What are the differences between multichannel, cross-channel and omni-channel marketing strategies?


The digital age has pushed companies to be innovative and develop new tools, especially higher performing tools. The advent of these tools has drastically changed consumer behaviour. There are now multiple points of contact between a company and its customers. This all relates back to multichannel, cross-channel and even omni-channel marketing strategies. These terms are often conflated and misused, but we’re here to set the record straight. 

The modern consumer is referred to as being “omni-channel!” Sorry? What did you say? The company is the omni-channel one, right? To be honest, these three strategies are the result of the development and proliferation of new digital tools. However, the consumer defines how these strategies are used via their needs. If a customer decides to use their mobile in-store during a sale to compare prices, that is because they want to. These strategies are in response to new customer needs. If a company implements an omni-channel strategy, it’s because the customer is omni-channel in the first place.

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OMNICHANNEL : favorize web-to-sotre


Multichannel marketing is a strategy that combines several means of contact plus consumer responses.

Cross-channel marketing is a strategy that enables a company’s various distribution channels, such as a store, catalogue, website etc., to work in harmony rather than compete against each other.

Omni-channel marketing is a strategy that optimises simultaneous use of the channels available to a company.

So, as you may have gathered, these strategies are intrinsically linked, which explains the confusion. What’s more, one cannot exist without the other. To start, you’ll always be able to find a multichannel strategy, which is the basis of any digital strategy. The idea is to develop new sale points of contact with the customer, whether digital or physical. In the age of e-commerce, brick-and-mortar companies have quickly developed their online stores, particularly in high-street fashion. But the opposite – known as click-to-mortar – is also possible, with pure player organisations opening real-life stores such as CDiscount, LDLC and Promovacances. This strategy is now essential for brands who want to reach their entire market and increase sales. Can a company forego online sales? A Webloyalty infographic indicated in early 2015 that 8 out of 10 French people buy online. There’s nearly more of them buying online than in-store now. This demonstrates how important it is for companies, whose customers are glued to their smartphones and tablets, to have a range of marketing channels. 

Cross-channel marketing is the next logical step after multichannel. Developing new points of contact with the client isn’t enough anymore; the idea is to integrate the available channels throughout the consumer experience in order to make it a smoother one. The development of digital tools has brought along with it notions of user-friendliness and customer experience. Companies have caught on to the importance of providing a coherent, homogenous experience while using their channels. Just like a delivery service, click-and-collect is an example of cross-channel marketing: a smooth process integrating two channels – the website and shop – which adapts to the customer’s current behaviour. By catering to new needs linked to the “where I want, when I want” trend, these innovations increase a customer’s purchasing power considerably.

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Many customers use the internet to research and compare products before buying them in-store. According to an IPSOS study on consumer behaviour, 60% of French people will go to the store to make their purchase. This is where the final strategy comes into play. Omni-channel marketing uses both digital features and the physical store to its advantage. Here, we’re referring to what’s commonly known as connected stores. The fundamental difference lies within the consumer. They have made the customer experience more complex by being in-store and on their phone or watching TV on their tablet all at the same time. This is what we call ubiquity or the ability to be everywhere at the same time. In this context, it applies when a customer is using several channels simultaneously in what’s typically known as “web-to-store” or “store-to-web” shopping.


To summarize and differentiate between these three approaches one last time, we can say that: multichannel marketing seeks to multiply sale points of contact with customers, cross-channel marketing aims to make these channels complement one another, and omni-channel marketing concentrates on the overall customer experience through harmonising online and physical points of sale. So, are you multichannel, cross-channel or omni-channel?

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