Omnichannel vs. Multichannel
It is clear that there is a new phrase and idea being used in the marketing and advertising world. Granted, it is not a new concept, but it seems to be taking quite a tight hold on some of the conversations recently.
"Omnichannel marketing" is what I'm referencing. Recently, I sat down with a few industry professionals, and we had a very spirited conversation about omnichannel marketing and if it was really different than multichannel marketing.
There are differences. The Internet has many opinions and definitions, but here are the most commonly understood definitions:
- Omnichannel is the marketing of multichannel strategies but is concentrated more on a seamless approach to the consumer experience through all available channels, i.e., mobile Internet devices, computers, brick-and-mortar, television, radio, direct mail, catalog and so on.
- Multichannel is the ability to interact with potential customers (and current customers) on various platforms. In this sense, a channel might be a retail store; a website; a mail-order catalog; or direct personal communications by letter, email or text message.
In bouncing around the Internet and doing a little research on this topic, I found a quote (that includes another quote) from the Marketo Blog. It's a fantastic post, but I want you to read with caution on where you are and whether you are ready for omnichannel marketing. The post is "The Definition of Omni-Channel Marketing - Plus 7 Tips."
In this post the author writes:
The term "omni-channel" may be a marketing buzzword, but it refers to a significant shift: Marketers now need to provide a seamless experience, regardless of channel or device. Consumers can now engage with a company in a physical store, on an online website or mobile app, through a catalog, or through social media. They can access products and services by calling a company on the phone, by using an app on their mobile smartphone, or with a tablet, a laptop, or a desktop computer. Each piece of the consumer's experience should be consistent and complementary.
"Multi-channel is an operational view — how you allow the customer to complete transactions in each channel. Omni-channel, however, is viewing the experience through the eyes of your customer, orchestrating the customer experience across all channels so that it is seamless, integrated, and consistent. Omni-channel anticipates that customers may start in one channel and move to another as they progress to a resolution. Making these complex 'hand-offs' between channels must be fluid for the customer. Simply put, omni-channel is multi-channel done right!"
While I think it is confusing to say that "omnichannel is multichannel done right," I get the point. Isn't omnichannel marketing what we've been talking about relative to the donor/constituent experience? Even so, my real question is where should we be focused right now in the nonprofit industry? Here's what I believe:
- Being in all channels is incredibly important due to the diversity of the marketplace — but just being in a channel is not a successful strategy.
- Ensuring your message is consistent across your channels so your constituents learn and become aware of you in multiple places is very important, but putting the same stuff up in all the channels is not the right way to do it. You need to understand the differences between the consumer groups that have prioritized specific channels, and aim your messaging, tone and information toward them. Just as it never works to take a successful direct-mail piece and make it an email, we have to respect the unspoken rules of each channel and how people want to engage within those channels and understand who the audience is and its uniqueness.
- Experience marketing is something that I believe is a success factor for the future. So, the concept of omnichannel is one that I would prioritize. The question is about timing. Shouldn't we really focus on multichannel first and making that as successful as possible? We, as an industry, are getting better and better at being in multiple channels and leveraging those channels to help us raise money, raise awareness and bring more people to the table for support. But we can improve.
My main point is that I'd rather see us exhaust all the possibilities and opportunities that are still out there across all of our channels — especially social-media channels — before we take on omnichannel. If, as an industry, we had common metrics that we all felt comfortable with measuring the effectiveness of each of the channels available to us, perhaps I would feel better. But in some instances we are not even all in agreement about the primary goals for certain channels. I can go from one meeting where it is believed Facebook is a direct fundraising tool to another meeting where it is adamantly believed that Facebook is not a fundraising tool and should not be measured that way.
I know every marketer wants to be on the cutting edge. Every marketer wants to be perceived as being innovative. But, sometimes it's OK to actually stay put and become excellent at doing what you are doing today. With that said, you can't afford to stay in one place too long — and in fact, if you are not growing your strategies and taking on new ideas in a reasonable time frame, that's probably an indication of another problem.
I realize it might sound like I'm talking out of both sides of my mouth on this. But the net is this … don't allow yourself to be slow, but don't chase the latest buzzword at the expense of excelling at your current strategies.
Vice President, Strategy & Development
Eleventy Marketing Group
Angie is ridiculously passionate about EVERYTHING she’s involved in — including the future and success of our nonprofit industry.
Angie is a senior exec with 25 years of experience in direct and relationship marketing. She is a C-suite consultant with experience over the years at both nonprofits and agencies. She currently leads strategy and development for marketing intelligence agency Eleventy Marketing Group. Previously she has worked at the innovative startup DonorVoice and as general manager of Merkle’s Nonprofit Group, as well as serving as that firm’s CRM officer charged with driving change within the industry. She also spent more 14 years leading the marketing, fundraising and CRM areas for two nationwide charities, The Arthritis Foundation and the American Cancer Society. Angie is a thought leader in the industry and is frequent speaker at events, and author of articles and whitepapers on the nonprofit industry. She also has received recognition for innovation and influence over the years.