A curious thing happened at Shoptalk 2018, the retail industry’s old buzzword “omnichannel” was almost nowhere to be seen. It cropped up here and there in speaking session headlines, but for the most part it seems to have vanished. In its place was a new word: “Experiences.”
In an informal survey with show attendees as to why this happened, an interesting theory emerged. “Omnichannel” as it turns out, had morphed in its meaning over the years into something not wholly exciting.
Whereas once “omnichannel” was about a future where customers could traverse touchpoints with a retailer, in the latter years the term also took on the weight of the technical complexity of doing this. Delivering this, as the industry knows, is hard. It requires integrating diverse platforms for ecommerce, inventory, point of sale and many others. It goes right to the heart of the most complicated systems in retail. It requires major architectural overhauls, major expense, long projects, all at a time when a new consumer, the digitally native millennial consumer, is pushing forward and demanding new ways of interacting primarily powered by the web. In their view, of course all the systems would work well together. Of course they could traverse the touchpoints. Of course they could find the brand primarily on the new mediums of engagement like mobile and social.
“Omnichannel” as it turns out has become synonymous with system reconciliation and table stakes delivery to consumer expectations. It is large, daunting and slow and in the end, even if delivered (and it’s still far from delivered) only meets base expectations.
“Experiences” on the other hand, represents a new wave of thinking. It’s about delighting the consumer on two dimensions: being present where she wants to engage the brand AND doing so in a way that makes the brand stand out. It surpassess the concepts of omnichannel, where being able to get basic data and process transactions at “each touchpoint” was the standard, to now being able to have toe-twitching moments with the brand in every channel, in ways that make the brand stand out, in ways that the new breed of shopper wants. Contained in this concept, the experience IS the shop. The moment of interaction, when the consumer is deep in an experience with the brand, the transaction can happen. Right there. In the moment.
“Omnichannel” now means system reengineering to get to basic functionality, whereas “Experiences” means jumping straight to the moment where the brand and the consumer meet and where value is created. And what a great iteration in our thinking that is.