Marketing Strategies

Omnichannel vs. Multichannel

What’s the difference and why should I care?

If you work for a nonprofit, you probably already use some level of a multichannel approach to marketing. Quite simply, this means you incorporate a variety of advertising and communication outlets into your overall marketing strategy. Multichannel marketing can be highly effective, but have you considered a true omnichannel approach to engage donors and keep the public interested in your cause? With omnichannel marketing, nonprofits can use donor-centric strategies to achieve consistent messaging across channels for a more-personal, cohesive experience.

Our expert, Amy Braiterman, explains the difference between these two approaches, and how to get started building an omnichannel marketing program.

Meet the expert
Amy Braiterman, Vice President of Strategy at Data Axle
Amy Braiterman
Vice President of Strategy

As Vice President of Strategy at Data Axle, Amy provides our nonprofit clients with innovative marketing tactics that enable these organizations to drive awareness, acquire new donors and increase fundraising from existing donors. An industry veteran, with prior experience at Blackbaud and CDR Fundraising group, Amy takes a ‘data-first’ approach to all client projects to elevate their strategies and improve fundraising campaign outcomes, taking learnings from Data Axle’s Fortune 1000 clients and adapting it for nonprofits.


Multichannel vs omnichannel: what is the difference, and does it have a real impact on my marketing strategy?

I like to keep things simple. When defining multichannel marketing, we’re referring to the ability to connect with supporters through a variety of channels, including social media, email, mobile, direct mail, print ads, landing pages, websites, etc. However, each channel operates independently from each other – usually set up on its own – and therefore tends to abide by its own strategy and goals.

Omnichannel takes multichannel a step further. Both strategies involve interacting with supporters via various communication outlets; however, an omnichannel marketing strategy requires integrating the different channels to provide a seamless, connected experience. So, with omnichannel, you incorporate your campaign messaging into all your outlets, strategically running each during a set timeframe in a way that encourages users to take action. In other words, you’re creating multiple touchpoints through various channels all working toward the same campaign or organizational goal.


Can an omnichannel strategy have a real impact on an organization’s program?

The short answer is YES. Providing a seamless experience for donors and prospects will improve your results. In fact, some studies have shown embracing an omnichannel marketing strategy can increase ROI by 32% compared to those that do not.1


Is omnichannel something you need to do to be successful? Are you selling yourself short if you are sticking to your own tried-and-true multichannel marketing?

We’ve proven over the years that you can be successful with a multichannel marketing plan. An omnichannel strategy is a great way to take your program to the next level, but if you’re not ready for that yet, don’t rush it. Not having the right data, tools and management systems in place before going omnichannel is a sure-fire way to create a disjointed experience that can be overwhelming internally and end up with lackluster results. The most important thing is to recognize that your supporters are active in a variety of channels and it’s important to meet them where they are.


What should nonprofits have in place before giving omnichannel a try?

Implementing an omnichannel strategy requires a unified organizational culture, one where departments work together on a campaign, rather than programs each living solely within their own team. Are you ready to break down the silos between direct mail and digital? If so, then you’re ready to begin your omnichannel transformation.

You also want to make sure you have the tools, data and management systems set up that will allow for easy communication and reporting. Make sure you have a good project management system to work across departments to ensure proper communication (because let’s face it, no one wants another meeting on their calendar). And, be sure you set up your campaign efforts in a way that you can track results so you’re able to analyze and grow from your work.


Why is it important to have a unified organizational culture?

That’s an easy one. It’s because you’ll need to partner together in lots of aspects of your work. You’ll need to be on the same page on everything from your campaign messaging to evaluating your approach and how you’ll measure success. With an omnichannel strategy, you’ll be marketing to your supporters in a variety of channels. While donors tend to stick to their preferred giving channel, this behavior could change as a result of your strategy.


Omnichannel seems like a lot – how do we actually get started?

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the idea of venturing into the omnichannel world, but chances are you already have a good start. If you currently use a multichannel approach, then your organization is already prepared to communicate with constituents through various platforms. The first step to going omnichannel is to map out what you want your campaign to look like. What are your key messages? Who do you want to target? How can you target these audiences through the various channels? When should you launch your effort in each channel? Once you start with these basic questions, the rest will fall into place for execution.


According to Blackbaud, online giving increased 21% YOY in 2020, and 13% of total giving was online. Was this due to the COVID19 pandemic?

Most likely! When we look at the data, the jump to 13% is even more significant when compared to 2019, when online giving accounted for 8.7% of total giving.2 The better question to ask is, “Is this increase in online giving here to stay?” Online growth wasn’t just for the nonprofit industry. E-commerce grew 32% in 2020.

And the uptick in e-commerce is continuing in 2021. With an increasing comfort level in donating and buying online, one can argue that perhaps we might start seeing a shift in donor behavior. Only time will tell, but it’s important to start having conversations within your organization about how you’ll measure success when looking to provide supporters with an integrated cross-channel marketing and fundraising program (i.e. an omnichannel experience).


Is there anything else nonprofits should take into consideration before jumping headfirst into omnichannel?

One last item to consider when thinking about an omnichannel strategy is the constituent. A successful program requires you to put the constituent first. The big difference between a multichannel and omnichannel strategy is providing a unified experience for your donors and prospects – the messaging they receive in the direct mail piece aligns with the messaging in your ads, in your emails and on your website.

Put your constituents first by unifying your audience segments. Often direct mail segments do not align with your digital segments. For example, many direct mail programs won’t consider a donor lapsed until 13+ months has passed since they made their last gift (or in some cases 24 months). But, for many digital programs a donor is consider lapsed donor after 12 months (or earlier). Start by aligning your audiences so you can talk to them the same. With your audiences aligned you’ll be able to move to looking at messaging, timelines and KPIs.

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