What Is Multichannel Marketing?

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A team is working on a marketing approach together.
A team is working on a marketing approach together. (Image: Catherine Yeulet/iStock/Getty Images)

To encourage customers to buy your products or services, you must create marketing channels. These channels use advertising and promotion to engage with customers and to provide ways for them to make purchases. Before the advent of the Internet and online shopping, a business may have only used a single channel; now, a multichannel approach gives customers more choice over how they shop.

The Evolution of Channel Marketing

A marketing channel is the path a customer takes to buy a product or service, guided by the marketing initiatives of the supplier. In the past, this was a relatively simple process. For example, if you owned a local store, you might have used newspaper advertising to encourage local residents to shop with you.

Over time, consumer access to online and digital services has created new channels and target audiences. You can reach more prospects and customers in many different ways and may now need to use multiple marketing channels to encourage people to buy your products or services.

Overview of Multichannel Marketing

In multichannel marketing, you give customers multiple purchasing pathways. For example, if a business adopts a "bricks and clicks" combination, its customers can shop in store or online; the "bricks, clicks and flips" approach adds catalog phone shopping to the mix.

In terms of your marketing strategy, you can present information to consumers in many different ways and may run advertising and promotion programs across many different types of media. As well as traditional offline campaigns, such as TV, mail and print, you can also connect with customers via online and mobile advertising, social networks and email, for example.

Advantages of Multichannel Marketing

Multiple marketing channels give consumers customized choice and more control over purchasing decisions and pathways, making it easy for them to shop the way they want. You can interact with consumers across multiple media, potentially increasing brand awareness and prospect-to-customer conversion across wider audiences.

This may also improve your sales figures. According to the business analytics company, SAS, multichannel consumers spend up to four times more money than those in a single channel. Multichannel campaigns can also be cost effective and easy to measure. For example, using a Tweet or Facebook post to advertise a sale costs virtually nothing; add a website link to the message and it is also easy to track.

Disadvantages of Multichannel Marketing

Conveying a consistent brand message across multiple marketing channels can be difficult. Your message may be the same, but you need use different campaigns and prompts to get it noticed by the right audience at the right time -- a campaign that works well in one medium may not work at all in another.

Also, it's sometimes impossible to measure multichannel campaigns accurately, as you can't always track each stage of the purchasing process. Say you advertise a sale on Facebook with a link to your website. A customer sees the post, looks at products online but goes to one of your stores to shop. The customer passed through your social media and website channels in the purchasing process, but you have no way of tracking this.

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