The Difference Between Omnichannel & Integrated Marketing

A New Definition of Omnichannel Marketing

The definition of omnichannel marketing really depends not only on who, but when you ask. The first time I remember hearing the phrase – around 2008 – the most prevalent conversation on the subject centered around ‘responsive design’; that is, the radical notion that a website site should respond to the device the customer is viewing it on, and not the other way around (Crazy, I know).

Today we shop for products on our favorite online stores and are practically shocked if we don’t see them appear in our Facebook feed the next day. We expect websites to manage and pass our personal information effortlessly between devices without losing a step. It’s commonplace to have ads follow you between all the places you spend time online as if they were all synonymous – all thanks to promise of omnichannel marketing strategies.

While there’s a slightly disconcerting level of accuracy to all of this that is probably a little eerie at times, it’s manna for marketers. And to be honest, I think a better ad experience for consumers, as well. The future of omnichannel marketing looks even more exciting with the evolution of augmented reality technologies like Magic Leap. For instance, it’s not hard to imagine consumers of the future shopping not only on their favorite online stores, but actively walking through them.

How Does Integrated Fit In

So, you may have also heard of integrated marketing, but what’s the difference between omnichannel and integrated marketing strategies? First, it’s important to understand digital marketing has become such a large field that it has practically swallowed the concept of marketing whole. 10 years ago, you highlighted yourself as a digital marketer. Now you aren’t a marketer unless you’re digital.

Omnichannel marketing is, by definition, a cornerstone of integrated marketing in that it would be relatively impossible to launch an integrated campaign without the sort of multi-channel crossover analytics that omnichannel digital marketing brings to the table.

While omnichannel has been, for the most part, a necessary evolutionary step that helped tie the digital universe together however, it’s better at distributing one message across multiple platforms to a specific target than it is for say, telling a contiguous story across mediums. For that, we need integrated marketing.

Does that mean integrated marketing is the next evolution of omnichannel? Much like its predecessors, it probably depends if you ask now or in ten years. Today, integrated marketing is the practice of launching one initiative over many channels – both on and offline – in a way that seeks to not only unify your brand experience but amplify your message across channels via experiential storytelling.

“10 years ago you highlighted yourself as a digital marketer. Now you aren’t a marketer unless you’re digital.”

Omnichannel or Integrated?

Traditionally, omnichannel has referred only to the digital ecosystem. Integrated marketing brings many of the same concepts and requirements to the larger marketing universe.

While omnichannel marketing says: “You fit into a certain profile or have performed a certain action, so I am going to show you targeted digital content based on that profile or action over multiple platforms, channels, devices”.

Integrated marketing says: “You fit into a certain profile or have performed a certain action, so I am going to build you a cohesive cross-channel story that matches the way you learn about new brands, on and offline; one that is meant to act as a funnel – guiding you through my brand experience and along the path-to-purchase.”

Splitting hairs? Maybe… but when we dial further into the definition of integrated marketing, we see that where omnichannel offers us the ability to launch multi-faceted campaigns, integrated helps us to make them sing. Integrated marketing isn’t just about the number of techniques you use, but how you can leverage them against each other to gain the maximum possible exposure for your organization.

Let’s take a look at a real world scenario of the difference between omnichannel and integrated marketing strategies: We recently had a long term nonprofit client ask for help growing the profile of an important yearly fundraiser among 20 to 30 year olds.

Traditional omnichannel marketing strategy might offer targeted social, and display advertising connected to an event landing page with remarketing for anyone who has visited that landing page. In the expanded offline version of multi-channel, you may even throw in TV or Radio ads to support your campaign. Either way, a well recognized and reliable strategy, to be sure.

Our integrated campaign however started with a hybrid approach. Knowing that many in the target segment live in the downtown core (and walk or take public transit to and from work), we launched an out-of-home wild posting campaign that encouraged passers by to snap selfies with each creative and share organically on their own social profiles for a chance to win sponsored prizes.

We supported this activity both on and offline, starting with utilizing popular social media influencers to drive participation. We launched a locally targeted public relations campaign as well as zip code based online advertising initiative to help drive awareness. We created a series of short videos to further help promote participation both with the campaign and the overall call to action.

And yes, at the end of the day, we created a landing page that featured all of these activities, as well as a remarketing campaign for anyone that visited it. Integrated marketing can, at times, still feel clunky: Then again, so did omnichannel strategies not that long ago. If the thought of seamlessly integrated campaigns feels like a distant dream, imagine yourself ten years ago trying to explain psychographic ad targeting, 360 video, or even the transition to mobile-first design.

Our ability to connect the dots between each step on the customer’s path-to-purchase increases every day. The marketing teams that are able to seamlessly blend them in such a way as to create awareness, consideration, and engagement in parody with the way their customers actually experience the world will become tomorrow’s most loved brands.

While omnichannel marketing will continue to remain a vitally important strategy in every marketers toolkit, it’s a mistake to think that we’ve hit some kind of acme. As we continue to blur the boundary between personal and digital experiences, consumers will demand increasingly sophisticated and seamless ways to engage their favorite brands.

What do you think about the difference between omnichannel and integrated marketing strategies? Let us know in the comment section below, or get in touch about how 1205 can help you build integrated marketing strategy for your organization.

What's Next?

If you’re looking to build your own integrated strategy, remember to use these principles to guide your next campaign, not limit it.  Integrated is a quickly evolving discipline and we’ll likely see advancements in our ability to implement it for the next decade or so. Have fun, make mistakes and let us know if you have any questions.

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