and User B, being an email first user, will get her promo on her email first. This is what Omnichannel does, it unites all the channel together to serve information to the user, where they are most likely to consume it.
The omnichannel approach focuses on providing every user a unified experience on any of their channels. A relatively similar experience on any device of your choice ensures that you have a consistent brand image and familiarity with your customers.
Whereas in a multichannel approach a marketer is bound to have higher complexity in terms of customer communication because of the sheer diversity of the channels and collateral. Maintaining consistent messaging across all channels becomes tedious, as all channels have to utilized regardless of their activity levels.
This brings me to the next implication.
Omnichannel approach’s implementation is intuitive in nature compared to multichannel.
One has to blatantly exploit all the channels for the very same message when it comes to multichannel, whereas the OC approach uses a single message and selects the channel to target a user, based on data gathered from the user’s behavior. A smarter omnichannel engine automatically gathers the information on its own and smartly tailors the message to maintain cross-channel brand image and messaging. Therefore lowering the chances of manual intervention compared to older multichannel approach.
This leads to simpler understanding from a marketer’s perspective, less data clutter and higher cost effectiveness.
When it comes to omnichannel marketing vs multichannel marketing, omnichannel wins hands down. It’s not a buzzword or a new marketing Jargon ( Yes, growth hacking, I am looking at you). It’s a way to provide your users the best possible experience
Omnichannel finally helps us to tackle the 3R’s of marketing — right information at the right time to the right user. All these experiences are achieved thanks to the huge pool of data gathering prowess that machine learning and AI brought with them.
Pro-tip: Omnichannel marketing is still nascent in the industry, so if you board the train earlier you might be in for a massive head start. Learn more about Omnichannel marketing and user engagement.