Let's begin by defining each:
- Omni-channel e-commerce (meaning, “all” channels) unifies sales and marketing to create a single commerce experience across your brand.
- Multi-channel e-commerce (i.e., “many” channels), while less integrated, allows customers to purchase natively wherever they prefer to browse and shop
Developing a successful business strategy means understanding the differences between the two and picking the one that’s right for your business.
Multi-channel marketing and sales enable customers to not only interact with your products through whatever medium is most natural to them, but to purchase through that medium directly.
The best metaphor for a multi-channel marketing is a wheel with spokes.
At the center of the wheel is your product (i.e., a sale). On the outer rim of the wheel are your customers where each channel offers a separate and independent opportunity to purchase.
In Omni-Channel Retailing, Tommy Walker from Shopify offers what is easily the most expansive summary of the term:
“Omni-channel as a philosophy is about providing consistent, yet unique and contextual brand experiences across multiple customer-aware touch points, including brick and mortar, marketplaces, web, mobile and social.”
“It’s about allowing consumers to purchase wherever they are while communicating in a way that is in tune with why they use a given channel and showing awareness of their individual stage in the customer lifecycle.”
When making the jump from single-channel to multi-channel marketing, there are a few things you need to keep in mind at all times.
Most importantly, you absolutely need to know which channels your target customers typically utilize. For example, it would make no sense for a company whose target demographic consists of baby boomers to become present on Snapchat; similarly, a company targeting teens and young adults likely wouldn’t fare well by focusing on direct mail marketing and radio advertisements to generate a buzz.
Similarly, you need to consider which channels your target customers expect your brand to be present on, as well. When you have identified your channels, you then need to optimize your message each device accordingly.
When it comes to omni-channel marketing, the tenets mentioned above still apply - but there’s more. In addition to knowing where your customers are, knowing what they expect from you, and optimizing your presence on each channel your brand is active on; you also need to focus on using each of these channels to enhance the customer experience, as well.
It’s not just about being present on multiple channels - it’s about the value your presence brings to the customer via each of these channels.