What is Omnichannel Marketing?

If you listen to digital marketing gurus, you know that omnichannel marketing is critical to your success as a business. But is it really?

There certainly is a lot of buzz surrounding the idea of omnichannel. What does it mean and why is it important for a business trying to succeed with digital marketing?

Omnichannel marketing is really not that tricky. The omni- prefix comes from the Latin word omnis, meaning every or all. That might make you think you need to be everywhere, but it’s really more about having a cohesive strategy across multiple marketing channels.

What is a Channel in Marketing?

Let’s take a step back. Marketing is often described in terms of a marketing mix (or the Ps of marketing). Place is one of the Ps in the marketing mix. And place traditionally meant the where of your business. As in, where can someone find your product (or service)? How is it distributed?

Distribution Channels

That place might be where your physical store is located. But it also refers to other places a customer can find your product. Those places you sell your products are your distribution channels. They can be physical or virtual.

Here are some examples of distribution channels:

  • Retail stores
  • Mail-order catalogs
  • Websites with a virtual store
  • Facebook Shops
  • Ecommerce chatbots

Promotion Channels

Distribution channels aren’t the only type of channel in marketing. There are also promotion channels. As the name suggests, these channels are part of one of the other Ps of the marketing mix: promotion.

Promotion channels are places you promote or persuade a target audience to buy your product. This normally takes the form of personal selling, direct marketing, or other forms of advertising. These can be traditional or digital promotion channels.

Examples of some digital promotion channels include:

What is Multichannel Marketing?

The next step in our path to omnichannel marketing is multichannel marketing. So what’s that? Multichannel marketing is when you combine multiple channels, distribution or promotion, to more effectively market to potential customers.

By offering your products in more distribution channels you make it easier for people to find your product. By promoting your product using more promotion channels you make it easier for people to be educated about your product. Both are important.

One popular method is to use a combination of channels that are offline and online. Many customers who educate themselves online, often still like to shop offline. On the other hand, many online shoppers like to see the product in person before the commit online.

And if we ignore the digital aspect, multichannel marketing is not new. It’s at least as old as marketing in ancient Rome. Back in the first century AD, Umbricius Scaurus sold his fish sauce throughout the Mediterranean region. Surely he engaged with multiple traders, or distributors, in an ancient form of multichannel marketing.

What is Omnichannel Marketing?

Let’s combine our understanding of multichannel marketing with our knowledge that omni- means every or all. That makes it sound like there isn’t much daylight between multichannel and omnichannel marketing.

In actuality, when people talk about omnichannel they are not normally talking so much about the number of marketing channels. They are more likely referring to the cohesion between channels.

Think of multichannel as using multiple marketing channels solely for the sake of taking advantage of them separately. If you have a physical store and ecommerce store, you have two distribution channels people can buy from. If you advertise on billboards and on Facebook, you have two promotion channels people can learn about your product.

Omnichannel takes multichannel to the next level. You use multiple channels, not just to have multiple channels. Instead, you want to capitalize on the synergy they can create together. You offer your customers constant and consistent messaging and seamless delivery of your product.

By marketing your business in this way, you magnify your results. Multichannel efforts add together. Omnichannel efforts multiple together. Instead of getting three plus three equals six, you get three times three equals nine.

Take Amazon for example. In 1999, they patented one-click buying. This made online shopping super convenient. In 2018, they announced they were opening cashless, cashier-less retail stores. They now had two distribution channels with a similar seamless buying experience.

This buying experience is possible in part thanks to the Amazon Go app that you install on your phone. Both their Amazon Go app and their Amazon Shopping app make shopping easy. Would could be the result if their omnichannel approach succeeds? People will think Amazon is synonymous with smooth, simple shopping, both online and offline.

How to Succeed with Omnichannel Marketing

Omnichannel marketing doesn’t have to be that hard. If you really boil it down, it just means being consistent with your marketing communication. And be on the channels that make sense for your business.

It’s a common misconception that omnichannel means sell on every distribution channel and advertise on every promotion channel. This is false and a great way to waste money on marketing. Being on all channels is a horrible idea for most businesses.

True marketing rock stars don’t spread themselves or their marketing efforts too thin. Focus on what channels you can succeed on and focus your efforts there. Try new channels as your resources allow.

Remember that maintaining a clear strategy and vision across your marketing channels is the key to succeeding with omnichannel marketing. The lack of a solid strategy and clear vision are two of the top reasons business fail.

Don’t fall into that trap. Stick to what you’re good at in terms of running your business and executing on marketing. If you go too deep too fast with omnichannel marketing efforts, you can end up with a nochannel business.

Have an omnichannel marketing story to tell? Or maybe we didn’t explain something quite right? Leave your story, comment, or question in the comments. We’d love to hear it!

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