Complete Guide to Multichannel, Cross-Channel & Omnichannel Marketing
As we become more of an interconnected society, the marketing world has had to adapt to new forms of communication. Today, 98% of users in the United States switch between devices each day. The bottom line is that people use multiple channels to connect, network, browse, and buy.
Our technology-enhanced world continues to transform marketing, as the internet, new customer data, and the dominance of social media, offers ever-more complex methods for customer engagement and retention. This requires concentrating on three effective marketing approaches that have proven successful. Those are: multichannel, cross-channel, and omnichannel. Each marketing strategy has distinct advantages and disadvantages, but they are all able to reach people at some point in a customer journey.
Although all of these multichannel approaches utilize several different channels to communicate with an audience, how they do it is really what creates the difference. In this article, we’ll look at what the definition is for each marketing approach, prime examples, and how you can choose the best fit for your business.
What is Multichannel Marketing?
Multichannel marketing is just as it sounds—it’s a technique that uses multiple channels (touchpoints) to reach customers. This can include digital channels, like your website, social media, email, webinars, apps, and GPS. Or, it can be represented by offline channels, like direct mail, print advertising, events, and in-store (physical store) experiences. Using a variety of these channels can help raise brand awareness and offer potential and existing customers new ways to connect.
By nature, multichannel marketing is highly brand-focused. Each channel is targeted with a specific objective or campaign. That means that even though the strategy promotes using these channels in unison, they are often disconnected in messaging. Each channel is separate and acts independently.
For example, a business might use a single channel to build brand awareness with prospects, while using another to focus on selling to existing customers. That means consumers cannot easily switch from an in-person task to online browsing, while maintaining a consistent brand experience.
In this way, channels in multi-channel marketing are in competition with each other, and customers must essentially choose which channel they want to follow. This is the more popular strategy for building strong partner relationships because each marketer has their own channel to run.
What is Cross-Channel Marketing?
Similar to multichannel marketing, cross-channel marketing takes advantage of multiple channels. However, the key difference is that cross-channel campaigns are more customer-oriented and focus on creating a better user experience. Customers can technically “cross over” between channels, improving brand engagement and creating a more user-friendly journey. Companies can then track consumer behavior (like shopping habits) to build buyer personas and market accordingly.
The cross-channel approach is the next level up from multichannel marketing. Different channels are recording and sharing information and key metrics. Although it’s enough for brands to connect online channels, cross-channel marketing strategies can get tricky when trying to bridge the gap between offline and online. Not all companies have mastered this format. That’s where omnichannel marketing comes in.
What is Omni-Channel Marketing?
The most sophisticated of the three digital marketing strategies, omnichannel marketing focuses on creating an end-to-end, seamless experience for your entire audience (prospects and customers alike). The channels are all related, much like cross-channel marketing, but omnichannel takes it a step further by interconnecting the platforms and creating an interactive journey. This maximizes engagement and essentially breaks through the wall between offline and online worlds.
The primary goal of omnichannel marketing is to remove all barriers and silos in a customer journey. This happens when all channels involved in the marketing campaign exchange data in real time, working together to create a comprehensive and unified experience across the entire map.
10 Examples of Marketing Strategies in Action
Sometimes, the best way to understand these modern marketing concepts is to see them in action. The following are some basic examples of how these workflows operate and what you can expect from each strategy:
Any campaign that involves more than one marketing channel can be considered a multichannel strategy. Here are a few examples:
#1) Advertise in-game promotions via SMS push notifications and also send in-app messages.
#2) Post on Twitter through a mobile phone and send an abandoned shopping cart reminder via email marketing.
#3) Reseller channel runs a Google ad and the brand runs a Facebook ad.
#4) Customer looks up a shirt online (consideration stage) and then later downloads and buys through the mobile app (decision stage).
In the last example, there is no record of the customer’s online activity prior to purchase. This demonstrates the disconnect in the multichannel strategy and why collecting information between the two channels in action is so hard. In these examples, the customer is “starting over” on each channel, rather than on a fluid journey from one to the next.
In cross-channel marketing, the customer experience spans several different channels. Cross-channel messaging campaigns, for example, are controlled by a single campaign flow; triggered by an initial customer action. Here are a few examples:
#5) A call-to-action triggers an event in a branded mobile app. Marketing automation enters the customer into a message campaign, which is continued via email or push notifications.
#6) You watch a movie in a media app. Data is collected on your preferences. The marketing team then pings you with similar genres via email or pricing add-ons based on behavioral data.
#7) A customer finds a pair of pants on a brand’s ecommerce website. They try the same product on in-store but can’t find the right size. They then download the app at home and finalize the purchase with the right size.
#8) A retail app collects user behavior data and uses that, combined with any purchase history, to make recommendations for future purchases via SMS and email campaigns.
Cross-channel marketing often involves consolidating data and analytics to develop a more holistic view of your audience. You can gather information from several different channels and store it in a single dataset. This is useful for planning future campaigns based on past performance.
Running a successful partner program typically involves an effective omnichannel marketing approach. Here are two examples of omnichannel strategies where you can clearly see that the experience is seamless:
#9) A buyer purchases a pair of winter boots in-store and signs up for the membership club with her email address at checkout. She then receives a “thank you” email with a coupon and unique member code. When she visits the website, she can now log in to a personalized dashboard that has a record of her purchases and can make recommendations based on preferences. She then requests the store pull two pairs of recommended pants to “try before you buy” in-store. The buyer then visits the store and purchases one of the pairs of pants using the coupon she received via email.
#10) Makeup company Shiseido allows customers to use two different channels at the same time by offering the in-store “Shiseido Makeup Mirror.” This puts a customer’s face onto a tablet in the store and allows them to virtually try on makeup before making a commitment. The customer can then make their decisions on the spot and purchase items before leaving the store, or, they can take pictures and save them for buying online later.
The two examples above are what happens when you marry the online and offline worlds into a single experience. Thus, the importance of running omnichannel campaigns in modern marketing strategies.
The ultimate goal is to mesh all your channels together and create a single, unified experience for prospects and existing customers. The closer you can get to omnichannel marketing each time, the more engaged buyers will be. It’s important to note some of the key differences between multichannel marketing and cross-channel marketing, which can include:
Multichannel vs Cross-Channel
- Disconnected channels vs connected channels
- Brand-centered vs customer-centered
- Static vs highly interactive
- Broader market coverage vs data-driven campaigns
Multichannel marketing is also used as an umbrella term that captures all marketing channels, including cross-channel and omnichannel marketing. This makes them both a distinct subset of multichannel marketing (but still not the same).
No matter which strategy you choose, you are likely to need help implementing all of this work. This is the time to get started with a reseller program. Once you have a team of affiliates helping you drive sales, omnichannel marketing will become a much easier task.
And that starts with a tool like Relevize; it’s an intelligent platform that automates sales enablement and makes it easier for your partners to sell. Seamlessly onboard partners, launch paid campaigns, measure and nurture new leads—Relevize is everything you need to turn your partners into your top-scoring revenue channel. Find out more about how it works!