To make it short, both words refer to “channels” mostly as both digital and offline sales touchpoints, but the difference between the two lies in how these channels work with each other: being “multichannel” means “to be a brick and mortar that also sells and promotes itself online”. In this scenario usually each channel is handled by different departments/persons who rarely work together.
Being omnichannel instead means to be multichannel, but with a high degree of “cooperation” between each channel in terms of services offered and data collected, and its advantages compared to the first are evident.
As early as 2017, a survey organized by Medallia and Rice’s University discovered that, on a pool of 46.000 subjects, the majority (73%) touched a mix of online and offline channels during their customer journey. Such consumers seemed to enjoy the possibility of a seamless experience between the two: like purchasing online and choosing in-store pick up, using in-store digital tools such as interactive catalogues or tablets to purchase, reserve goods or download coupons. These consumers not only spent much more than their traditional counterparts, but they were also more loyal, with a staggering +23% repeated purchase rate.
An omnichannel strategy then focuses on unifying all touchpoints of a brand, including brick-and-mortar stores, social media channels, websites, e-mail portals, and mobile interactions. By doing so, the customer has a seamless experience, while switching between multiple devices and platforms. In fact, according to industry research, consumers tend to disengage with brands that are not available on their preferred digital channels.
An omnichannel approach can have a wider scope than just sales channels. For example, market research suggests that businesses which use omnichannel marketing campaigns receive 91% greater year-over-year customer retention and see a 9.5% year-over-year increase in revenue, compared to only 3.4% for businesses that stick to more traditional strategies.
The backbone of a good omnichannel strategy of course is technology: automation, chatbots, social listening saas, mobile apps and the like can enhance brand engagement and help in gaining consumer data. However, such devices not always are available to everyone, as moving toward digitalization is not simple without a guidance.
In case of low budget endeavors creativity plays a major role in the strategy, but it still needs a little help consumer wise. In this case the top priority is to get to know the market and see how consumers operate online thanks to providers such as Hootsuite, Hubspot, Hotjar, or even Google Analytics to optimize your digital portals to the needs of your target consumer. Creativity can then come into place to engage consumers on those places, virtual or real, and guide them along the journey that you have created for them.