I’m currently undertaking a project where I ask people what multichannel marketing is.

Part of the time I wonder if it’s a distraction or even a siren, beautiful but dangerous to pursue.

Many a company has been successful through conservatism or even through making bold decisions about how a customer can’t engage with the company – think of GiffGaff choosing not to have a call centre but rely on online communities for support. Think of Primark refusing to sell online.

These are my definitions. They’re ordered in increasing sophistication. Definition five represents the holy grail and I think we all know the very few companies we suspect have achieved some form of it (nada).

NB: The whole thing is complicated by the differences between comms and commerce, size of business, number of audiences, product or service sold and provided etc. But I thought I would nail my colours to the mast.

1. Marketing in more than one channel

You have a store where you advertise your products and you also send emails to customers, for example.

2. Meeting the customer at each marketing and communication channel she touches


In doing this, a company directs the customer to a preferred transaction channel.

3. Meeting a known customer at each marketing and communication channel

de la soul

This is like point two but for a known customer, i.e with knowledge of what has been happening in other channels.

This means a company’s CRM system allows it to communicate by email, for example, knowing what a customer has been doing on a website when logged in. This is sometimes done with marketing automation software.

It’s commonly done with direct mail, search, email, SMS and web, but rarer to include social or mobile app activity, though programmatic trading is changing this.

Social is a challenge when it comes to service and support (rather than advertising) because context is difficult to decipher automatically, along with identity. Many companies have a call centre as an important channel within this mix, though it’s not always integrated with digital channels. When the customer is known in each channel and the message personalised where possible, this is often referred to as omnichannel marketing. Oh yes, the single customer view!

4. Full attribution of sales and cost saving 


Number three but with full attribution of sales and cost saving (for example cost saved by redirecting support to livechat) which allows marketing and sales teams to invest in activity proportionally and track trends in customer behaviour.

5. Obligachannel

Automation, personalisation, attribution and (crucially but most difficult) resolution/transaction achieved in every marketing and communications channel. Scrap omnichannel, let’s call this obligachannel.

This means allowing people to buy via Amazon and a mobile app but, more ambitiously, from within a tweet or a Facebook page.

Whilst I place myself in the brace position on the toilet in my underground bunker in an effort to avoid the harsh spotlight of fame shone on the coiners of such business jargon, why not let me know what you think, below.