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The new buzzword retailers need to know

Monday, 24 Feb 2014 | 12:38 PM ET

If you need more evidence of major shifts going on in retail, a recent report says changing consumer expectations mean it's time to switch up the industry lingo.

The report, by PwC, found that brands should forget what they've heard about "omnichannel"—a piece of jargon that means retailers must have physical stores, as well as Web and mobile sales platforms.

The new buzzword is "total retail."

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"Consumers now view multichannel shopping as a given," said Steven Barr, PwC's U.S. retail and consumer practice leader. "Today's nonstop shoppers have taken things into their own hands, becoming more tech-savvy than retailers. ... Our report finds that consumers have strict expectations that challenge today's shopping experience."

The idea of "total retail" is to think beyond Web versus bricks and mortar and create a consistent brand story across all platforms, the report said.

The change is important, as it moves the focus from where customers are shopping—the channel—back to customers themselves.

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PwC offered eight expectations of consumers worldwide that retailers must address to encompass its definition of "total retail," including the following.

Creating a compelling brand story: You were off base if you thought the rise of online and mobile shopping would encourage shoppers to buy items from a wide array of stores. Globally, shoppers are visiting fewer stores.

When given a list of 30 well-known retailers from their country, 15 percent of the 15,000 people surveyed said they shopped at only one retailer on the list, compared with 8 percent in 2012.

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The inverse is also true: In 2012, 21 percent of consumers shopped at 11 to 20 stores; only 14 percent shopped at that many stores last year. These data prove the importance of creating loyal customers.

The ability to tap into a retailer's inventory in real time: Here's a case where shoppers may be ahead of retailers' capabilities. Forty-six percent of respondents said being able to search for inventory at another of the brand's locations or online would make their shopping experience better.

"This will mean a serious upgrade in the technology of how products are tracked, warehoused and distributed across a retail network," the report said.

Two-way social media engagement: Today's consumers want not just to shop but to be heard. Launching a Facebook page or a Twitter account, or developing a way to sell products on social media, won't be enough, according to PwC.

(Read more: Online shopping satisfaction hits 12-year low)

Both apps and mobile sites must improve: Sorry, retailers, shoppers did not have a strong preference for using a mobile app over a browser. Although apps are faster, browsers are considered more convenient because they don't require download time. Retailers that can afford it should invest in both developing apps and making their mobile site easy to use.

—By CNBC's Krystina Gustafson. Follow her on Twitter @KrystinaGustafs.

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