The difference between multichannel and omnichannel marketing (and why it matters)

In today’s marketing climate, digital could easily be mistaken as the be-all and end-all of a brand. Indeed, Marketing Week and Forbes point out that company’s digital marketing campaigns are ever increasing in priority and budget.

The fact is that, in many product categories, shoppers require a more tangible experience to warrant a purchase. For example, 70% of shoppers still prefer to shop for groceries in-store (PWC: Total Retail Survey 2017), the sensory elements of food simply can’t be effectively communicated through purely digital channels (at least until smell-o-vision takes off, of course).

This suggests a necessity for multiple channels for brand-to-consumer communication to maximize its chances of engagement. However, in a world where convenience is considered a human right, it’s up to brands to be as flexible as possible to fulfil their ever-mounting duties and survive within the market.

Enter the omnichannel.

Marketers are now thoroughly familiar with the challenges posed by an omnichannel approach and the debate surrounding the now thoroughly established ‘buzzword’ rages on. This conversation has often raised questions like “is it necessary?”, “is it worth it?” and “is it even possible?”. But it’s important to establish a clear definition of omnichannel and how it differs from the now traditional multichannel approach.

The key difference is a matter of customer experience integration. Whilst a multi-channel strategy communicates with consumers through a variety of individual channels (both online and offline), omnichannel blurs the lines between them, integrating numerous channels into the customer journey interchangeably and synergistically. The key words here are integration and synergy which, admittedly, could be regarded as buzzwords in themselves.

In simple terms, omnichannel is a marketing idealism: the offer of a comprehensive experience where every aspect of a campaign is linked and designed to convey a consistent message and enhance the consumer journey. As marketers have grown wiser to the digital format, quality has begun to take precedence over quantity. Rather than simply pumping money into Google Adwords or berating the public with online ads, digital funds are being diverted into aligning the online and offline experience of a brand.

This is where the internationally-recognised d3thinking toolkits developed by DECIDE in conjunction with leading universities and business schools, really add value. The d360 planning and activation toolkit deep-dives into the psyche of the shopper to create behavioural profiles, individual shopper missions and category-specific journey mapping. This means it can identify the most influential decision points on the path to purchase and reveal WHY each is important so that; a) marketing budget can be allocated intelligently to optimise ROI, and b) informed, differentiated creative briefs are developed that are unique to the demands of each touchpoint. The d3eclipse design measurement tool can then be applied to assess the three key biases affecting shopper decision-making (power, evidence and opinion) to help maximise the effectiveness of the creative solutions at each decision point and enhance the influence over the shoppers’ decision to buy.

For instance, 52% of global shoppers prefer to research their footwear purchases online (PWC), therefore over half footwear shopper’s in-store experience might be enhanced through an omnichannel approach. Strategically placed interfaces (iPad or touch screens) might be added to brick-and-mortar locations to provide the techno-centric consumer with additional information about products in a format with which they are comfortable.

Other brands bring together websites and smartphone apps with other experiential techniques. A billboard or storefront might direct shoppers to a downloadable application which in turn would lead them to a high-street based reward, a point-based reward system could be implemented through social media and cashed in through mobile, website or instore. For example, the d360 toolkit developed by Decide. is one approach which marketers might utilize to define shopper’s behavioural profiles, shopping contexts and key decision stages to design a comprehensive map for each unique consumer journey.

Omnichannel is playing an increasingly important role in aligning a company’s advertising and brand communications with its strategy, objectives, values and consumer/shopper experience. With the insight that d3thinking can deliver, brands can now genuinely optimise their marketing to improve brand equity and awareness and the shopper experience to positively influence the decision to buy.

If you’d like to find out d3thinking can help improve the performance of your brand at the moments that matter most on the path to purchase, contact DECIDE at or call us at +44 (0)207 582 7040.