Omni-Channel: Business Definition and Meaning

Patrick Ward Patrick Ward Follow Nov 21, 2020 · 6 mins read
Omni-Channel: Business Definition and Meaning

Business Definition of “Omni-channel”

Omni-channel refers to the practice of engaging with an audience using multiple media types, or “channels,” and ensuring consistency across channels.

What Does “Omni-channel” Mean?

In the media context, “Omni-channel” refers to the practice of using multiple media types or “channels” to reach their audience, e.g. using Instragram TV as well as YouTube.

In marketing, this term refers to achieving audience and monetization growth through as many sources, or “channels,” as possible, e.g. running Facebook ads as well as adding a chat bot to the website.

An omni-channel marketing strategy is an approach that attempts to create a unified experience for the client across all lines of communication. This approach means that the message they are receiving from your customer service agents is matching the information that they see on the ads.

In the simplest terms, a 20 percent off coupon is spread across mobile advertisement, the newspaper, and your agents.

Another critical focus of an omni-channel focus is picking up where the customer left off. A customer who expressing an issue via your chat channel needs to be able to call out to an agent who has the notes from the first chat. This process can be especially complicated given differing perspectives between people. For example, “20 percent off everything on the floor” can be perceived as someone excluding hanging lamps from a discount because they do not touch the floor.

Understanding Omni-channel

The Latin word “Omnis” means “all.” The term “multi” is the shortened word for multiple. While multi-channel marketing treats each avenue a different funnel, omni-channel marketing will cross the channels into each other. Omni-channel is the option that appreciates the need to have a consistent message across channels of information. For example, making an order on the phone and being able to track the progress of your order on the company website.

The same strategy can be applied on entirely digital channels as well. Many times, organizations will ask you to subscribe to their e-mail list or follow their social media page. This practice, combined with push notifications on your mobile device and having a “notification center” on your account with the company, is considered multiple channels. If they all have the same messages or focus, these are deemed as part of an omni-channel strategy.

You can combine any channels you want, providing that the message is consistent and crosses between channels. You see these a lot with credit card offers. Sending you an e-mail, a letter, and a call to hit all available channels they can to get your attention. Others will try a more subtle approach, but the idea remains the same. With repetition and more formats, you have a higher chance of converting the sale or retaining the business.

Omni-channel strategy is also not limited toa single goal. By focusing on the core of your strategy, you can maintain an omni-channel focus. For companies like Amazon, they build their strategy to bring people to their website. For ACE Hardware, their goal is to get people in the store to look at what they have to offer. An omni-channel strategy can lead anywhere provided that there is crossover between channels.

What are some examples of omnichannel marketing?

For this year’s census, you received information that leads you to finalize the details of your household via a website or through the mail. You could also call in if you were looking for any additional information. The key is that this year’s letter gave you options depending on your preference.

This process is standard in government institutions, such as USPS. USPS offers an online tracking system of their packages. You can also receive e-mail updates of letters coming to your address of choice. Again, more options is a good sign of omni-channel marketing.

Another unique take on omni-channel marketing comes from Crate & Barrel. Upon entering most stores, you receive a tablet for scanning bar codes and looking up stock. You log into your account on this tablet. You can use this system to send yourself an e-mail with the new items on your wish list. This system gives you the power to go home and think about it, where they will send you marketing material around your wish list.

Another example of those setting the bar for omni-channel focus is Bank of America. Their goal is to establish a seamless experience between online banking, mobile application banking, and in-person visits. It is becoming more common for banks, like BOA, to offer mobile deposits of checks. Many newer generations do not remember the last time they entered a bank.

Omnichannel vs Multichannel: what is the difference?

Omnichannel is a marketing strategy that recognizes and appreciates the need for crossover between channels. Multichannel is a strategy that treats every channel as a different path leading to a different goal.

In an outbound calling campaign, a multi-channel strategy offers at-home delivery of a product for phone calls only. They also offer at-home delivery of other products by using their mobile application. An omni-channel focus will submit an e-mail that links to creating an online account that will provide at-home delivery of a product.

omnichannel marketing vs omnichannel retailing: what’s the difference?

Omnichannel marketing focuses on advertising. For example, if you wish to sell your service using TV, Radio, and Facebook ads that provide people a single, consistent message, that is omnichannel marekting.

In omnichannel retailing, the objective is leading you to a retail location or an online retail store. When you buy the product, the sales channel is successful. When you consistently use their online tracking service, the retention strategy is working. Omnichannel retailing is a specialized version of marketing.

What are some examples of omnichannel retailing?

Imagine a scenario where you are searching for a new 4K TV on your PC. On your search engine you see a paid advertisement for Rent-A-Center, who is offering 20 percent off of a new TV. You shut down your PC, where you play a mobile game and see the same ad scrolling along the bottom of the screen. You browse Facebook and see another copy of the advertisement.

On the car ride to work, you see a billboard also advertising the same TV for 20 percent off. You decide to turn on the radio, where the same advertisement is playing again. Whatever channel you use, the message stays the same. As long as it ends with you going to an online retail store or a physical retail store, this is omnichannel retailing.

Origin of the term “Omni-channel”

The origin of omni-channel strategy comes from to the 1800s, with Sears & Roebuck releasing their first catalogues. After several smaller examples, the 1990s introduced e-commerce and online shopping. The idea truly sprouted wings in 2010, where a review from IDC Retail Insights expressed a future reliance on multi-channel strategies. In 2013, this bled into our dependence on smartphones, where omni-channel came to what it is today.

Patrick Ward
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Hi, I'm Patrick. I made this site to share my expertise on team augmentation, nearshore development, and remote work.