Ginger Conlon, Editor-in-Chief, Direct Marketing News
The concept of multichannel marketing should be straightforward: using multiple channels in concert to attract and engage customers and move them through the marketing funnel. It seems, though, that some marketers simply use multiple channels, not cohesively at all, and call it multichannel marketing. If you define it literally, it is. But that definition just doesn't fly for marketers who aim to take a truly cohesive, impactful approach.
So instead, some marketers use integrated marketing or cross-channel marketing as the name for their holistic approach to marketing. Others, especially retailers and the technology companies that serve them, have taken to using omnichannel in reference to taking a seamless approach to marketing (and retailing) across multiple channels.
Having four monikers for one activity is overkill in my opinion, but I understand the rationale. The goal is to steer “errant” marketers toward cohesion. More important than what you call it, though, is the strategy itself. The strategy “should” be to engage customers across channels in a unified way: Elements like messaging, timing, targeting, pricing, promotions all acting in concert to capture customers in their preferred channel at the optimal moment. But often, new channels come along and function in silos. Or specific promotions focused in one channel get no support from other channels.
It's all about the data
What's more, the data created from customers' responses and actions “should” be cycled back into the various analytics, CRM, and marketing automation tools so marketers can draw on the information to make improvements to their communications and campaigns. The challenges here include functional and data silos, as well as the lack of tools or analytics capabilities necessary to make a closed loop a reality.
Although difficult, these tasks are not impossible. As you'll read in “Traditional Marketing Gets Charged Up” and “Channeling the Customer,” companies like HealthNow, Johnny Cupcakes, and Regus have the people, processes, and technologies in place to take a truer, more holistic multichannel approach to marketing. Indeed, they're also using data from individual channels to help improve the performance of other individual channels, as well as multichannel efforts overall. By combining email, social, and purchase data, for example, Johnny Cupcakes improved its email targeting so effectively that it saw a 141% lift in sales among one customer segment. Another benefit is the gains in customer loyalty brands can achieve when they do multichannel marketing well (see “Multiple Channels, One Customer Relationship”).
Regardless of whether you call it cross-channel, integrated, multichannel, or omnichannel marketing, the ultimate goal is the same: to orchestrate what could be discordant channels so they play in harmony, captivating customers with their synchronous melody.