Marketers are exposed to a bevy of buzzwords on a daily basis. Recently, there has been a great deal of attention paid to the terms multi-channel, cross-channel and omni-channel. In some people’s minds, these are just three names for the same thing. In reality, although they share some similarities, the terms actually represent very different concepts.

Multi-Channel Marketing

In simplest terms, multi-channel marketing simply means that you are using more multiple channels to deliver your message. Once upon a time, the only way that customers could buy your products or learn more about them was to visit your store. Today, however, customers can visit your website, receive marketing emails from you, thumb through a catalog you mailed them, interact with you through your app or receive text messages from you. This approach is typically the most straight-forward and simplest choice although it may incorporate some rudimentary cross-channel strategies.

Cross-Channel Marketing

Cross-channel marketing is the logical extension of multi-channel efforts, designed to deliver a consistent message on all channels. Consider the various ways that customers might proceed from learning about your product to making a purchase. Perhaps they became interested in one of your products after seeing it in your catalog, went to your website to learn more about it and then drove to your store to make the actual purchase. If you have the same product offered at different prices in your catalog, on your website and in your store, you are likely to have a confused — perhaps even angry — customer. Although the channels are independent and capable of standing on their own, it is important to ensure that they can interact with each other. For example, suppose a customer visits your website and requests that directions to your nearest location be sent to his smartphone.

Omni-Channel Marketing

“Omni” means all, so omni-channel marketing is allowing your customers to choose the channel or channels they want, making it the most customer-centric method. The omni-channel technique lets you deliver the same message via a variety of channels, but most importantly, it allows you to deliver your message wherever and however the customer prefers. For example, you can leverage social media sites, mobile devices, wearable tech or any other touch-point that the customer prefers. As many customers may use multiple channels on the same purchase journey, you will need to make the customer’s experience seamless. You can also learn valuable information about your customers, such as analyzing whether he prefers to receive text notifications or voice alerts, displays a preference for email contact or shows a tendency to make use of the message feature offered on your Facebook page.

Why Should You Care?

Currently, businesses are moving to cross-channel marketing in ever-increasing numbers. True omni-channel marketing is the ultimate goal of many, but its adoption is thus far lagging behind. Every stage requires you to make adjustments, so most companies are trying to master cross-channel techniques first. Here are the most important adjustments you will need to make as you move from multi-channel to cross-channel marketing.

  • You will need to develop an effective way of assigning credit to the different channels. Attribution can be challenging when multiple touch-points are involved. Trying to measure results based on traditional models will provide inaccurate data that could lead to incorrect decisions. If you do not know whether your SEO or print ads featuring your URL are generating the increased traffic to your website, you cannot know how to allocate your spending properly.
  • You will need to use the data collected from every channel when developing your strategies. Although there has been a widespread belief that attribution strategies are only relevant for online interactions, you cannot afford to ignore data provided from in-store interactions with your customers, telephone orders and other off-line activities.
  • Your company will need to abandon data siloes. Every department must share what they know. Customer complaints, production limitations, unusable sales leads and similar information must be taken into account if you are to develop the best strategy for cross-channel marketing.

Change is seldom stress-free, and the path to effective cross-channel marketing may contain a few obstacles. However, if you master the strategy, it can help ensure that your company will not be left behind when your competitors make the latest evolutionary leap.

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