Omni-Channel, Multi-Channel, Cross-Channel: How to Tell Them Apart?

Placeholder Omni-Channel, Multi-Channel, Cross-Channel: How to Tell Them Apart?

Omnichannel marketing.

Is it a Holy Grail of customer experience?

Or is it just a lame bzzz… buzzword, created by shrewd marketers to make it look like they are busy chasing high ROIs, CTRs, KPIs, and other big-wigged things like that?

Well, I should say that this is definitely more than just a schmancy word. An omni-channel approach to retail has already changed marketing considerably. And it still keeps kicking up the dust among eCommerce businesses all over the world.

However, it’s not a magic pill yet.

Let’s take this ‘omni-channel buzzworthy thing’ into pieces and see what’s hidden inside.

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Roger Martin
Roger Martin,
the founder and owner
of Standout

eBay sales are a great way to increase turnover, and selling on different marketplaces is essential for any business. Since setting up the automatic exports with X-Cart, our sales have increased by 20%.

Omni-Channel, Multi-Channel, and Cross-Channel. How on Earth Can You Tell Them Apart?

In the ideal world, the journey your customers should make to buy a product from your online store is insanely simple:

1. They google for your brand.

2. Then find the sacred item.

3. Throw it to their shopping cart and proceed to checkout.


Unfortunately, our life is far from perfect. A message from a friend, a TV ad, or a cute kitten GIF can make them feel ‘AWWW!” all of a sudden and side-track their attention from your digital content.

And it’s not a surprise that 94% of people who visit your online store, social media page or mobile application for the first time leave without buying anything never to come back again.

That’s why it is critical to stop letting great leads swim free or (no way!) jump to another digital ocean altogether.

Omni-channel digital marketing strategy

Luckily, omni-channel digital marketing strategy can help you catch your leads right in the process of flying from one channel to another.

Before we start digging into the details, let me bust a couple of myths about this buzzy wuzzy catchword:

MYTH #1. If you think omni-channel marketing is just about using multiple channels like social media networks, a brick-and-mortar store and, say, printed ads, it’s not. Some time ago I had the same thoughts, but I was wrong. Ok, ninety-nine-per-cent wrong.

MYTH #2. Nor is it about giving access to your products through multiple devices, like touchpads, desktops or mobile devices. Every Tom, Dick and their dog knows that you should make your site responsive to stand the competition.

THE TRUTH: Implementing omnichannel marketing is about creating holistic shopping experience, listening and responding to the needs of your consumers every step of the way.

You place your audience at the very heart of your marketing strategy. And then direct all your marketing efforts to please your customer and give him what he is looking for, right then and there.

To put it simply, picture this omnichannel strategy as a universal sales-and-marketing pool that merges the worlds of websites, emails, retargeted ads, social media marketing, and physical locations. You dive into it to reach your customers with personalized offers, products, and messages.

Have you heard about Brian Swichkow, a marketing pro who drove his roommate to paranoia with eerily targeted Facebook ads? I did. Brian created a couple of messages (like the one you see below) and displayed them to a single person — his roommate, a professional sword swallower who had problems taking small pills.

These were hyper-personalized messages sent at the right time, in the right way and for the right reasons. That’s why this trick worked. And it would work even better if Brian extended his efforts to multiple channels and touch points, online and offline.

Say, he could throw an ad leaflet into a postbox, send an email or a traditional text message, or give his friend’s mobile phone number to a sales guy who would eventually invite him to a physical store.

Then, it would be the best example of omni channel marketing… and the dirtiest trick ever.

This omnichannel marketing strategy works pretty much the same for eCommerce. But to make this work for you, it’s vital to be learning from your customers constantly.

You know, the more customer data you collect, the more tailored experience you would be able to provide.

Multi-channel digital marketing strategy

In the multi-channel world, as opposed to omnichannel, a particular emphasis is placed on your product. Your product is what the whole ‘song and dance’ is about.

Each channel, be it an online store, a promotional event, a product’s package, a printed catalog, or word of mouth, exists separately from each other and has an independent opportunity to purchase.

The keyword here is ‘Choice’. The multichannel model gives your shoppers the opportunity to choose between multiple channels, but it doesn’t necessarily move them down the sales funnel.

Inattentive customers may get confused because of different conditions working for different channels.

Here is a perfect illustration of the reverse side of the multi-channel approach. You send a personalized discount coupon to your customer via email and make it valid only for your online store.

This way your shopper will have to pay the full price for the very same product discovered in a physical store.

No good.

You need to understand that consumers are digital-savvy. They are everywhere. So the more channels and devices you use, the more customers engage with your brand.

But if you cannot deliver consistent customer journeys and make equal pricing across all channels and mediums, all your efforts will vanish like smoke up the chimney.

Cross-channel digital marketing strategy

The idea of cross-channel marketing, like the truth in ‘The X-Files’, lies somewhere out there and in between.

Placeholder the x-files

It’s a bit more efficient than multi-channel marketing, as some of the brand’s channels are mixed with each other to smooth the user experience.

And it’s less sophisticated than the omni-channel world which merges everything into a single unique experience.

For example, IKEA launched a VR mobile app so customers can picture virtual sofas and chairs right in their living room.

You just need to place a printed IKEA catalog on the floor (right where you’d like to see your piece of furniture), and the mobile app will replace the catalog with the chosen item in real time.

Look how it works. 2 minutes and 23 seconds of fun.

Two channels are used simultaneously here —  a mobile app and a brand’s printed brochure.

Another example is powered by artificial intelligence ‘My Starbucks Barista’ app. It allows mobile users to place their orders by speaking to a virtual barista.

The Four Biggest Challenges of Omni-Channel

Put bluntly, creating omni-channel customer experience is not a kids game. It’s a hell of a job. You will have to deal with a number of obstacles… or just let them pass.

1. Being consistent is a sheer torture

Being consistent across all channels and devices is what I find the most challenging about omni-channel strategy.

And it looks more similar to a spellbinding giant spider web than a racetrack.

Placeholder spider web

You will have to live the life of your customer. Be his shadow. Which is next to impossible.

2. Companies do not share their data

Customer data is rarely shared between different channels.

You can say (ex. with the help of Google Analytics) where your customer has come from and what products he has squirreled away in his shopping cart.

But your Amazon store will never know about it.

There’s just no tool for that.

3. You cannot be everywhere

What if we could attach a GPS device and video cameras to people?

We would be able to track their steps across multiple shopping channels and devices.

For example, back in 2013, a team from BBC Two’s Horizon programme armed with GPS tracking devices and micro-cameras and recorded the cats’ movements over six 24-hour periods. They’ve got some curious results about the secret life of cats.

This way we could build a real world attribution model — see what’s happening between different channels and devices, offline and online.

Was it a banner ad that caught your customer’s eye on his way to the office?

Or a WhatsApp message from a colleague that made him think of your item?

However, this trick won’t work for humans. At least in the 21st century.

Does Omni-Channel Worth Your Hassle?

Change is hard. That’s why people stay true to what they are used to.

They stick to the rules imagined by some super-whip-smart marketers back in 2008.

They are afraid of trying something new, as it can potentially be wrong or harmful.

And it’s 10x more dramatic when it comes to omnichannel world.

Here’s what many of you think:


New is terrifying.

OMG. Omnichannel is terrifying; it’s safer not to move a muscle.

Don’t be taken in by this guess-work. Omni-channel is worth your time and efforts.

Yes. Big FAT yes.

And if you are still hazy about it, here are a few real-life stats to prove that:

  • Businesses that implement omni-channel strategies get 91 percent higher year-over-year customer retention rates [according to Aspect Software research].
  • Omnichannel approach can potentially give you a 75% increase in sales and a 64% boost in customer loyalty [a survey by SAP].
  • 67% of retail customers start shopping on one device and finish on another [an infographic by WorldPay].

What Pushes Businesses to Jump into Omni-Channel Marketing Pool?

As you see, statistics promise you a pile of gold and a crowd of loving customers if you jump into the omnichannel world. That’s a good motivation.

But there are a few factors that should motivate you even more:

1. Growing competition

While you are peacefully lying on your sofa, savoring the results of your recent mobile marketing campaign, your competitors are wide awake.

They are running a marathon to be among the first ‘omnichannel supermen’ ready to provide their users with seamless experience.

No matter where their customers are — in South Africa, the United States of America or the United Kingdom of Great Britain.

2. Online shoppers (oh, and offline as well..) are a way too pampered

Consumers have become too feather-bedded by all sorts of success heroes, help scouts, happiness engineers, Ninjas, and customer champions.

So if you don’t turn your point of sale, online or offline, into a ‘homey’ place, your shopper will fleet to the caring hands of your competitors.

3. Gen Xers, compared to Millennials, are more choosy and demanding

They can find a product on eBay, read reviews on Amazon, browse product pics on Instagram, learn what their friends think, think again (maybe get depressed for a while), then try it on and buy it in a physical store.

And yeah, you won’t wow them with stuffy press releases or business news. Omnichannel marketing is more than that. Don’t bother to engage your content managers with these tasks.

Teenagers will be bored to death anyway.

You need to stop flashing your cash on the old-school marketing. Study the barebones of buyer psychology and become an ‘omnichannel’ hero instead.

But how?? The next chapter is about it.

How to Become an ‘Omnichannel’ Superhero. Three Simple Steps

1. Dig deep to discover more info about your customers’ life

To provide your customer with a five-star omni-channel experience, you have to discover what’s going on behind the scenes.

How many skeletons are there in his cupboard? One? Or none? How much dust has he swept under the carpet?

Discover it.

You can use social listening tools, collect customer feedback, pry into your shoppers’ social media accounts and leverage the power of lead capture landing pages.

2. Hire ‘Jacks-of-all-trades’, or turn your teammates into champions fit for all roles. Not masters of one or none.

Sales guys, marketing team, PR managers, customer care ninjas, and devs still operate somewhat independently of each other in many companies.

They did it back in 1998. And they keep doing it today, paying no attention to the evolution of marketing. It changed virtually everything about the way your team should interact.

Years ago marketers went to IT-guys to get a password reset. Now they have to work closely together.

Oh, my…

3. Harness the latest marketing technologies and know-hows

The so-called marketing technology stack is now more confusing than ever.

The tools marketers use to create omnichannel experience are different for every company but the most popular, according to the research from Aberdeen, are the following:

  • Customer relationship management software (76%)
  • Web/Video conferencing solution (67%)
  • Email service provider (64%)
  • Marketing automation platform (58%)
  • Print materials & solutions (52%)
  • Analytics & data visualizations solutions (52%)
  • Content management system (52%)

As you can see, CRM is in the heart. It will help you record every step of your buyer’s journeys — from a prospect to a standing customer.

Email marketing software will make it easy to contact your customers with the help of email.

Btw, here’s the essential guide to eCommerce email marketing, with templates and examples, in case you need one. I worked on it for more than two months.

And, finally, analytics software. You won’t go a long way without it.

For instance, analytics software can help you scale a Single Customer View (SCV) — all the customer data your business may have on your customers. Or see the results of your a/b tests.

X-Cart Users Who Have Already Tasted This Delicious Omni Channel Marketing Pie

Do you think that omni-channel world is a tea-table conversation?

Nope. Some of the X-Cart based online stores are already streamlining their marketing efforts to provide their users with omnichannel experiences.

1. butters up customers with eBay, Amazon, eCommerce site and social media networks

Let’s face it. Omni-channel world is not for startups. Typically, their products are accessible both online and offline. And they may also have a substantial customer base and a large customer care team.

However, every rule has its exception. Roger Martin, the founder of eCommerce sire, has never had a physical store.

But actually, he doesn’t care.

He can easily sell worldwide with the help of different online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay.

Roger Martin

eBay sales are a great way to increase turnover and selling on different marketplaces is essential for any business. Since setting up the automatic exports with X-Cart, our sales have increased by 20%.

Roger Martin, the founder, and owner of

Besides online marketplaces, Martin is quite bushy-tailed on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram.

There’s a video guide on their YouTube channel on how to distress your jeans to look like Kurt Cobain or David Beckham.

They have a brutal-looking blog.

Placeholder Stand-out blog

And a thousand of photos of hip and edgy men wearing Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein on Pinterest. It looks like he has read our guide about Pinterest from cover to cover. Have you?

Not only they provide their customers with a wide choice of purchasing opportunities, but they create a seamless integrated customer service.

Say, a customer finds a Hilfiger Denim Bright White Flag in their Pinterest account, then follows the link to see the price in their online store, and finally buys this item on their Amazon shop.

Placeholder Pinterest stand-out

This way, slow but sure, makes his way towards being called the #1 omni-channel retailer with 13 years’ experience in eCommerce.

2. The guys from Rustic Escentuals use Facebook messenger, organize events and crafting classes, keep blog, send newsletters, and invite users to their warehouse

Another good example of omni-channel marketing strategy is when a customer finds an item on Facebook, then spends some time scrutinizing the info in a company’s blog, meditates over the purchase later at home, and eventually goes to a warehouse to make a purchase.

As you see, customers behavior is blurring the channels.

But it looks like the guys from Rustic Escentuals know for sure how to create bombastic omnichannel experiences.

They let their audience consume content in whatever fashion they want, making the process of shopping more engaging and personalized.

How do they do that?

First, they’ve created a Facebook shop (btw, here is a meaty step-by-step guide about adding your shop on Facebook, a barrel of honney… and a spoon of tar). You can browse products there and get instant support through Facebook Messenger. Their customer care team loves messaging, and it is as quick as thought.

Placeholder Facebook shop Rustic Escentuals

Then, they organize annual scent events so that everyone could smell all those yummy fragrances produced by Rustic Escentuals. That’s also an excellent opportunity to meet the staff.

There are also crafting classes in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

And a newsletter full of useful tips and crafting tricks. Content marketing rocks! ?

The only channel I failed to find is an Etsy shop. They might be loosing opportunities to sell to 31.7 million active buyers. You will find lots of trick about selling on Etsy in my beginner’s guide to Etsy setup and success.

Rustic Escentuals is a homegrown business that started in a garage in 1999. They still do not have a physical store, but there is a 12,000 ft. warehouse facility for those who live in the Greenville/Spartanburg South Carolina area. So customers are welcome to pick up their orders to save on shipping costs.

Isn’t that nice?

Here’s The Bottom Line

If you keep doing the same stuff you’ve always done, you’re not going anywhere.

Instead of putting your customer at the center of the experience with omni-channel marketing strategy, you just put a new coat of buzzword paint on your eCommerce walls, wash it off, rinse and repeat.

That’s not going to boost traffic or drive sales or make your supremos happy.

Go ahead! Get your teeth into this omni-channel marketing pie and taste it.

You will be surprised about the way it digests in the minds of your audience.

Mmmm… Yummy.

Go to Chapter 12


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Helen Golubeva
Helen Golubeva
Storyteller at X-Cart

Addicted to yoga, interested in philosophy, and totally mad about copywriting. She loves using the power of words to inspire people and help them grow their eCommerce businesses.

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