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The Key Difference Between Multi-Channel and Cross-Channel and Why You Should Care

Posted November 11, 2013 by fran @ 12:28 pm

Like most hot buzz words, people have started throwing around the terms “multi-channel” and “cross-channel” like they know exactly what they mean. We hear pundits saying that multi-channel and cross-channel advertising / marketing are the future and companies must absolutely get on the bandwagon.

To their credit, the pundits are right about one thing: These trends really are the future and businesses must find ways to incorporate them in their practices. But what we did notice is that a lot of people–mostly Internet marketers and those claiming to be experts in e-commerce are using the terms multi-channel and cross-channel interchangeably, as if they have the same definition, when in fact there is a stark difference between the two concepts.

Multi-Channel vs. Cross-Channel

Multi-channel means having a presence on more than one channel or platform. For example, if you’re marketing your products on your website, in person, and via catalogs, then you’re conducting multi-channel marketing.

Cross-channel on the other hand means that you’re seamlessly and interchangeably using multiple channels to market, sell, and interact with customers. For instance, when a customer uses your mobile app to look at a product but doesn’t complete the purchase, you can use a cross-channel approach to remarket that product by serving up ads for it even when the customer is on another channel or platform (say email or social media).

That way, even when they’re reading their favorite news website or checking their email, they’ll be able to see your ad which has the product they were originally looking at. And when they click on the banner, they’ll be taken to the product page and continue browsing or shopping where they left off on mobile.

As you can see, cross-channel takes multi-channel to the next level so that the customer gets a seamless and consistent brand experience no matter what device or platform they’re using.

What it means for you

These days, customers are browsing the web and shopping using multiple devices and platforms, so having a multi-channel strategy is like the bare minimum. But if you want to go even further, you must adopt a cross-channel approach.

Having website, a physical store, a catalog, and an app just won’t cut it if your efforts are fragmented. You need to integrate all these channels and platforms to effectively engage customers no matter where they are or what device they’re using.

How to successfully pull off cross-channel marketing and advertising

How do you cross-channel right? Here are few tips:

Have one key message

The first step is determining what you want to communicate. Be consistent with your messaging and give customers a seamless experience.

Round up all your teams–web, brick-and-mortar, mobile, customer support, etc.–and clearly establish the message that you want to send to customers. That message should dictate how you execute ads, how to design your site, etc.

Use and collect customer data

Be sure to set up data-gathering and analytics software for all channels and platforms so you can collect as much user data as you can. Doing so will enable you to get to know your customers even more, so you can improve and optimize your campaigns accordingly.

Integrate platforms and services

It’s kind of hard to pull off a seamless cross-channel campaign when your vendors and service providers are all over the place. For instance, if you have one vendor for mobile, a separate platform for email, and yet another provider for ecommerce, combining all those platforms and channels yourself can prove to be a challenge.

What you need is a cross-channel advertising and marketing partner that can integrate all those services into once roof. Find a trusty vendor that understands the concept of cross-channel and supports multiple platforms so you can execute your campaigns quickly and efficiently.

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