Last Updated: November 23, 2020

The Internet revolutionized commerce, introducing consumers to an unprecedented level of information, as well as a powerful means of interaction between businesses and customers around the globe.

Now, emerging technologies are enhancing this interaction further. Today there are more options than ever before for businesses and customers to communicate and conduct business with potential customers. But how many of these options do you actually need to use—and which ones are right for the customers you’re trying to reach?

What is multichannel marketing?

Multichannel marketing provides customers with more than one way to complete a sales transaction, such as through a retail store, a web page on the Internet, or even through their smartphones.

Additionally, it recognizes that different consumers not only favor particular channels, but may commonly use multiple channels throughout the purchasing process—for example, by finding information on a web page, but actually making the purchase at a physical store.

Who implements multichannel marketing?

Businesses in retail, finance, computing, travel, fashion, and many other industries use multiple channels to engage customers. Different types of business tend to favor different channels. Financial businesses, for example, use call centers on a greater scale than retail brands; catalogs, meanwhile, are often used for clothes, home goods, and computer products, but don’t feature as a channel for investment products. Furthermore, nearly every business can use the Internet as a major channel for commerce, and have begun to integrate other technologies like mobile commerce as well. (See also Cross Media Marketing) Some examples of multichannel marketing include:

Transaction Channels

  • physical store
  • over the phone (call center)
  • mail
  • Internet
  • mobile devices
  • JC Penney was the first department store to sell online. Today, it also displays its catalog through Facebook, allowing Facebook fans to make purchases without ever leaving the social media website. Also on Facebook is U.K. fashion retailer ASOS, where users can browse, buy, comment on, and share discoveries with their friends.
  • Eddie Bauer has long offered “brick, flip, and click”—using retail stores, catalogs, and a website.
  • Home décor retailer Garnet Hill has a mobile site easily as functional as its website, and has integrated it with its catalog, so any catalog item can easily be looked up on the mobile site by item number.
  • Fairmont Hotels allows customers to not only make reservations from their mobile phones, but also connects them with local attractions and themes around their destination.
  • Pac-Sun has integrated online, mobile, and in-store terminals to provide a seamless interaction between customer and sales, as well as an iPhone app that can scan QR codes from store displays, print magazines, and other locations, and use that information to build custom outfits.

For what kinds of customers is multichannel marketing effective?

As the world becomes increasingly interconnected through Internet and mobile technology, multichannel communications will become a normal aspect of commerce rather than an exception. While many customers still prefer to interact with a single channel, increasing numbers use multiple channels in their buying process—and those that do purchase about 30 percent more.

How is a multichannel marketing campaign developed?

Multichannel marketing involves increasing the points of contact with customers, and reaching additional customer segments by providing access points that they prefer. In order to be effective, it’s imperative that the business work to coordinate (1) its message, and (2) its data.

Some Messaging Channels

  • mobile
  • Internet website
  • Internet ads
  • print ads
  • TV/radio ads
  • social media websites and blogs
  • direct mail/email
  • telemarketing

Advertising in print, TV, radio, direct mail (and email), Internet ads, and other avenues should provide consistent brand experiences. When different agencies are contracted for each of these avenues, developing a consistent message can prove difficult. Similarly, customers’ experiences through direct sales, call centers, websites, and retail environments should also be of a consistent brand—you don’t want consumers feeling like they’re interacting with a different company at each point. (See also Integrated Marketing)

Next, it is vitally important that different channels coordinate their data. Sales made through a call center or website tend to collect more consumer information than those made in a retail store. Storing this information in different databases (one used by the call center, one used by the website, etc.) deprives a company of many opportunities to customize a consumer experience.

Once data is integrated across all channels, new opportunities abound. For example, direct marketing lists can be more targeted, and customized to include specific information; a highly customized mailer may be twice as expensive to print, but generates five times the response rate. (See also Precision Marketing)

Businesses can also use information to create follow-up opportunities. For example, a customer looking for information on a website, but who doesn’t make a purchase at that time may get a follow-up from the call center. Integrated data also increases the service that can be provided when customers initiate contact, such as through a customer service number or an online chat window.

Measuring success across multiple channels can be difficult. If a customer investigates a company through multiple channels, finally making a purchase at one (say, the website), are the other channels (print, email, mobile, etc.) credited in that purchase? Only recording the last point of contact can skew the metrics, and result in misunderstanding the actual return on investment for different messaging channels. A business needs a developed system of touch-point attribution to paint a more accurate picture of its efforts and results.

What career titles work with multichannel marketing strategies?

Marketing Manager

What do they do?

What type of salary should I expect?

  • Marketing Manager
    Median annual pay: $116,010
    Top 10%: $187,199+
  • Database Manager
    Median annual pay: $75,190
    Top 10%: $116,870
  • Market Research Analyst
    Median annual pay: $60,250
    Top 10%: $112,560

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

  • develop company messaging across multiple touchpoints and sales channels
  • adjust product, pricing, and promotional elements to fit each channel
  • coordinate brand messaging across different channels
  • use metrics to optimize business investment among various channels
Education and Skills

Marketing managers must have at least a bachelor’s degree in marketing or business management, and be current on technology trends in the business. They should also have at least three years’ experience in advertising, sales, or a related field, and have already have had some success in successfully managing smaller teams. Educational background should cover marketing and research, communications, and business management.

Database Manager

What do they do?
  • build and/or manage databases for collecting consumer transactions and prospecting
  • coordinate data from separate sources and databases for use across multiple channels
  • use database software to turn information on individual customer behavior into customized offers
  • manage all communication between the database departments, marketing, and sales
Education and Skills

Database managers often have a bachelor’s degree in marketing and/or information technology. They must be current on industry and database software. Additionally, they must demonstrate strong analytical and communications skills.

Market Research Analyst

What do they do?
  • use a variety of methods to identify customer shopping habits, including preferred communications and transaction channels
  • research how customer behavior is altered by new technologies and networks
  • use data and statistical analysis to evaluate the return on investment for messaging in different channels
  • use data to recommend messaging strategies for diverse marketing channels
Education and Skills

Market research analysts need at least a bachelor’s degree in market research, statistics, computer science, or another related field; they may also have a minor in business organization and management. Ideal experience background will include work specific to each channel being targeted (i.e., direct mail, website analytics, etc.).

How can a marketing school help you succeed?

Our Recommended Schools

  1. Grand Canyon University (GCU)

    GCU's Colangelo College of Business offers leading edge degrees that address the demands of contemporary business environments.

  2. Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU)

    Explore the bond between business and consumer behavior with a degree in marketing.

Effective multichannel marketing requires being able to understand and interact with customers in a constantly evolving market environment. A marketing program will prepare you to do so across multiple channels, training you in market research, communications, and business management.

Courses in market research will teach you how to segment consumers and identify changes and opportunities in customer demand, while additional courses in consumer behavior allow you to predict how customers will respond to different communications and incentives.

Communication is a core skill of all kinds of marketing, and is therefore a significant component of most marketing programs. In addition to specific classes (including organizational communication, print communication, and communication in social media), developing communication and presentation skills will be integrated into your other courses.

A marketing program will also teach about aspects of business organization and management, including product development, distribution, pricing, and promotion. You’ll learn about doing business through resellers, as well as directly with the end consumer. You’ll also acquire the basic leadership skills needed to coordinate and manage teams, and how to align their goals so that marketing messages remain consistent through the projects of various teams.

To learn more about what a marketing program can do for you, request information from schools offering degrees in marketing. Call, check their website, and/or visit in person, depending upon the channel you most prefer.