image

Today’s post was originally written for MarTech. It appeared on their site on March 26, 2024.

Over the years, I’ve written about multichannel and omnichannel experiences. It’s funny to think back ten years or more, when I was asked about trends or predictions for the new year, and realize how long omnichannel has been a dream for the customer experience. Will it ever be a reality? Is this the future? Is it the only way?

There’s a newcomer to this discussion, beyond multichannel and omnichannel: designing and delivering an optichannel experience. What is that? How does it differ from the other two?

Hold tight. I’ll answer those questions and a few more, but I’ll start with some definitions to set the stage.

What is Multichannel?

Multichannel means the company interacts with customers through multiple channels, both online and offline. Customers have the option to engage with the company through various touchpoints, such as physical stores, websites, mobile apps, social media platforms, email, telephone, and more.

The experience across channels is not seamless and integrated, since multichannel strategies don’t necessarily prioritize consistency or integration between channels. Instead, the emphasis is on providing customers with multiple options for interacting with the company based on their preferences and convenience.

What is Omnichannel?

The omnichannel approach offers customers a seamless and integrated experience across all channels and touchpoints. Regardless of whether a customer is interacting with a brand online, on a mobile app, over the phone, or in person, the experience remains consistent and cohesive. They know me. I don’t have to re-authenticate or explain myself over and over again.

The goal of omnichannel marketing is to create a unified brand experience that allows customers to transition effortlessly between channels while maintaining context and continuity.

What is Optichannel?

Optichannel means using the most optimal channel to interact with customers. Rather than focusing on seamless integration across channels like omnichannel does, optichannel focuses on maximizing the performance and effectiveness of each individual channel. This involves analyzing customer data, behaviors, and preferences specific to each channel and tailoring marketing efforts accordingly to optimize results.

Optichannel strategies aim to deliver the right message to the right audience at the right time through each channel, maximizing engagement and conversions.

Can Optichannel Be Integrated Into Omnichannel Strategies?

Combining optichannel approaches with an omnichannel strategy can certainly enhance the efficiency and the effectiveness of a company’s overall marketing efforts. It includes constantly monitoring and optimizing the channels within the omnichannel approach to personalize experiences, enhance customer engagement, and maximize results. By integrating optichannel strategies into an omnichannel framework, companies leverage the strengths of both approaches to create more effective and personalized customer experiences across all channels.

Which Provides the Ideal Experience?

Omnichannel provides the most seamless and integrated experience for customers, since it aims to maintain consistency across all channels, allowing customers to transition between channels effortlessly while receiving personalized and cohesive interactions.

While optichannel strategies focus on optimizing individual channels for maximum effectiveness, they may not necessarily provide the same level of seamless integration and consistency across channels as omnichannel approaches.

And multichannel offers customers multiple options for interaction (as do the others) but generally lack the cohesive experience and integration that omnichannel provides.

Which is Most Feasible to Execute?

Multichannel is generally the most straightforward to implement, as it involves establishing multiple channels for customer interaction without necessarily requiring tight integration between them.

Omnichannel is more complex and resource-intensive to execute compared to multichannel. It requires integrating systems, data, and processes across channels to deliver a seamless experience.

An optichannel approach requires a deep understanding of individual channels and significant investment in data analysis and optimization tools, making it potentially more challenging to execute than a basic multichannel approach but less complex than achieving true omnichannel integration.

What About Tools?

The first tool that comes to mind for me is journey orchestration. It can be used to analyze customer journeys across all channels and touchpoints, identify opportunities for optimization, and automate personalized interactions and next best actions based on predefined triggers or conditions. By leveraging journey orchestration, brands ensure that customers receive consistent and cohesive experiences across all channels and achieve their desired outcomes. It can be used for both omnichannel and optichannel approaches.

On the other hand, tools and technologies used in optichannel strategies to optimize the performance of individual channels within a multichannel marketing strategy include analytics platforms, marketing automation software, customer segmentation tools, A/B testing platforms, and more. Optichannel tools enable companies to analyze channel-specific data, identify trends and patterns, and tailor their marketing efforts to maximize results on each channel.

Which Strategy is the Future?

The future is still omnichannel. It is (and must be) seen as the future of customer experience and marketing strategy, particularly as consumer expectations continue to evolve towards seamless, personalized interactions across all touchpoints.

While not as widely used as omnichannel, optichannel strategies are becoming increasingly more important as companies look for ways to maximize the effectiveness of their marketing efforts across various channels.

And while multichannel is still relevant, it’s become less favored over time as companies recognize the importance of delivering integrated and consistent experiences to meet the demands of modern consumers.

In Closing

While omnichannel offers the most comprehensive and integrated customer experience (and delivers on customer expectations), it may also be the most challenging to execute. Optichannel strategies provide valuable insights and optimization opportunities within a multichannel or omnichannel framework. Ultimately, the choice of approach depends on the specific needs and capabilities of the business, but the trend towards more integrated and personalized customer experiences suggests that omnichannel strategies must play an increasingly central role going forward.

Cue my predictions for 2025…

Stop interrupting what people are interested in and be what people are interested in. ~ Craig Davis

ABOUT ANNETTE

Annette Franz is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, speaker, and author. In 2019, she published her first book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the “Customer” in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business); it’s available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. In 2022, she published her second book, Built to Win: Designing a Customer-Centric Culture That Drives Value for Your Business [Advantage|ForbesBooks], which is available to purchase on Amazon, Books A Million!, Target, Barnes & Noble, and thousands of other outlets around the world! Sign up for our newsletter for updates, insights, and other great content that you can use to up your EX and CX game.

Image courtesy of Pixabay.