Omnichannel vs. Multichannel Marketing

11 Jan 2022
5 min read

Marketing a business is about selling an idea more than a single product. Customers don’t just buy a product, but a service that offers them merchandise that they want, support to make purchases or returns easy, and validation that they have bought from someone who appreciates their business and stands behind their product.

To sell this idea, do you want your systems to work in cohesion, or do you want the flexibility to support multiple retail channels differently?

We will define what omnichannel and multichannel marketing means with some key differences and then dive into how to decide which one is right for your business. By the end, you will understand the benefits of both approaches and that either one is better than none.  

Why Use Different Channels in Digital Marketing?

Multichannel and omnichannel, in a sense, are saying the same thing. The prefix “omni-” means all, while “multi-” means many.

Both strategies tell you that you need multiple avenues for your business. Whether brick-and-mortar stores, eCommerce, social media pages, or mail, it does not matter; more channels equals more sales.

These blanket terms can refer to your sales, marketing, or even just how a single website functions. No matter how we use the word, we know that all retailers will work more effectively when operating with multiple channels.

73% of consumers shop on multiple channels when buying with a retailer. Customers who shop on various channels also spend more, on average, 9% more.

51% of companies use eight or more channels to engage customers. They do this not just to try and corner the market but because it is a requirement if you even want to get your business’ foot in the door.

Whatever your business is, incorporating more than one way for your customers to find and shop with you is essential and is growing. Now that we have established the importance of having several channels for your business, let’s understand the difference between multichannel and omnichannel marketing.

What Is the Multichannel Strategy?

If a business has one retail store, it is a single-channel business. If it operates a website for online sales and has a physical location, it becomes multichannel.

The same applies to its marketing stream. If that business is advertised in a newspaper, it is less efficient than having several advertising methods to increase your customer touchpoints.

Multichannel marketing centers on the business and works outward. It assumes that each arm of the company can operate independently to help the brand achieve its means. Every retail channel can exist as its own entity that feeds back to the core business.

Marketing strategies for multichannel marketing would revolve around creating unique ads for each platform. One retail channel might focus on providing paper coupons, while another has television ads.

They can work together but are not necessarily in sync or cohesive; they act as a wide swath of touchpoints. Either way, they want to get as much out there to the customer as possible to boost sales so that every entity will notify customers of new deals, products, and opportunities.

Who Uses Multichannel Marketing?

An excellent multichannel retail store would be McDonald's. In the past, consider how a group of ads might blanket the consumer and how each store is an independent entity that can issue its own coupons. They all exist independently but serve to spread the brand no matter how they choose.

Apple also takes advantage of multichannel marketing. Their stores are touchpoints for their eCommerce channel, which handles most of their business. The storefront operates independently and sells products but serves the interests of the corporate entity.

Meanwhile, Apple services all aim to promote the brand and give users a reason to interact with the company, increasing customer loyalty and customer retention in the long run.

Defining Omnichannel Marketing

Omnichannel marketing still uses multiple channels. Because of this, it can initially seem confusing what the real difference is between it and multichannel.

But the key takeaway with omnichannel marketing is that the customer journey is the central point of all marketing emanating, instead of the business.

What this means is that the omnichannel experience is seamless. The customer can shop for the same services or products from anywhere, any sales channel, and the experience is the same no matter which platform they choose.

An omnichannel business wants the customer experience to be seamless no matter where the customer interactions occur.

This means that if a customer starts an order on a smartphone app, it will be there if they visit a new channel: the website. The customer data they save online will be readily available in the online store under a customer profile.

Switching Digital Channels

There will be no frustration in switching digital channels because they are all interconnected. Omnichannel retail stores are connected, and if they have an eCommerce presence, they will be linked as if a customer is getting the same user experience regardless of their shopping preference.

In omnichannel marketing, ads are tailored to the individual. Teams are updated to ensure that no single channel provides a disparate message. Customers will receive the same content regardless of where they receive their marketing.

Examples of the Omnichannel eCommerce Marketing Approach in Action

Amazon takes the omnichannel approach in its marketing efforts. When customers engage with Amazon, their information is stored across every branch of the company. Your transactions are saved if you buy a product in an offline store or online. You can view them whenever you like from the website or an app.

Users can also purchase from Amazon through any means. They can buy physically, online, and even use their phone for ordering. Through their streaming service, they offer users the ability to purchase channel subscriptions to other services, providing more ease of use.

All of their services are also tightly wound into their Prime membership program. They provide their members with a fully integrated membership that unlocks other functionality.

Look at how Amazon incorporates its Prime membership into its physical stores to offer buyers discounts. You will see how an omnichannel strategy can ease the customer shopping experience.

Advantages and Disadvantages of a Multichannel Approach

Multichannel marketing is the basis for many businesses for a reason. Let’s look at the advantages of using multichannel business and marketing strategies.

  • Affordable: multichannel marketing is a good baseline for a company that does not have the resources or capabilities to implement an omnichannel system.
  • Ease of Use: Implementing a multichannel marketing strategy is less complicated since teams do not need to be constantly updated.
  • Flexible: because each channel operates independently, businesses can shift as needed to focus on more viable strategies or shore up flagging ones.
  • Customer Experience: the consumer receives a less tailored experience, often leading to service confusion.
  • No Team Experience: since each channel operates on its own, in many ways, it can seem like a failing avenue might be left to die rather than be supported.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Implementing Omnichannel Approaches

Omnichannel has distinct advantages over multichannel marketing but is not without its faults.

  • Cohesion: as we have said, omnichannel strategies make your business work like one well-oiled machine, each operation a cog.
  • Customer Centric: because of its cohesion, the customer experience is superior with an omnichannel strategy.
  • Superior Customer Service: with all consumer channels operating together, customers can receive help from one person and pick up where they left off with another. 86% of customers find these seamless transitions necessary.
  • Increased Customer Engagement: the seamless nature of an omnichannel platform means customers are more inclined to further their interactions with that brand.
  • Expensive: implementing an omnichannel marketing strategy requires a significant amount of money to be successful. Compared with multichannel marketing efforts, pricing for omnichannel strategies can be steeper.
  • Resource Intensive: in addition to money, omnichannel strategies rely on the investment of human resources. Teams must stay coordinated to ensure high levels of cohesion from an omnichannel strategy.

Making a Final Choice

These two marketing strategies are pivotal to improving your business. Simply advertising on one platform will never be enough to grow your conversions.

Remember that you have to reach an audience, and since you can never guarantee that just seeing your ad will be effective, you must cast a broad net to get as many eyes as possible.

How you get that attention is the difference between omnichannel and multichannel.

An omnichannel approach is highly advantageous, especially to an eCommerce retailer, and cannot be recommended enough if you want to improve your customer experience. Still, along with many other factors, it is not the only option.

However, an omnichannel marketing strategy does not favor every business. Consider the pros and cons carefully and decide which is right for you. Whatever your choice, get your business out there, and do not settle for a single-channel approach.

How Illumix Can Help

Considering technological advancements can help in both omnichannel and multichannel marketing for retail.

If you're interested in learning how AR (augmented reality) technologies can help retail, check out the rest of our site.

Here at Illumix, we specialize in building dynamic AR experiences that can enhance your brand. We've done the heavy lifting already. Contact us to learn how we can help.

We know you're ready for the change, so upgrade your store with augmented reality today.


A Study of 46,000 Shoppers Shows That Omnichannel Retailing Works| Harvard Business Review

2020 Customer Expectations Report | HubSpot

A Guide to Multichannel Marketing [Infographic] | Outgrow

See more augmented reality articles

See all articles

Augmented Reality Stadium: More Than a Game

Examine how sporting events have used augmented reality and how they continue to evolve. Click here to learn more about augmented reality stadiums.

Read more

Virtual Ring Try On: Better Than the Real Thing

With increased virtual shopping, businesses can improve their conversion by using virtual try-ons to allow customers to try before they buy.

Read more

5 Ways To Boost Event Engagement

Engagement with your audience is everything. But how can you boost engagement at your upcoming event? See inside for our top tips.

Read more

Enter the World of Immersive AR: Get Started with Illumix Today

No credit card required
No time-limit on the free plan