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Nov 17, 2023

Multi-channel, cross-channel, and omni-channel? Which is right and when to use it

Dayna Lang
Author Dayna Lang

The world of advertising continuously debates aspects of multi-channel advertising.

Alongside these important – and often lively – discussions, marketers should explore the different terminology used to describe cross-channel activities, what those terms mean, and why the distinction matters. 

Firstly, why is cross-channel advertising so important? In modern advertising there is an abundance of programmatic platforms available for audiences to choose from. When watching TV shows in the evening, audiences might choose cable, Netflix, Roku, or others. Many audiences now use multiple devices at the same time. Cross-channel strategies are essential for ensuring marketers can connect with today’s audiences. 

You can read more about cross-channel marketing in our full guide

What is the difference between multi-channel, cross-channel, and omni-channel?

So, when discussing cross-channel advertising, why are so many articles using terms like multi-channel and omni-channel, and what do they mean? 

Multi-channel marketing:

Multi-channel marketing refers to marketing via multiple channels simultaneously. This means reaching the same customer on multiple platforms, or different customers on multiple platforms. This differs from cross-channel and omni-channel approaches in one major way. A multi-channel strategy means that each channel operates independently. A TV campaign does not flow alongside a mobile campaign – the two operate individually and without reference to one another.  

The main benefit of multi-channel marketing is it is easy to adopt into an existing programmatic strategy. The downside is it doesn’t allow for true cross-channel communication and users who encounter ads on multiple platforms are left prone to ad-exhaustion. 

Cross-channel marketing: 

Cross-channel marketing is similar to a multi-channel approach, except each channel is connected and the strategy operates across multiple platforms in order to create a more cohesive customer journey

The main benefit of cross-channel over multi-channel is that no customer queries or interactions are ignored or left out.  

Omni-channel marketing: 

Finally, omni-channel marketing is when marketers take advantage of ALL marketing channels available to them. In addition, these channels are interconnected, similar to cross-channel marketing. 

One of the main benefits of omni-channel strategies is that there is often a higher level of customer engagement and increased satisfaction. One shortfall, however, is that not every platform makes sense for every brand. Some target audiences may only choose to use a handful of platforms, making omni-channel a great approach for brands with a large audience, but less ideal for brands with smaller, more targeted personas that benefit from a cross-channel approach where they can choose the platforms with which their audience is most likely to engage. 

It’s important to build a strategy that properly addresses your brands needs, and that means choosing whether multi-channel, cross-channel, or omni-channel marketing best suits your strategy. No matter which of these three strategies is best for your brand, one thing is clear: a single-channel marketing approach in today’s environment isn’t as beneficial as taking advantage of the many programmatic platforms available to today’s audience. 

Without a multi-channel approach, it is difficult, if not impossible, to properly reach and target consumers. Additionally, without a cross-channel strategy, audiences become prone to ad-fatigue, since receiving repetitive information across multiple touch points can be annoying at best and leave negative brand connotations at worst.

Looking to implement a cross-channel strategy in your brand’s marketing? illumin’s journey advertising platform helps marketers reach audiences at the right time and place in their purchasing journey. Learn more here.

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