Omnichannel vs. Multichannel - confused, different, does it matter
April 04, 2016

Omnichannel vs. Multichannel – confused, different, does it matter

In my daily encounters with CMO’s, CIO’s, VP’s of eCommerce & Heads of Digital, it often feels like these marketing leaders are metaphorically grappling with large, complex puzzles that have a thousand pieces, many of which are not yet connected. So many new challenges, moving parts, opinions, technologies and so much different terminology.

Ah, the terminology and the confusion that surrounds all this newfangled marketing speak . A feeding frenzy for analysts and consultants tasked with educating brands, but a nightmare for vendors who want to cut through and match solutions to clearly defined challenges.

At Knexus we talk a lot about ‘Omnichannel’, a term often confused with ‘Multichannel’. In this article I’m going to try and address whether these terms are merely two sides of the same coin or quite different and, either way, does it really matter.

 

A BIG MISTAKE COSTING COMPANIES A LOT OF MONEY

Firstly, Omnichannel & Multichannel are quite different. I like this quote from the consultants at HarrisPartners. ‘A big part of digital transformations is creating omni-channel customer experiences. One of the confusions we often face when presenting to CEOs and other C-level executives (thankfully less often from CMOs…) is that they tend to think “omni-channel” as a concept is synonymous with “multi-channel”. This is a big mistake, and one that is likely costing those companies a lot of money.

MULTICHANNEL EXPERIENCES ARE WHAT MOST BRANDS PROVIDE TODAY

Multichannel experiences are what consumers encounter with most brands today. Brands reach customers through a variety of means, both digital and physical: in-store, websites, email, mobile apps and more. These multiple touch points are key to supporting consumers through the consideration phase of their buying journey pre-purchase.

The fundamental problem with multichannel is that the different activities are delivered through silos. Different teams, different content, different technology and, even now, too often different or disjointed insights. Which means that it is very difficult and complex for a brand to create a truly seamless experience for consumers. But that is exactly what customers want, expect and increasingly demand from brands. A timely, relevant and consistent experience, regardless of device or channel.

 

OMNICHANNEL IS FOCUSED AROUND THE CUSTOMER

Omnichannel is focused around the customer, recognizing that customers engage with brands in many different ways, across multiple platforms, and focuses on creating consistent experiences. Stacy Schwartz, a digital marketing expert and adjunct professor at Rutgers Business School explains “An omnichannel approach puts the customer, not corporate silos, at the center of its strategy. It acknowledges that mobile and social have enabled customers to not only quickly switch between channels, but actually use channels simultaneously. For example, checking out product reviews on their mobile phone while evaluating a product on a physical retail store shelf.”

And the problem is only getting worse, a lot worse. Cisco’s Chairman John Chambers recently predicted there will be 500 billion devices connected to the internet by 2025 – less than a decade away. If brands think their engagement is complex now, ‘they ain’t seen nothing yet’..

 

THE MAJORITY OF COMPANIES DIGITAL EFFORTS WILL FAIL

And so to the question, does it really matter about the different terminology. In short, yes it’s really fundamental because it highlights two different mindsets and approaches. In my last blog I shared a quote from John Chambers ‘The majority of companies will be digital within 5 years but the majority of their digital efforts will fail’. If you are a brand that is focused on multichannel supported by a growing investment in digital, you face a toxic combination of accelerating operational complexity and an inability to meet the expectations of your super empowered customers. If however you are on a path to implement an omnichannel approach, you have the potential to both grow revenues significantly and create competitive advantage in your industry or market..

We have spent many hours perfecting the Knexus platform. The market is shifting rapidly to companies owning their own Omnichannel content experiences and our tool allows them to do just that. The Knexus platform empowers brands to successfully deliver timely and relevant customer experiences. Seamlessly integrated content distribution, personalization, engagement, measurement & optimization capabilities combine to increase marketing profitability. 

 

 

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