Omni-channel vs. multi-channel explained

No matter if you're looking an omni-channel marketing or multi-channel lead generation, you'll learn something here!

Written by Majda Anwar

September 30, 2016

Many B2B marketers know the term omni-channel, and not just because your executives are asking to create an omni-channel experience for your customers.

B2B buyers are searching for B2B solutions just as they would for consumable products – online and through all channels. They expect the same range of omni-channel buying options they enjoy as consumers, which is why 49% of B2B buyers prefer to use consumer websites to make work-related purchases (source).

Many organizations proclaim they want to go omni-channel, but how is that done and what role does demand generation marketing play?

What is the difference between omni and multi-channel marketing?

  • Omni-channel is a high level strategy to ensure an organization’s brand is accessible across any and all channels, providing a seamless experience for all customers and prospects no matter the channel. (Here are some helpful stats)
  • Multi-channel is a tactic that defines the channels used within a campaign. Not all campaigns can or should be “omni-channel,” but all campaigns should use both inbound and outbound components to optimize campaign success. Demand generation marketing should include at least 2-4 channels per campaign.

With these definitions, we see omni-channel is a top-down strategy that must be adopted across the organization. It is usually embedded into the executive vision and implemented across multiple departments. It takes an organizational shift from siloed operations to a single view of the customer.

Multi-channel marketing is a sub-set of omni-channel. It is a marketer’s best tactic to implement omni-channel marketing through campaigns. Marketers should be very strategic in selecting their channels, as a shift from a single channel to multiple adds complexity to a campaign.

There are a few factors that shape how you choose which channels to utilize for your multi-channel campaigns, these factors can be grouped into internal factors from your organization and external factors for the target audience preference:

Internal Factors

According to a Forrester report, 44% of organizations highlight difficulty in integrating back-office technology as a major barrier to the omni-channel experience (source). Marketers need to be aware of the gaps in your technology stack in order to properly choose the right channels. As demand generation marketing demands more and more marketing technologies, integrations become crucial to omni-channel marketing success.

Budget and resource and data availability also play a factor in channel selection from an internal perspective.

External Factors

First and foremost: Your customers’ preference. Organizations should leverage real customer data to understand where their customers are interacting and engaging with their buyers. Channel factors include the customer persona preference, what stage they are in the buying cycle, preferred digital watering holes (perhaps by industry) as well as previously-documented behavior.

Inbound lead sources are a great indicator of which channels to explore first in your lead generation efforts.

Omni-channel strategic initiatives can be realized with multi-channel marketing campaigns. As demand generation marketers, it is our job to select the right channels for our target audience as well as the organizations. If there is a major gap between the two, the campaign will not be successful. Analyze your current channel need and your current channel mix to indicate whether or not your organization is ready for omni-channel marketing!

You may also enjoy our 26 omni-channel marketing statistics, 7 key stages of successful lead management, or our recorded webinar on mapping the customer journey … all of which will help you with your omni vs. multi-channel decisions!

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