Guide

Multichannel vs. omnichannel: What is the difference?

Omnichannel

What is multichannel marketing?

Multichannel marketing is a marketing strategy that includes multiple channels. Multichannel marketing encourages engagement within the steps of the shopping experience, building connections between the different channels of your brand. These connections are how your brand then reaches your customers.

For example, a multichannel marketing strategy could include emails reminding customers that they left an item in their shopping cart. Multichannel marketing could also lead to omnichannel marketing, a more holistic approach, which we’ll explore later.

How does multichannel marketing work?

Multichannel marketing works by fostering the connections between the various interactions of your customers. Think about the various ways your customers interact with your brand: in stores, while shopping online, in advertisements during entertainment. These are the places you can begin integrating your multichannel strategy and messaging.

Next, strategize how to make the experience both seamless and engaging for customers, while also efficiently using your time and resources. It’s also important to make sure your multichannel messaging, or the information presented in your marketing campaigns, is not repetitive during the customer experience. The goal is to improve the experience between channels such as social media, streaming ads, and physical stores.

What is omnichannel marketing?

Omnichannel marketing is a strategy that integrates all of your brand’s channels into a holistic experience for customers. Omnichannel marketing covers all touchpoints of the customer experience, beginning at the top of the marketing funnel and continuing all the way through post-purchase activities. It’s a more comprehensive version of multichannel marketing, incorporating all channels in a holistic strategy.

How does omnichannel marketing work?

Omnichannel marketing works differently from multichannel marketing by integrating all channels into your advertising strategy. Since the omnichannel approach is all-encompassing, all omnichannel marketing strategies are also multichannel marketing strategies, but not all multichannel marketing strategies are omnichannel marketing strategies.

Omnichannel marketing doesn’t only include customer-centric content, either. For example, an omnichannel campaign would ensure advertisements are coordinated across social media promotions, banner ads in newsletters, and in-store posters. It can also include automating the process for analytics, performance metrics, and sales measurement too.

What is the difference between multichannel and omnichannel marketing?

The key difference is that multichannel marketing includes a limited selection of content channels, while omnichannel marketing includes all of them. By definition, multichannel means “many channels” and omnichannel means “all channels.” Think of omnichannel marketing as covering your entire customer journey map, but multichannel marketing as narrowing down on a specific point A to point B.

Also, multichannel marketing focuses more on engagement within the different channels, while omnichannel marketing focuses on comprehension and a seamless experience for your customers.

Another aspect to consider is the retail presence of your products. Multichannel retail is the distribution of products in multiple channels: for example, selling goods on a website as well as in a physical store. Omnichannel retail, however, takes it further by considering the needs of customers and reaching them where they are, through all available channels. For instance, that could include integrating ads in at-home streaming experiences, rather than waiting for them to visit a store. Multichannel retail is a straight line from the brand to the customer, whereas the path of omnichannel retail is more fluid or circular.

Choosing between a multichannel and an omnichannel strategy

Your strategy decision should be based on your overall business goals. If you’re seeking to improve specific brand objectives, multichannel strategies could help. Alternatively, if you want to improve the overall customer experience, an omnichannel strategy can help you improve the bigger picture.

Additionally, your choice also depends on your resources. It may be difficult for a smaller brand to launch a fully comprehensive omnichannel strategy, so starting with smaller steps in the multichannel approach is a good way to build momentum over time. It’s not necessary to immediately launch a website, email newsletter, social media, and marketing campaigns all at the same time, for example, and it can be beneficial to initially focus on individual silos and add updates later. In summation, there is not one right answer, nor do you have to choose only one: Multichannel and omnichannel strategies can work in conjunction too.

4 multichannel and omnichannel examples

Advertising opportunities expand across in-person stores, at-home streaming, and a variety of other locales, and advertisers are considering the multichannel or omnichannel approach to help them reach new customers, improve the customer experience, and increase their brand visibility. Here are four examples of effectively combining these approaches.

Girl listening to music on headphone

When Jennifer Lopez wanted to launch a new skin-care line in partnership with Guthy-Renker, they used a multichannel strategy. In doing so, they were able to highlight specific ways to make connections with customers. For example, they used specific, creative ways of reaching customers, including making a custom Store and hosting a livestream with Lopez. The multiple channels they used successfully drew attention to their brand launch.

Vileda ad

When household brand Vileda wanted to grow sales in the Amazon store in Italy, they partnered with digital agency Gruppo DigiTouch and made a multichannel digital strategy. They used a combination of Sponsored Products and Sponsored Brands to improve search visibility and discoverability, while also engaging with customers. By using multiple channels in their digital strategy, they were able to increase sales and impressions for their brand.

Women cutting vegetables

As an example of how to implement an omnichannel strategy, let’s look at grocery brands as a use case. To start, since grocery customers often mix both online and in-person shopping, it’s beneficial to use an omnichannel strategy to make sure their experience is seamless.1 Next, this should also include a connected home strategy, to ensure ads are reaching customers where they are. Finally, it’s important to measure the performance analytics of your strategy, to find both overperforming areas and where there’s room for improvement.

Women applying lotion

L'Oréal used Amazon Marketing Cloud (AMC) to implement an omnichannel strategy and improve their frequency capping and reach customers along their nonlinear shopping journeys. They also made sure to analyze their campaigns and compare touchpoints to ensure they were putting their resources in the optimal places. By creating an omnichannel strategy, L’Oréal was able reach relevant audiences with the right ads, and improve the experience both for their customers and their brand.

1 PowerReviews, N=7,916, US, 2021