Marketing Terms: The Difference Between Integrated, Multichannel, Omnichannel
by Al Gomez
The digital marketplace is rife with a plethora of marketing terms that may not or may barely graze the top of your head. Some are subsets of others, and some are just redundant and gaudy words that all mean the same thing.
But this isn’t the case for all marketing terms you encounter though. Some appear to mean the same thing, but upon closer inspection and dissection, you’ll find that they’re three different marketing terms altogether.
We’re talking about the subtle differences between integrated marketing, multichannel marketing, and omnichannel marketing. The composition of the words themselves can give you a brief idea of what they actually mean, but without further ado, let’s dig into it.
The Gist of these Marketing Terms
Let’s start off by defining these 3 marketing terms technically. We’ll go into in-depth details later:
- Integrated marketing – a marketing strategy that stresses the importance of a consistent, seamless, multi-dimensional brand experience for the consumer. This means that each branding effort – across television, radio, print, Internet, and in person – is presented in a similar style that reinforces the brand’s ultimate message (Marketing Schools.org, 2012).
- Multichannel marketing – the practice of interacting with customers using a combination of indirect and direct communication channels – websites, retail stores, mail order catalogs, direct mail, email, mobile, etc. – and enabling customers to take action in response – preferably to buy your product or service – using the channel of their choice. In the most simplistic terms, multichannel marketing is all about choice (SAS Institute Inc., n.d.).
- Omnichannel marketing – offers a seamless customer experience, regardless of the channel (Dastur, 2018).
Let’s take a triangular journey through these three different marketing terms, and let’s dissect what they do, how they work, and how they differ from each other.
Integrated Marketing vs Multichannel Marketing
Integrated marketing delivers a single plan with a consistent message to potential donors using different platforms. Multichannel marketing, on the other hand, is the ability to deliver messages using various platforms.
When we say integrated marketing, we stress the importance of delivering a consistent message across the different platforms. Multichannel marketing emphasizes the practice of delivering that message to various platforms — like television, radio, print, Internet, and in person.
These two concepts work hand-in-hand. For this reason, marketers develop an integrated multichannel marketing strategy. This can also be applied to omnichannel marketing, but we’ll discuss that later. Now, what do we mean when we say an integrated multichannel marketing strategy?
Multichannel marketing is the practice of using different platforms to reach your consumers. But without a unified message to send — which is what integrated marketing focuses on, your marketing strategies across these different platforms become isolated from each other.
Whereas, if you choose to integrate your multichannel marketing strategy, you incorporate both concepts and deliver one message as a whole across every consumer lurking behind different platforms. It raises overall brand awareness and solidifies brand identity among your target audience.
In summary, repeating your message across multiple channels, integrated with the different stages of the user journey, can increase results and conversions.
Multichannel Marketing vs Omnichannel Marketing
Shopper journeys are near impossible to predict nowadays. People constantly hop from one device to the other. It’s a smartphone one minute, and it’s desktop computer the next. It’s print media for a few seconds, and in the blink of an eye, that same person is tuning into the TV.
The paths zigzag across multiple channels, and it has marketers questioning which is better: multichannel marketing or omnichannel marketing?
The difference between the two doesn’t just lie in the words themselves. (Omni meaning “all”; “multi,” meaning “many.”) It’s in the very way they work.
Multichannel marketing spans several different channels — social, mobile, direct mail, even physical locations. Every channel is separate and works independently from the others, but it works like a vacuum, each with its own strategies and goals. Without integration — as discussed in the previous point — there is a high risk of consumer confusion and an impersonal experience.
Omnichannel marketing, on the other hand, focuses on delivering a consistent, personalized experience for shoppers across all channels and devices. At its very core, omnichannel marketing puts greater weight on the shopper’s experience. The main goal is to make the easiest shopping experience possible. To make that happen, consistency in engagement is necessary. It doesn’t matter where or how, as long as interaction happens.
By all means, omnichannel marketing is a form of multichannel marketing. But it doesn’t work the other way around.
Omnichannel Marketing vs Integrated Marketing
Omnichannel refers to a marketing strategy we employ; integrated marketing, on the other hand, refers to a method or style of communication.
Much like our earlier discussion with integrated marketing and omnichannel marketing, integrated marketing has a role in both strategies.
Omnichannel marketing focuses on the shopper’s experience. So, for an omnichannel marketing strategy to live up to its name, it has to be integrated. Communications across all the channels must be synchronized.
So is there a difference? There is, albeit a very minuscule one. The fine line that separates omnichannel from integrated marketing is targeting. Integration means unifying a message. The omnichannel approach ensures that the message is being delivered to a unified audience in order to achieve a unified goal.
Integrated, multichannel, and omnichannel marketing are three marketing terms that work differently from one another. But this doesn’t mean they can’t be used together when brainstorming competent marketing strategies to reach your target audience.
These 3 marketing terms work differently, but upon closer inspection, you’ll find that one or two of them function better — or can’t function at all — without the other.
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