What is multichannel? Definition, interest and implementation

What is multichannel? Definition, interest and implementation


Multichannel refers to the marketing and distribution strategy that uses several distribution channels, physical and virtual. The approach is developing in particular with the advent of digital technologies, which opens the way to new uses on the consumer side, and consequently to opportunities on the business side. On mobile, from a computer, in store, at home or even on paper: potentially, the company reaches its target via a multitude of contact points.

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It is a question of determining the best opportunes, according to the profile of the customers and the budget, to deploy an effective strategy in order to reinforce the notoriety of the mark and to increase the sales.

What is multichannel?

Multichannel is a marketing approach that consists of communicating and selling on several distinct interactive channels. Traditionally, the company that implements a multi-channel strategy communicates and sells in stores on the one hand, on an e-commerce site on the other. Digitization increases the possibilities tenfold, and the company now has many other points of contact.

Multichannel is essential, and most professionals use it, sometimes without knowing it. For example: a craftsman is referenced in the Yellow Pages web directory and installs a sign at the entrance to his depot; this individual entrepreneur with two points of contact, digital and physical, does multi-channel marketing; prospects have several ways to order their services, the craftsman increases his business opportunities.

Implementing an effective multi-channel strategy requires taking an interest in all the interaction channels available, and even developing new ones.

  • Traditional channels: the company can communicate and sell in stores, at markets and fairs, by correspondence, at home or even by telephone and SMS.
  • Virtual channels: the company can communicate and sell on its website, in desktop and mobile versions, from a mobile application, via a marketplace, thanks to social networks, on an interactive terminal in store or by using e- mailing.

Why choose multichannel?

Multi-channel is now essential, and constitutes a preliminary step in the deployment of a cross-channel strategy. Choosing multichannel allows the company to improve its visibility, its brand image and its turnover, at controlled costs.

  • Increased visibility: multiplying the channels makes it possible to distribute the commercial offer on a large scale, to capture the attention of a wider audience of prospects.
  • A better customer experience: by offering diversified channels, the company adapts to the expectations of each customer profile. His experience with the brand satisfies him, whatever his consumption uses, physical or virtual.
  • A growing turnover: by making the offer widely accessible, sales increase. Surveys also reveal that the multi-channel customer spends 2.5 times more than the single-channel buyer, insofar as he accesses the commercial offer at a sustained frequency: the turnover per customer increases.
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It’s not necessarily about exploiting as many channels as possible. The goal is to identify and anticipate the habits of the target consumer, to offer him a satisfactory experience with regard to his uses. In this way, the company focuses its efforts on the relevant channels, while respecting its budget, its deadlines and its skills.

Illustration of the multi-channel opportunity: La Redoute, a historic French company, is starting to market its textile products as part of a single-channel strategy. In 1928, its famous mail-order catalog was the sole medium for distributing and promoting articles. Buoyed by its success, La Redoute chose multichannel in 1966 to increase its penetration rate: the company opened its first store and began selling by telephone. Following the innovative launch of its interactive electronic catalog on CD-ROM, La Redoute created its online store in 1999. This was followed by a mobile application developed in 2015. To this day, the emblematic distance selling company communicates and still sells by mail order, to satisfy its loyal customers, and develops its offer in physical stores, on its website and on its application, to capture a young clientele with a strong appetite for digital. Result: the multi-channel, introduced in a natural way, allows it to modernize its brand image and adapt to the trend, while preserving the preferred purchasing path of its initial customers.

How to create a multi-channel strategy?

Creating a multi-channel strategy requires proceeding in stages. The company begins by identifying its target, then chooses the relevant interaction channels, to finally deploy its strategy and measure the results. On this occasion, the company assesses the opportunity of an advanced strategy: the cross channel.

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Identify the target

The company paints a typical portrait of its target clientele. It’s about collecting and analyzing the relevant data, to determine the most effective and appreciated channels of interaction. Mainly age, but also socio-professional category or place of residence: this information provides information on the habits and needs of the buyer persona. The millennial who lives in the countryside, for example, is more likely to buy online.

Note that if several profiles emerge, the company takes care to distinguish them to properly segment its strategy.

Choose marketing and sales channels

Each channel has its specificities: each has its own cost, method of communication and path to purchase. The company chooses its distribution channels according to its budget and its target clientele. Examples:

  • The brand of espadrilles which is launching with few means, and which sells to a clientele of holidaymakers, can bet on social networks on the one hand, on markets and ephemeral corners on the other. Investments are lower, and the target is still affected.
  • The furniture brand established on the market, which already has physical stores and a website, can invest in the development of a mobile application to satisfy the uses of the youngest generations and thus reach a new customer sector.
  • The company that sells hearing aids mainly targets an elderly clientele. If the older population of yesteryear was hermetic to mobile technologies, the older population of today is willingly familiarizing itself with it. To adapt, the company is developing the mobile version of its e-commerce site.
  • The company observes that its customers find its products online, then come to buy them in store. To increase its visibility and business opportunities, the company is strengthening its web referencing and opening physical points of sale.

The company must be aware of the objective of multichannel: position itself on channels adapted to the purchasing behavior of the target clientele, or even develop means of interaction that anticipate consumer expectations.

Deploy the multi-channel strategy

At this stage, the company implements its channels operationally: opening a store, creating a responsive site, registering on a social network or even developing a mobile application. Each channel, physical or virtual, must allow the consumer to view the offer, contact the brand and purchase the products or services.

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To communicate on the offer, the brand uses appropriate marketing means: a showcase that promotes the store’s products, powerful visuals to sell on Instagram or even powerful natural referencing to be visible online. To ensure customer relations, the company relies on its teams: store staff, the community manager on social networks and even online customer service. To sell, the company provides the tools adapted to each channel: online payment or at the checkout.

Measure results

The company measures the results of its multi-channel strategy at every touchpoint. Often, this is the opportunity to realize that the channels, although independent, are used by customers in a complementary way. This is the whole purpose of the cross channel. As a reminder, multichannel differs from the following approaches:

  • The cross channel represents in a way the upper level of the multichannel strategy. After diversifying its channels, the company is converging them to standardize the customer journey.
  • Omnichannel allows the customer to use the various physical and virtual channels simultaneously. Example: the customer uses a digital kiosk to order his products in the store.

As mores evolve, consumers tend to use several touchpoints in their purchasing journey. Illustration: they are challenged by an advertisement on a social network, they visit the brand’s website from a computer, they download the application to buy a product, then they go to the store once won over. Multichannel makes parallel and compartmentalized use of the different channels, which then risk competing with each other. Example: the prospect does not find the same promotion on the site and on the application, the store advisor ignores the promotion; the customer experience is degraded. To mitigate this risk, the consistency of the marketing message and the commercial policy is essential. It is for this purpose that the company which deploys a multi-channel strategy quickly enriches it with cross-channel.

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