MARKETERS love buzz words.
One of the more overly used and abused is linked to the ubiquitous term “channel”.
The word ‘channel’ basically describes a medium in which a message can be inserted to be watched/heard/read by a prospective customer. Usually this is a paid insertion, but unpaid messages in ‘owned’ media are becoming increasingly popular and effective (or not, depending on the generosity of mega-platforms like Facebook and Google+).
Reading the trade press, speeches by digital gurus, and their blogs, reveals the increasing and over-zealous use of three terms that seem to mean the same thing: cross-channel, multi-channel, and omni-channel.
So what do these prefixes really mean? And is there any difference when used to describe channels?
To begin, here’s a quick grammatical guide to each prefix.
- The “cross” prefix describes a scenario where an artist or an artistic style or creative work appeals to a range of audiences. Like a cross-dresser.
- The prefix “multi” refers to there being greater than one. Of something. Anything.
- “Omni” means ‘of all things’. A know-it-all would be omniscient. Seemingly everywhere, as ‘in all ways or places’ is regarded as being omnipresent.
Analysing the meaning of each prefix clearly proves that each term should have a different meaning, although the continuing usage by the media is usually at cross-purposes (pun intended).
When referring to cross-channel marketing, the discussion should be about adapting a message campaign seamlessly across multiple mediums.
Multi-channel marketing would be most accurately used in a dialogue about the fact there are many mediums for a marketer to promote their goods and services to an audience. There always have been, always will be.
The third term, omni-channel, has mystical and astrophysical attributes. “Omni” suggest the medium is everywhere; the air, the clothes, the built and natural environments….well maybe that’s stretching it a bit far. It sounds cool though. And seems to have become another marketing buzz word.
For a detailed and informed explanation about these terms in relation to e-retailing, I recommend reading this post on the atinternet blog. The authors make some excellent observations, the most compelling being:
Customers like to use all channels as soon as they are available
A customer who uses several different channels is more likely to make a purchase
So to decide which term is best to use, I turned to that all-knowing oracle – Google Trends. It’s a handy tool to look up what’s popular with the search ‘crowd’, and how that popularity is trending. The below chart surprised me:
Ta dah – multi-channel is the most popular. Although from a dramatic peak of popularity in Oct 2011, it has a declining trendline. Whilst both terms “cross-channel marketing” and “omni-channel marketing” were deemed by Google to have “Not enough search volume to show graphs.”
So use multi-channel. The ‘crowd’ has spoken 😉
N.B. For anyone unfamiliar with the expression “Please explain?”, credit must go to ex-Australian ultra-conservative politician Pauline Hanson for this succinct response to an interviewer’s very basic question.