Customer expectations changed in the past few years. They want to communicate through multiple channels on the platform they prefer. This expectation shift made its way for two specific yet quite similar strategies: multichannel and omnichannel. Even though it may seem these two terms represent the same meaning, the difference between omnichannel and multichannel strategies are in many factors.
Many businesses face challenges when it comes to understanding insights about customer actions and behavior. Usually, they have no clear idea how the discovery happened and what customers preferred activities are across different channels they use.
When choosing either of these approaches, choosing one that fits best with your business is crucial. Knowing key differences helps you gain an insight into behavioral data about your customer's journey.
As you may assume, multichannel simply means 'many channels'. It refers to using more than one channel to communicate information between you and your customers. This includes multiple channels, like voice, chat, email, physical stores etc. What is important to mention is that those channels are not integrated with one another.
Businesses that choose a multichannel approach focus on being present in their customers' preferred channels. They aim to establish their presence on the channels through which their customers are most likely to interact.
Usually, this means opting for two or more channels. Since it can be challenging to navigate multiple channels equally, it often results in just one channel getting the most attention. This makes it hard to provide a seamless customer experience across all channels. Instead, they formulate specific strategies for each channel, ensuring it is engaging enough for most customers.
Regarding solutions, multichannel approach strategies are usually implemented via various solutions for every channel instead of a unified customer relationship management solution.
Customers are distracted by hundreds of different pieces of information daily. They also communicate through multiple channels. Engaging with your customers on as many channels as possible is imperative. It is a pivotal way to achieve customer experience goals, reach prospects and remain competitive in today's dynamic market.
Multichannel engagement includes reaching your audience on the right channel and sharing the right message at the right time.
Simply put, omnichannel means 'all channels'. It refers to using more than one channel to communicate with customers. What differs from multichannel is that it aims to provide a personalized and integrated experience across different touchpoints and devices. It unifies various channels into one system.
Omnichannel strategy streamlines all communication under one platform across all channels like email, phone, social media, website etc. It helps you better understand customer behaviour by mapping their journey to deliver a seamless customer experience. For example, a customer raises an issue through a live chat with a contact center agent. To make communication more fluid, the interaction is moved to a call. Since these two channels are integrated, there is no need for a customer to repeat the information from the first interaction when they switch to a call.
Adopting the omnichannel strategy implies seamless communication under a single platform across any customer touchpoint, starting from pre-sale to post-sale and everything in between.
This significantly helps reduce customer churn and improve retention. For example, companies with omnichannel customer engagement strategies retain 89% of their customers.
One of the top benefits of omnichannel is personalization. By enabling you to track customer interactions and being available on multiple channels, you can consider customer needs and ensure they have the best experience possible.
As you can see, multichannel and omnichannel are not the same thing. Although both use multiple channels, the total customer experience is entirely different.
Let's sum it up:
Multichannel - uses different channels for communication with customers. Since channels are not integrated into one solution, the customer's final experience is often soiled.
Omnichannel - also uses multiple channels. However, they are integrated into one solution and enable you to deliver a consistent customer experience.
As mentioned, the main difference between omnichannel and multichannel is that omnichannel has all channels integrated within a single solution. This allows for conveying a consistent brand image and a customer experience.
Although both omnichannel and multichannel consist of dealing with multiple platforms, let's take a look at a couple of examples of a more specific difference between these two:
Another critical difference between omnichannel and multichannel is that multichannel is focused on channels, whereas omnichannel is focused on customers.
The multichannel approach aims to maximize the number of available communication channels. Here, customers can choose how they want to engage with a business. The more platforms you offer, the more options the customer has.
For omnichannel, the customer is the focus. The goal is to give a seamless experience as they switch platforms, removing the friction as they move between different touchpoints. Less interconnected channels are better than more unconnected channels.
Another difference between omnichannel and multichannel is in how they approach customer interactions. Multichannel focuses on engaging customers, while omnichannel focuses on improving customer experience.
The multichannel approach aims to cast the net as wide as possible to make more and more people aware of a business.
On the other hand, the omnichannel approach also aims to attract new prospects and consistently care for existing ones.
As an example, let's look at social media. The multichannel approach aims to increase engagement: more likes, comments, followers and shares on your social media pages and posts since these metrics show more people are engaging with your brand.
An omnichannel strategy focuses less on these quantity-based metrics. What is essential is to ensure customers can jump from your social media page to your website.
One of the differences between the two is the number of contact channels used and the quality of provided support.
Multichannel is all about widening the number of available channels. It enables customers to choose how to engage with a business. The more communication platforms you offer, the better. However, there is no effort to connect the channels. This means customers have to start from the beginning when switching from one to another, which can hinder the quality of support received.
Let's look at the example. The customer has trouble logging into their account. The next step is to contact customer services for advice. The phone agent gives the customer step-by-step instructions on how to solve the issue. The call ends, and the customer begins to follow the instructions. However, they face a step not mentioned by the agent. They get confused and do not know what to do next. This time, the customer chooses to contact the agent via mail as it is easier to visualize the problem. Since the email and phone channels of the business are not synced, the customer has to repeat the issue in the email.
On the other hand, omnichannel is all about connecting different channels and providing consistent support. Like multichannel, customers can choose the preferred channel to contact a business. The difference is that switching communication from one channel to another is effortless while preserving previous communication.
Using the same password example, when the customer switches to email, there is no need to repeat the previous conversation. The phone agent records details of the exchange under the customer's information in the company's CRM. The agent can access this information and gain context for replying to the customer on the new channel.
When customers don't have enough channels or if there is no seamless communication transition, it negatively impacts the customer experience.
By adopting the omnichannel approach, communication is more unified and helps provide a seamless experience.
Let's look at a couple of examples of adopting an omnichannel approach:
Companies deciding on an omnichannel approach will likely invest more extensively in advanced technology and tools. The right tools enable you to integrate multiple channels and thus providing an exceptional customer experience.
It is crucial to have a broader vision when adopting an omnichannel approach. Tools like omnichannel CRMs may seem unnecessary and costly to your business. However, investing in customer engagement software results in a higher ROI in the long run. The benefits you can expect are the following:
Fewer touchpoints: The strategy empowers your agents to understand customers' concerns faster and provide practical solutions in the first go.
Higher satisfaction: When customers receive quick feasible solutions with suitable systems and technology during the initial contact, the level of satisfaction increases. This results in loyal customers wanting to support you in the long run.
You can leverage an omnichannel customer engagement solution to unify all your customer conversations in one place to understand your customer journey better. Analyzing it, you gain deeper insights to personalize customer engagement across all touchpoints.
It would help if you were where your customers are. You can offer real-time engagement and improve customer experience by being active on the preferred touchpoints.
The omnichannel strategy helps to attain valuable insights into previous interactions your customers made with your business. Creating customer journey maps enables you to meet customer needs and deliver an optimal omnichannel experience.
Knowing customers' behaviour helps to optimize your processes to reduce customer frustration, bridge the gaps in the process, and nudge them towards conversion.
Usually, a lot of time is involved in resolving a single problem due to many back-and-forth customer interactions. The omnichannel dashboard empowers your team with real-time feedback about their customer interactions handled on each channel. 5.
Understanding customer behaviour and needs is crucial for delivering outstanding support.
Brands that try to engage their audience with an omnichannel avoid churn much better than those without it. You can look at it as one of the customer retention strategies of your business. The omnichannel communication strategy empowers customers to connect with the brand through their preferred channel and makes an easy transition during the interaction.
When businesses open all the possibilities for the customers to connect, customers find it convenient and tend to stay loyal to your company for a longer time.
Users can choose online and offline channels like live chat, Facebook messenger, phone, email or service centers to engage with an organization. Ensuring the communication is consistent on each channel improves the experience and brand image.
The omnichannel customer service strategy provides a seamless experience across every channel. All channels are centralized under a single platform bringing stability and ensuring consistency across the board. This results in the same quality of customer experience, regardless of the used touchpoints.
Research by Harvard Business Review showed that customers of omnichannel companies are more valuable on multiple factors. If you have decided between omnichannel and multichannel, you need to consider a successful shift from strategies.
We suggest these four ways to make the omnichannel strategy work:
The omnichannel approach allows you to understand your customers better. You will be able to know their preferences, needs and wants. It also helps your business to improve your product based on their interests.
It is imperative to learn about how your customers interact with you and their objectives for each interaction. You can personalize interactions to serve your customers better and boost satisfaction.
Getting customer insights on customer behaviour is crucial for omnichannel success. It would help if you analyzed customer journeys via both physical and digital channels to deliver a personalized experience. Shifting to an omnichannel strategy helps to reach deep insights into customer engagement.
Analytics will allow you to target customers with the right message that matches their needs. When you target customers based on data, their conversion rates go higher.
Giving your employees the right tools is essential to implementing an omnichannel strategy.
The solutions you choose must be able to adapt to customer preferences and the context of their journey. Furthermore, sophisticated software that streamlines workflows is a must for implementing an omnichannel marketing approach.
Investing in a contact centre and customer engagement tools (like Live) will allow you to carry out omnichannel support that results in satisfied customers.
Customer experience is essential for any business and should always be in focus. Considering everything we mentioned above, it is easy to conclude that omnichannel is generally a better approach than multichannel.
This doesn't mean you shouldn't abandon the idea of being present on multiple channels. Businesses should always offer their customers numerous methods to communicate.
An omnichannel approach is still multichannel since it offers customers more than one contact platform. What separates them is treating all these channels as part of a single solution rather than each one individually.
This means slowly introducing each new channel and ensuring it is synced with existing channels. An integrated contact center solution like Live is an easy way to ensure channels are connected to your CRM and existing customer contact channels.
Learn more about how the Live product family can help you support and improve your customer experience strategy.