Marketing has more than its fair share of buzzwords and two are cropping up with increasing regularity: multichannel and omnichannel marketing. Both are recent terms and both sound like they could be used interchangeably. Can they? Or is there a significant difference between these two customer engagement approaches?
Back when the world was all penny farthings and twirly moustaches, marketing was a lot more straightforward. If a consumer wanted to purchase something – a new bowler hat, for example – he would browse his local millinery shop and choose his favorite. Later, he may base his purchase on the opinions in, say, Hat Monthly.
Jump forward to today and there are an abundance of channels where consumers and businesses engage. After call centers and early forms of direct mail arrives the internet. With the internet comes websites, email and social media. That’s not forgetting that customers now access businesses through desktops, mobile devices, smart TVs and more.
For an organization to evoke a decision from customers – particularly across complex, often loosely-connected channels – is a challenge. Ensuring that a business offers a consistent, seamless experience across all of them is even more difficult.
Why is this consistency needed? Because consumers expect to receive great customer service through whatever channel they choose, with an unified message no matter how many of these channels they use during their enquiry. For example, our friend wouldn’t think too kindly to receiving a discount by email for the same hat he’s just purchased.
This is where differences between a multichannel and omnichannel approach start to appear.
Multichannel, as the name suggests, means an organization offers its customers multiple channels for customer engagement and communication, like social media, email and a website.
While this presents multiple customer touchpoints – each of which can have great success – these channels are often siloed, which can lead to inconsistencies in service. If one channel is not aligned with the others, it could adversely affect a relationship with a customer.
An omnichannel approach is an evolution of multichannel. It’s much more integrated and far better at anticipating a customer’s behavior across several channels (potentially even simultaneously) when interacting with an organization. For example, a customer might initiate a conversation on a Twitter page, transition to email and find that it is only concluded through a live webchat.
Importantly, in omnichannel marketing the channels are interconnected, meaning contextual data from an engagement is maintained and transferred between channels. This alignment of information aims to remove any perceived hindrance by a customer, for a seamless experience.
So, for today’s hat buyer, he might order a new bowler from his tablet to pick up at a bricks and mortar store, while collecting loyalty points on a dedicated smartphone app that gives him money off his next order by email. If for any reason he needs to return his bowler hat, a special returns service means he can use his local late-night newsagent as a drop-off point to send the item back outside of restrictive post office hours.
Coordinating marketing communications in this way may require a substantial change – particularly if organizational siloes needs to be bridged or broken down – but for companies that aim to put their customer needs at the forefront, orchestrated omnichannel marketing is the solution.
Marketers need to understand the customer journey, as well as find new ways to intervene appropriately, at the best times.
The Intervening in the Customer Journey eBook aims to answer some of the many questions you might have, including:
- What is the difference between a marketing campaign and a customer journey?
- How do we better understand customer behavior and map it?
- How do we know when to intervene in a customer journey?
- How do we measure the impact this intervention has?