The word omnichannel is maligned by some people in retail, and for good reason. In addition to being overused, the rate at which retailers’ omnichannel strategies are maturing means it can feel as though the term no longer fits the current priorities and challenges facing our industry.

Recognizing this shift, a number of analysts have moved away from discussions around omnichannel, and are now talking about ‘total retail’ instead. PwC has been a real trailblazer in this area, referring to total retail as a new business model, and calling for retailers to embrace “a new mind-set, new skills, and a new organisational design”.

There will be some doubters who believe that total retail is just a new name for the same old problems, but I think the term’s emergence signifies a milestone in our journey towards providing connected, contextual customer experiences.

The coining of the phrase total retail marks a certain level of omnichannel maturity. For many retailers, the conversation has evolved beyond offering consistency wherever consumers choose to shop; their focus is now on putting the customer at the heart of their business.

Up until now, most organizations have been preoccupied with channel strategies, and that’s where their progress may have been limited. In truth, it’s about the customer, not whether they shop online, through mobile or in-store. Dropping the word channel from our discussions is no bad thing; iVend Research has revealed that 56% of consumers think it would be helpful if retailers viewed them holistically, regardless of how and where they shop.

This sentiment comes from the fact that customers don’t see channels. They want great experiences, and they expect retailers to provide them anywhere, at any time.

In this sense, total retail is a case of providing transparency to the customer and retail businesses need to look at achieving this in a number of ways:

Stock transparency – in order to manage demand across the business, retailers need to work towards achieving a single stock view. No amount of connected customer experiences will outweigh lack of availability, and therefore moving to a single stock pool should be a key priority for retail organizations.

Consistent propositions – the modern journey to purchase involves multiple touchpoints, and shoppers expect equal value at every interaction. Therefore, retailers need to ensure they are not discriminating with their offers online versus in-store, so consumers trust that they will receive the same proposition wherever they choose to shop.

Customized loyalty – continuing on the subject of value, shoppers want to feel appreciated by retailers, particularly if they are regular customers. Therefore, retailers need to invest in loyalty scheme technology that enables them to gain a single view of activity, which they can then utilize to reward higher value shoppers with tailored incentives.

Intelligent selling – according to our research, 68% of consumers will research a product online before purchasing. For bricks-and-mortar retailers, this tends to mean that shoppers arrive at the store armed with information. This puts new pressures on store associates to deliver a superior level of customer service – a challenge that is best solved by integrating connected technologies such as mobile POS into the sales experience.

Ultimately, however retailers prioritize change, total retail is the end goal – and omnichannel retailing is one of the strategies needed to achieve it.

This new customer-centric business model is the single most seismic change that has happened in our industry, and it has impacted every aspect of the retail organization. Many retailers have taken strides towards achieving it, but nobody is there yet.

There is still work to be done.

This will ultimately lead to a future where fewer sales associates are needed on the shop floor, but those that remain will be much more empowered. In five years’ time, they will play an even greater role in forging and nurturing customer relationships.

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