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What Is the Difference Between Omnichannel and Multichannel?

Dhivakar Aridoss

Dhivakar Aridoss

Marketing Head

Often, people use them interchangeably, as both Omnichannel and Multichannel use multiple channels. However, they are different from each other.

As a first step to understanding the difference between omnichannel and multichannel customer experience, let us spend some time defining them.

What Is Omnichannel Customer Experience?

The customer experience (CX) is how an organization engages with its customers at every point of its journey – from awareness to marketing to sales, customer service, and everything in between.

It is a total of all interactions a customer has with your brand.

When you seamlessly connect all of these interactions across channels, you get an omnichannel customer experience.

An omnichannel strategy connects all customer touchpoints, like physical stores, online, social, email, mobile, chats, and calls.

It allows customers to pick up where they left off on one channel and continue the experience on another. They can seamlessly move between channels on their journey with your brand.

It creates a unified experience for the customer across the board.

Some examples of omnichannel customer experiences include:

  1. You place the order online and pick up the order at the physical stores
  2. You receive a promotional message with discounts on your phone when you are in the brand’s physical store
  3. You speak to an agent on the phone about a product and decide against buying it due to steep prices. When you visit their experience center at a later point, the executive pulls up this interaction and tells you that the cost of the product you wanted to buy earlier has fallen by 20%
  4. A shopper is retargeted on a Google search page with the product they abandoned in their online shopping cart
  5. You receive discount text messages on items that you abandoned in the shopping cart

What Is Multichannel Customer Experience?

Multichannel is the practice of interacting with customers and prospects on more than one channel –website, email, phone, SMS, chat, mobile app, print, TV, billboards, and display ads.

However, all the channels may not be integrated.

For example, an organization may have a completely different promotional strategy on properties like Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn, which may not be a unified experience.

This puts products and services at the center of the experience strategy, and the channels work to deliver that message individually.

Omnichannel Vs Multichannel – Major Differences

Omnichannel is centered around the customers and involves using all available channels to deliver a unified customer experience. In comparison, multichannel means using more than one channel centered around the product or service.

Let us look at some of the key differences between multichannel and omnichannel

DefinitionSeamlessly integrated customer experience across all touchpointsUsage of multiple channels to reach customers
IntegrationIntegrates all channels for a cohesive experienceOperates channels separately
Focal point of strategyThe customerThe brand (product or service)
Message typeAdapts to customer behaviorPrimarily static
Customer journeyFocuses on the end-to-end journeyFocuses on individual interactions
DataUnified data source for a single view of the customerSeparate data sources for each channel
PersonalizationOffers personalized experiences based on a complete customer profilePersonalizes individual interactions
TrainingEmployees need to be trained on all channels, and they can respond from a single interfaceRequires training only for specific channels
Customer feedbackAggregates customer feedback from all channelsCollects feedback from specific channels
Response timesRespond to customers in real-time across all channelsMay have different response times for each channel
Supply chain managementIntegrates inventory, manages orders, coordinates shipping and fulfillment, and manages returns and refunds across all channelsSeparate inventory, order management, shipping, fulfillment, returns, and refunds for each channel

Does Multichannel Really Mean Anything in Customer Experience?

Organizations typically adopt a multichannel strategy based on necessity. For instance, let us assume that your organization has only B2B customers; the reason for you to have a social presence may not be there.

But if your customer segment has a bunch of 18 to 25 age demography as customers, then you must be present on social channels.

Many organizations follow different strategies across different channels. For instance, within social channels, organizations may publish employee engagement posts on Instagram, while customer-focused posts can go through LinkedIn.

Who Is the Poster Boy of the Multichannel Strategy?

Apple is one name that comes to mind.

Their sales mainly come through online channels. Despite that, they invest heavily in physical retail stores. These are fronts that provide the big-picture Apple experience.

This experience complements their online sales.

For instance, a few years ago, I visited a nearby mall only because my son wanted to spend time in Apple’s Imagine store. He would go and check out every feature of Apple products and talk to the guys at the store.

Unlike other retail outlets, these executives at the stores, knowing fully well that he was not going to buy anything, were all ears and helped him with all the answers to his queries.

After a few years, he is a loyal Apple fan, buying and using only Apple products. Very few organizations have such a focused channel strategy that is not integrated.

That being said, I feel the natural extension of multichannel has to be omnichannel.

Assume that you start a business where you sell products. Your points of customer interactions would be your website, phone systems, marketing, sales, and customer support.

These are different channels with which your customers interact. You will have all your customer information on your CRM. Your capture support issues in the helpdesk or bug-tracking software.

Once you have a bunch of customers, you will start to have customer service, customer success, and account management teams.

Then, you offer customer service and customer support on other channels like mobile apps, chatbots, website chat, and social media.

You would obviously have many channels through which your customers interact with your brand.

This is the natural evolution of every business.

Once you integrate all of these channels and interfaces, you can provide a unified experience and provide an omnichannel experience.

Omnichannel is the natural choice for every business.

Why Omnichannel is Important?

  • According to ClickZ, shoppers who use three or more channels to interact with brands have a purchasing frequency rate 250 percent higher than single-channel users.
  • Harvard business review reports that customers who use more channels spend an average of 4 percent more in physical stores and 10 percent more online
  • According to a Salesforce report, 67% of customers use multiple channels to complete a single transaction. 40% of customers say that they won’t do business with companies if they can’t use their preferred channels

This means that businesses that aren’t offering omnichannel customer engagement are providing a substandard experience for their customers.

With more channels, you have a higher probability of increased revenue and retention. However, they have to be integrated, and the customer should be able to switch seamlessly between channels.

  • The Coresight report shows that 53% of leading European retailers state that improving lifetime customer value is the reason for implementing an omnichannel strategy.

An omnichannel strategy helps businesses with better inventory visibility, allowing them to fulfill orders from anywhere. The days of retailers losing business due to items being out of stock may be ending.

Omnichannel allows you to position your brand as a leader in your space. When you provide an omnichannel experience, your customers will perceive your brand differently.

They would think that:

  1. You pay attention to details
  2. They can trust your business because of your consistency
  3. They can be loyal because of the trust that you provide

Amazon Omnichannel Strategy

Amazon is one name that comes to mind when considering omnichannel strategy. Their channels are tightly integrated that one feeds on the other.

For instance, you have prime videos, gaming, prime deals, partner savings, prime reading, buy now pay later, and one-click checkouts – all so tightly integrated, offering you the best possible experience.

Let me give you an example.

I called my Internet Service Provider, who also provides me with mobility and land telephony services. I wanted to upgrade my Internet connectivity, and I checked with them about the cost of the upgrade.

It was way too high, so I decided against it. However, I left them a request to contact me if the upgrade cost goes down by 30%.

After a couple of months, I visited their experience center to change my SIM card, and they did not check with me about the Internet upgrade that I had earlier inquired about. However, I saw a poster there stating that they provide upgraded connectivity at a 50% lower cost than what was told.

In the experience center, I signed up for the upgraded connectivity, and they activated the upgraded connection.

What if I had not visited the experience center?

There would have been a loss of revenue for many more months.

With an omnichannel customer experience, they would have had access to all my interactions across channels. It would have been natural for them to get in touch with me and ensure that there was very little revenue loss.

Democratization of Omnichannel CX

Omnichannel customer experience has all along been the preserve of large enterprises. Smaller organizations could not think of having such an infrastructure.

Cloud contact centers have democratized the omnichannel customer experience infrastructure, allowing small businesses to access them with a subscription fee easily.

Look at this statement:

You can reach us 24×7 on call, email, chat, and social.

Wouldn’t your customers love this?

Besides, if you have a single view of all your customer interactions, you can provide the best possible customer experience.

As a customer experience function, half your battle is won if you have a single view of all your customer interactions. Omnichannel contact center software is the beginning of this experience.

Explore our full range of call center software features