Even seasoned business and marketing strategists can be confounded when it comes to understanding the terms omni-channel marketing and multi-channel marketing. Apparently, some even think that there is no significant difference between the two. If you are a digital marketer of any sort, one thing that you do not want is to be ignorant of the potential marketing opportunities around you. Firstly, let us try and define these two terms as precisely as possible. Multi-channel Marketing: Theoretically, multi means many. If your clients can engage with you using multiple channels like social media, websites, emails and contact centers, it means that you are offering a multi-channel marketing approach to them. Now, this approach can be extremely vulnerable as different users may go through different experiences based on what channel and device they are using. Omni-channel Marketing: Omni means “all” and “everywhere.” Omni-channel marketing refers to the ‘general experience’ of customer interactions across all channels. Companies that follow omni-channel marketing focus on providing a seamless experience to customers using any and all channels. All channels and devices are integrated, and when customers switch between channels and devices, their experience is uninterrupted. To be or not to be an omni-channel marketer … Well, this is not an easy decision to make. You will have to assess the nature of your business and the strength of your resources and budget in order to make a call. To determine whether or not omni-channel marketing is for you, it is important to know the pros and cons of each. So here are the advantages and challenges of omni-channel marketing which you should consider. The Advantages Omni-channel marketing can be a blessing for small- and medium-sized businesses, especially for those that still rely on traditional email marketing methods. 54% of omni-channel customers prefer to shop with retailers that let them purchase from different devices. The very fact that your brand is present across all channels and devices makes it more competitive. You can now focus on the buyer better and optimize strategies to track buyer behaviors. Prompt responses to buyer queries help you retain loyal customers. Your product/brand needs to go where your buyers are. Whether it is different devices or different channels, it is important to explore the best avenues to capitalize on. Many companies in the past have successfully utilized the idea and practice of omni-channel user experience. By managing different channels for your clients, you can ensure you don’t lose track of any transaction in the mix. You can track demographics of your loyal customers and the time they are most likely to make a purchase. This mode of marketing ensures integrated sales and customer service, united inventory, enterprise resource planning and merchandising. When all these aspects of your business function together, it also improves the quality of your product and customer service, a far better bet than any marketing gimmicks people try. The challenges of omni-channel marketing You may think, “everything is sweet about omni-channel marketing.” But you are wrong. This mode of marketing has its own share of challenges too. To start with, this strategy is not as straightforward as other marketing methods. Being present across all channels and devices and making sure your brand shows up effectively is not an easy job. Omni-channel marketing takes all things into account including a customer’s buying behavior, purchasing time, device used etc. Marketers have to understand their customers’ behaviors before devising a plan. According to research by Forrester Consulting, for a successful omni-channel marketing campaign, it’s important for everyone in an organization to be working towards the same objective. Loose communication or lack of understanding can backfire. If your employees or management don’t gel well with each other, omni-channel marketing is not for you. Lack of internal marketing resources and expertise and insufficient funds can challenge small and medium sized businesses trying to adopt omni-channel marketing. With technology and gadgets evolving so fast, it can be a challenge keeping up with the pace. Ensuring your visibility across all the latest channels can be difficult and time-consuming. Bob Fabbio, CEO at marketing automation service provider – eRelevance, recently presented an interesting perspective on this mode of marketing to the American Marketing Association, addressing the unique challenges to small- to medium-sized businesses. Here is what other experts say about omni-channel marketing and how its significantly groovier than multi-channel marketing. Multi-channel marketing The old-fashioned multi-channel marketing still works for many different businesses. Here we glance on the advantages and disadvantages of multi-channel marketing. The advantages Having multiple channels also mean you can focus better on different target groups. Hence acquiring more customers becomes easier. Multi-channel approach leads to better market coverage. With multi-channel marketing, you consistently develop newer distribution channels. This will reduce business risks that usually come with a single channel. The disadvantages The fact that different channels subsist next to each other and each channel has independent exchange for the customer makes it more challenging for marketers. Lack of cross-channel transfer of information, is another challenging factor. Each channel is managed by the respective department, with little or no cooperation between each other. Owing to personalized marketing campaigns and unique pricing policies designed for each channel, there may be a raise in confusion and uncertainty among customers. The different channels may not be identified as part of a single business. One must understand that omni-channel marketing and multi-channel marketing are not opposites. They are just different stages of the development of trade, as omni-channel is the next big thing in the multi-channel marketing concept. The point is not how many or which channels are focused. That can be identical in both omni-channel as well as multi-channel marketing. What’s important is the relation between different channels and what advantage it offers to your customers. You must consider which mode of marketing can ease the boundary between offline and online trade? Do we have a winner … Well, omni-channel marketing may not be a universal choice, considering the challenges that come with it. However, with the amount of flexibility and ease it offers customers, it can’t be ignored either. For small- and medium-sized businesses in particular, an omni-channel approach could do wonders, if done right.