Omnichannel or Multichannel: What’s the Difference?

Contrary to what many people think, it’s less about technology than it might seem.

Not too long ago, channels were thought of as the TV, Radio or Cable channels one chose for entertainment and/or selling products and services via advertising. But our hyper-digital environment has now transported us into the new worlds of Omnichannel and Multichannel.

As the Internet evolved, consumers began to enjoy new ways of shopping, finding information and communicating. Our purchase decisions were swayed by consumer reports, word of mouth, reviews and more. We no longer had to rely on just local businesses to give us what we want. It enabled us to browse, search, research and buy online.

Then smart devices emerged (and continue to) in a myriad of form factors, giving consumers multiple options for shopping or information gathering. More options. More opportunities. More ways to engage — and the challenge of keeping all of these interactions consistent across multiple channels. This is the ongoing challenge of Multichannel Marketing: to ensure the consumer has a seamless experience.

So if your focus is on maximizing the performance of each channel — physical, phone, web, mobile – you have a Multichannel strategy. Each channel has its own reporting and revenue structure.

An Omnichannel approach, on the other hand, puts the customer at the center of its strategy, not corporate silos. It recognizes that consumers engage with companies or brands in many different ways across multiple platforms.

Think of Multichannel as an inside-out approach and Omnichannel as outside-in. Omnichannel views the world as a customer would see it: online access, a physical store, a call center, availability to these across many platforms, multiple touch-points to provide a consistent customer message and experience.

While companies using Multichannel, such as social media, web, email and such engage their customers by implementing two or more channels, they are not necessarily focused on delivering the customer-centric, seamless experience consumers have come to expect.

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