We all know that the shopper journey is impossible to predict today. Omnichannel retailers have to build strategies that will reach shoppers wherever they are with a memorable, seamless experience at every touchpoint.

With the path to purchase often zigzagging across multiple channels and devices, from desktop to smartphones and tablets, ecommerce sites to mobile apps and even brick-and-mortar stores, marketers are being forced to question the differences when it comes to omnichannel vs. multichannel marketing.

The Key Differences: Omnichannel Marketing vs. Multichannel Marketing

Omnichannel marketing focuses on delivering a consistent, personalized experience for shoppers across all channels and devices. The guiding principle of omnichannel marketing is that it’s shopper-based, not channel-based. The main goal is to make the shopper experience as easy as possible, and that means consistent engagement no matter where or how a shopper is interacting with you.

Multichannel marketing spans several different channels, like social, mobile, direct mail, and a physical location. Every channel is separate and independent from the others and works in a vacuum, each with its own strategy and goals. The lack of integration from a multichannel approach can create a confusing and impersonal experience that often leaves shoppers feeling frustrated.

What makes omnichannel marketing better than multichannel marketing?

An omnichannel strategy ensures a seamless experience for shoppers. The shoes you viewed on your laptop are the same ones you saw while Instagramming on your phone and the same pair you received an email about when they went on sale a week later. The message is consistent, device agnostic, and most importantly, customized based on your browsing behavior.

Here’s what else we know:

  1. Over a third of online purchases span multiple devices.

Many shoppers today are beginning their path to purchase on one device and ending it on a different one, or starting online and completing the sale in-store and vice versa. A growing array of modern technology formats, combined with the accessibility of store locations, means products are only a few taps, steps, or miles away. Digital channel, device, and distance no longer dictate purchase behavior. Today’s shopper is comfortable searching and buying across a variety of formats and locations.

  1. Digital devices now influence a majority of in-store sales.

Deloitte’s Digital Influence Study revealed that over half (56%) of all brick-and-mortar transactions are preceded by a digital engagement. Furthermore, a growing number of consumers are opting to make purchases on the web and then picking those items up in physical locations. According to the International Council of Shopping Centers, “39% of shoppers plan to use BOPUS (buy online, pickup in store) option, up from 32% in 2015.”

  1. Shoppers that use more than multiple channels to shop deliver a higher lifetime value than those that use just one.

The more you can recognize each shopper and customize their experiences to thoughtfully shepherd them through their journey, the more likely they’ll be to convert — not just once, but many times over. Data from an analysis of Criteo clients in the U.S. conducted between June 2017 and July 2017 shows that treating channel interactions as unrelated, transactional experiences may compromise not just sales, but also customer lifetime value.

Omnichannel retailers that focus on a holistic approach see bigger gains. Our study found that shoppers who are involved in a long purchasing path are extremely high value: In-store buyers who also browse products on a retailer’s website tend to spend 14% more than those who do not conduct online research beforehand. When compared with in-store shopping alone, the average lifetime revenue per user (RPU) is 3x as high for the cohort that has made a purchase both in store and online.

So what’s the number one challenge to adopting a full-fledged omnichannel strategy?

Data. Business today is powered by it. But the ability to access and use data in an impactful way is impossible for many brands to do on their own.

In our current commerce climate, shopper data at scale is stuck in silos or lost to internet giants, so recognizing shoppers across devices and channels — and delivering product recommendations that will inspire them to buy — is often out of reach. Matching shoppers across devices, unifying online and offline profiles, and connecting to the right media to deliver timely messages are nearly impossible for retailers and brands to do on their own.

For the latest consumer trends and digital advertising strategies, download our new Shopper Story 2022 report:

Michelle Pruett

As Global Head of Content at Criteo, Michelle leads a high-performing team of talented marketers. Her writing has been featured in Entrepreneur, Business Insider, AdWeek, eMarketer, and more. She's lived on three continents and is proud to be a New Yorker at heart.

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