The difference between omnichannel and multichannel marketing

Omnichannel and multichannel marketing—the terms are interchangeable, right? Wrong. It’s easy to confuse omnichannel marketing with multichannel marketing at the moment. Both are hot ticket, buzzworthy marketing trends that every marketer is trying to convince their boss to use. But the two are not synonymous with one another. In fact, a quick lesson in Ancient Latin tells you that the two can’t be the same thing because they don’t mean the same thing: “omni” comes from the Latin “ominus,” which means “all,” whereas “multi” means “many.”

So, what is the difference between omnichannel and multichannel marketing? And how can knowing this difference help you? Let us answer those questions.

What is omnichannel marketing?

From our mini Latin lesson, you know that “omni” means “all.” Omnichannel marketing is therefore marketing to all channels. Specifically, omnichannel marketing refers to reaching the consumer seamlessly throughout the entire customer journey, across all channels. These channels can be owned, third-party, online, or offline.

Omnichannel marketing presumes that a consumer is using any and all channels simultaneously. For example, a customer or potential customer may browse online product reviews while he or she is in-store and then switch over to the email campaign that attracted them to the physical location in the first place. Because the consumer is using all channels at any given time, marketers prepare customer touch points both online and off—such as blogs, e-books, email campaigns, apps, infographics, print advertising, signs, catalogues, direct mail, in-store branding, etc.

In the past, marketers used a racetrack to reach their customers. With omnichannel marketing, it’s more like a spider web of interconnecting channels, devices, and journeys.

What is multichannel marketing?

Multichannel marketing refers to the implementation of a single strategy across two or more channels to reach and engage with as many potential customers as possible. The idea is to adopt two or more channels—like a newsletter and a blog, social media and print ads, or product packaging and a retail location offline—as part of a campaign to promote your content.

Multichannel marketing has been the trend for decades, since it focuses on campaigns. In recent years, it has expanded significantly when more channels opened up to marketers with Web 2.0. Thanks to social media, marketers can engage with and reach more consumers than ever before. In content marketing specifically, a multichannel approach has become the standard as brands share the same messaging across multiple channels for maximum impact.

What does omnichannel vs. multichannel content look like?

“You know it when you see it.” That might sound like an evasive answer, but it is very easy to identify omnichannel content from multichannel content if you think of it like this: omnichannel is a mindset and multichannel is a tactic.

Omnichannel marketing uses a holistic content strategy where every piece of content—whether it is online or offline, and whether it is on an owned or third-party channel—is consistent in its design, messaging, goals, and objectives to create a cohesive consumer experience. Omnichannel marketing wants to deliver consistency across all channels. It’s an upscaled version of brand management.

A great example of omnichannel marketing is Starbucks. Starbucks’ retail locations are almost always identical to one another whether you visit a location in Seattle, Washington, in a tiny town in Pennsylvania, or even in a different country. And its content follows suit. The branding, the design, and the messaging is consistent across its website, apps, blogs, and social media pages. Its reward app is the pinnacle example. You can use the card in-store, on the app, or on the website to make a purchase, check your balance, or reload the card. And from these channels, Starbucks links out to its other content, like its partnership with Spotify or its 1912 blog.

Corporate brands are not the only ones who are successful at omnichannel marketing, but omnichannel content tends to work better for brands who are more adept at content marketing. The more experience a brand has with delivering consistent, high-quality content, the more likely the brand is to succeed with omnichannel marketing.

If omnichannel marketing’s goal is consistency, multichannel marketing’s goal is engagement. Multichannel content uses an audience-segmented content strategy to reach a specific audience on a specific channel with the same fundamental message. It is more campaign-focused than anything else, though it does adhere to overall branding rules.

Who uses multichannel marketing well? Tons of brands. Think of the automotive industry. Manufacturers release campaigns very frequently and are known to experiment with various channels to reach the right audience, from local print and radio ads to national TV spots to targeted Facebook ads. Though brands in the auto industry offer consistency in their messaging and branding, they need to rely on multichannel marketing and campaigns. Since they are so product-driven, the ultimate goal is not to create a seamless customer experience, but to reach the biggest audience as possible for each new campaign.

Neither omnichannel nor multichannel marketing is necessarily better than the other, nor are the two necessarily mutually exclusive. In fact, many brands utilize omnichannel and multichannel marketing across their channels. A brand that regularly uses omnichannel marketing across their online and offline channels may also use a multichannel marketing campaign to promote a new product.

The important thing for any brand to master—whether your brand leans toward omnichannel or multichannel marketing—is content. With great content under your belt, you can devise an omnichannel or multichannel marketing strategy that fits your needs and your brand. Get in touch with Quietly today.

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