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The Difference between Omni, Multi, and Cross Channel Marketing

As a child, I regularly adopted words I heard out and about, despite not knowing the actual use for these words. For example, obtuse. I still don’t know where I first heard that word but soon enough five-year-old me walked around telling everyone “You’re so obtuse.” In a few instances, I wasn’t wrong.


Upon reflection, my marketing professional self is not unlike my five-year-old self in the sense that I still adopt words I hear in conversation and use them without much context. Marketing is surely no stranger to convoluted terminology. It’s become so common I wonder if we all know what these terms mean, or if we just use them out of habit. Three words in particular I see this occurring is:

Omnichannel, multi-channel, and cross channel.

I see marketers, and I have been such a marketer, who use these interchangeably, but upon further consideration, these three marketing terms have distinct meanings and use cases.


Gather your notes and get ready for a quick modern marketing crash course and we explore the differences between omnichannel, multi-channel, and cross channel, and further dissect which your marketing strategy needs more of and how to get it there.


Part 1: The Differences Between Omnichannel, Multi-Channel, and Cross Channel


         Latin root – omni – meaning all

         Denotes a type of retail that integrates different methods of shopping available to consumers (e.g., online, physical store, or by phone).



         Latin root – multus – meaning much, many

         Employing or possessing many communications channels


Cross Channel

         Relates to communicating with consumers across multiple channels, and integrating each channel together


Those definitions didn’t quite clear things up for us, huh? Let’s look at a real-world example and call my favorite store ‘Store T’. I typically shop at Store T physically in-store, however, I trust the brand enough that if I need something and cannot make time to go in-store, I shop online, or utilize the Curbside Pick-Up offering. Each interaction I have whether in-store, online, or curbside pick-up, is relatively the same experience. This is because Store T has an omnichannel approach to their shopping experiences, meaning they focus on creating the same consistent experience for consumers no matter where they are shopping from.


Scrolling through social media I see a dress I absolutely have to have this summer. Luckily for me, my phone “stalks” me and shows me an ad for the same dress on Store T’s website. I click through the ad and purchase the dress from Store T. Before completing my purchase, Store T’s home page catches my eye and I notice I need new shoes to complete my look. After purchasing my new outfit, Store T texts me a confirmation number and order update. Throughout the next few days, I stay updated on my package before a final text notifies me of the delivery. 24 hours later Store T emails me a curated list of items I may like based on my past purchase. If you haven’t guessed it, yes, Store T also has a multi-channel marketing approach. Store T has also successfully used cross channel marketing between social media and email to connect back to their site for further shopping.


From my example with Store T we see that multi-channel and cross channel refer to how one markets a product whereas omnichannel refers more to the experiences that are curated across shopping channels.


Part 2: What Does Your Marketing Strategy Need More Of

Let’s think of omni, multi, and cross channel as vitamins – we need all of them to be effective marketers, but sometimes your strategy is deficient in one area and needs extra supplements to boost it back up.


Here’s a quick diagnostic test to see which vitamin you need more of:


What is your current marketing challenge?

A. Awareness – consumers struggle to find us or our latest products

B. Purchase – consumers do not finish purchases with us 

C. Post-Purchase – consumers purchase but we have high complaints when it comes to order status tracking and delivery


If you answered A, your marketing strategy likely needs a bit more multi-channel. Consumers need to hear from you often and everywhere they’re interacting.


If you answered B, you’re a little low on cross-channel. You may have multiple channels for communication but they’re not integrating together and it’s causing confusion and a breakdown for where you’re actually driving consumers to be.


Lastly, if you answered C, you may need to stock up on vitamin omnichannel. Your brand experience is not consistent across channels and it’s causing a break down in trust with consumers.


We could all use a little more of everything, but now that you have a little better idea of what you can focus on to drive results in the second half of the year, let’s dive into specific ways to implement these vitamins into your daily routine.


Part 3: How to Implement an Omnichannel, Multi-Channel, or Cross Channel Marketing Strategy

In today’s modern marketing many channels can help orchestrate these marketing strategies, namely mobile marketing. 96% of Americans have Smartphones, making mobile channels accessible and reachable for the vast majority.


Starting off simply, mobile can easily integrate with current marketing efforts making it the perfect addition to a cross-channel strategy. SMS can increase downloads of your branded app, like with Sephora SEA, as well as increase site visits and purchases through reminder messages. Mobile Wallet can connect to email campaigns, and because of Apple and Google’s shift to prioritize Wallet, it’s a valuable piece of real estate on a consumer’s phone. App Inbox and Push notifications can improve app usage by drawing consumers into the app more frequently. Essentially, any initiative you have, from promotions, to engagement, to giveaways, to more, can be boosted with mobile marketing. 


If you need multi-channel, mobile can help boost awareness because consumers are on their phone. A recent report found consumers are boosting phone usage by 2.5% this year, and that’s on top of what they already increased it to during the pandemic. Phones are where consumers are managing their lives, and it’s no different for how they’re managing their shopping too. You need to be where consumers are and that’s on their phones.


As mentioned previously, consumers phone usage is up by 2.5% and shows no signs of slowing down. They’re using their phones for everything – from entertainment, to connection, to banking, and shopping, and more. The days of shopping in-store with Store T are gone. I now simply shop with Store T, whether that’s in-store, online, or by my phone. In today’s modern marketing world building a brand means building an omnichannel strategy that ensures the same consistent experience across each shopping method. This ensures consumer trust, builds loyalty, and solidifies your brand.


For each strategy, or to better integrate strategies together, mobile is an effective choice and drastically can boost ROI. The average ROI for a full omnichannel mobile program is 74:1, according to Vibes.


I don’t know about you, but I certainly learned a lot in the short time we’ve had together. Maybe you already knew all of this, but maybe you needed a quick refresher on marketing terminology, especially as the impacts of the pandemic continue to ripple across our industry and shift modern marketing as we know it today.

Class dismissed.

About the Author

Cami Bartel is the Content Marketing Manager at Vibes and Editor-in-chief of The Vibe newsletter and blog. With over 2 years of experience in the mobile marketing industry, she helps marketers understand where and how mobile impacts their programs.

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