Many people see the terms ‘omnichannel’ and ‘multichannel’ and assume they’re the same thing. After all, they both use several channels for businesses to communicate to their customers. However, despite some similarities - there are distinct differences. Let’s define the two:
- Multichannel – multichannel focuses on the company and the delivery of key company messaging to its customers through as many different channels as possible. However, they aren’t connected, meaning each channel functions individually
- Omnichannel – omnichannel has a key focus on the customer. It aims to create a solid relationship between customer and business by connecting the multiple channels and providing a much more personalised customer experience
We’ve identified some key areas to break down the differences in more detail:
- Siloed vs integrated
- Customer engagement vs customer experience
- Customer focused vs channel focused
- Quality vs quantity
1) Siloed vs integrated
As mentioned above, both multichannel and omnichannel sell across multiple channels. The key difference, however, is integration. In a multichannel approach, the channels are siloed with no integration. Take a TV advert for example, it isn’t directly connected to your company website or social media pages – it’s an entirely siloed channel, with its own objective to push out brand awareness.
Whereas an omnichannel approach, while still involving multiple channels, has integration between them. This helps create a seamless experience for your customer, allowing them to pick up from where they left off on any channel. For example, your customer may have left an item in their basket on your app. A different channel (e.g. email) would then send a checkout reminder about the item.
2) Customer engagement vs customer experience
Multichannel aims to cast the net as wide as possible, using as many channels as possible to create brand awareness. For example, a multichannel approach could be a billboard communicating a certain message. The customer will now have to use a different channel to act on that message and may have to spend time finding it.
On the other hand, an omnichannel approach would provide levels of personalisation that multichannel cannot. For example, that same billboard may have a QR code directly sending the customer to the correct URL for that offer/message. This higher level of integration provides a more seamless customer experience.
3) Channel focused vs customer focused
With multichannel marketing’s focus on maximising the number of channels used to promote your brand, it means customers have much greater choice on how they want to engage with your business.
For example, in retail, a multichannel approach involves many different channels such as:
- Digital marketing (SEO, paid channels, website)
- TV and radio adverts
- Social media
For omnichannel, the customer – as opposed to the channel – is the focus. The omnichannel approach aims to make the customer journey as smooth as possible as people move between different touchpoints.
Using the same retail example as above, an omnichannel focus would likely involve only half of these channels (such as a website, email and social media). However, all of these would be connected so your customers could easily change from one to the other and continue with their same journey, at the same stage of their journey.
4) Quantity vs quality
Multichannel is great for increasing the number of channels your company is on, however these channels aren’t linked. That means your customers will have to start over every time they switch from one channel to the other. This breaks up the customer journey and creates a stop-start experience.
Omnichannel however, focuses on the quality of the journey your customer takes. Every step is aligned and personalised to create maximum convenience. For example, if your customer has a simple query, it can be easily solved via live chat without them needing to provide further security details, as they’re already logged into the account they have with your business.
This process would be the same via a different channel such as a webpage, to ensure consistency and convenience. If you were to switch channels mid query, you could carry on as if you were still using the same channel.
Multichannel vs omnichannel - what's best?
More companies are adopting omnichannel than ever before. That’s because customers nowadays expect a seamless, personalised customer experience from start to finish. It’s much more difficult to offer this across a multichannel platform as there are often style and tone of voice inconsistencies across platforms, miscommunication between channels and customers becoming more frustrated having to use multiple channels.
The more enjoyable the customer journey, the better. Therefore, it seems an omnichannel approach is now the way to go.
You should, of course, still look to increase the number of channels you use to communicate with your preferred customers. However, any new channel shouldn’t be considered if it means sacrificing the quality of your customer experience.
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