Multichannel vs. omnichannel: what’s the difference?


The digital revolution of the last few decades is at the heart of the development of a wide variety of increasingly effective new digital tools. Adapting to them and adopting these various technological advances, today’s consumer has greatly evolved, as much in their appropriation of the different products and services offered to them as in their new expectations when it comes to companies.

Therefore, the customer is more easily accessible thanks to the various channels that have arisen from these new tools, but they’re also more demanding, expecting businesses that can effectively meet their expectations on each of these channels and offer them a satisfying overall experience.

For businesses, this logically forces them to adopt new approaches; the main challenge here is not only to be able to master these different channels, but also to create a synergy between them. This is where the new terms “multichannel” and “omnichannel marketing” – which are unfortunately quite often amalgamated – come from.

Multichannel, or how to be everywhere at once

Today, no commercial enterprise can afford to ignore the importance of the internet in their marketing strategy. Indeed, in the e-commerce era, ensuring an online presence has become a real obligation for companies – even the most traditional ones – regardless of their line of business. This is what some have called “store to web”; conversely, “web to store” is also possible for the new pure players of the net.

With the explosive growth of social networks and their advertising tools, this need to be both physically and virtually present has increased over the last few years. We should also mention the widespread use of mobile devices (smartphones and tablets), which has also imposed new standards in terms of customer relations.

Whether we’re talking about marketing or customer relationship management, the term “multichannel strategy” refers to the need for a business to multiply their points of contact in order to be present on the many channels where they can now “meet” their customers.

According to this approach, a commercial strategy limited to the POS (point-of-sale advertising) and to the traditional channels (TV, radio, telephone) is no longer sufficient. The company must be present everywhere the customer expects them and develop strategies suited to each channel used.

Omnichannel, or how to put the customer at the heart of your strategy

However, even being present on every channel and making the right tools available to your customers no longer seems sufficient today. Indeed, while a multichannel strategy helps you win the challenge of creating an effective presence in the daily lives of your targets, it’s not enough to guarantee a conversion of your prospects, let alone their loyalty as customers.

To do that, you need more, since the evolution in consumer behavior also means a change in the customer path.

That’s where the omnichannel strategy comes in. For businesses, this approach involves not limiting themselves to optimizing their presence on the various channels, but also establishing a real synergy between the actions taken on all levels, in the aim of optimizing the overall customer experience.

The goal: listen to and decipher all the signals sent by the consumer so you can take them by the hand and meet their particular expectations. An omnichannel strategy therefore considers the business as a whole, present across the interconnected channels, and whose ultimate objective is to satisfy the customer by meeting their different expectations, and even going beyond them.

Multichannel or omnichannel? Maybe we should just not oppose them, since the one provides the necessary foundations for the realization of the other.

However, to have a basic understanding of them and differentiate between them, remember that the multichannel approach aims to multiply the points of contact with the customers, while the omnichannel strategy seeks to establish complete complementarity between these different channels to guarantee an optimal customer experience, both online and in stores.

You want to learn more about how multichannel and omnichannel can help you get better results?

Contact me,
Micheline Durocher
President, Groupe Marketing International


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