Imagine you are buying your favourite luxury car that offers you a choice between manual, automatic, and driverless options; passive, active, interconnected front and rear suspensions; disc, drum, or anti-lock braking systems; plush amenities such as higher-quality interiors, high-viability headlights, auto-dimming mirrors, safety features; and, comes in petrol, electric and hybrid variants. But imagine if the car dealer said he could offer you a choice in only one or the other category. What kind of a horrid car buying experience would that be! Versus that, if another car dealership across the town offers you a choice in each of the categories along with a few extra features such as a great infotainment system or a voice-activated security system, wouldn’t that be a truly amazing experience? And now, imagine if the ‘you’ in the example above is actually your end customer, the ‘car dealership’ is your retail brand and the ‘luxury car’ along with its various features is the retail technology suite your brand is relying upon to offer a truly amazing unified shopping experience that makes your customers keep coming back for more.
If you’re in retail or even e-commerce, then you already know that omnichannel retail has changed the game in terms of how businesses reach and interact with their customers. If you want to stay competitive, it’s no longer enough to have a multichannel presence where the different channels function in silos and, it never will be again. What you need is unified commerce solutions, which enable your business to deliver consistent experiences across all channels — in-store, mobile, and digital — to make sure that your brand is staying ahead of the competition.
What Is Unified Commerce? What Does It Mean?
If you’re new to unified commerce, you may be wondering what exactly it is. The term can be defined as one platform serving several use cases. It encompasses many different tools, whether online or in-store, that customers utilize at different points throughout their journeys. Customers make purchases across platforms like mobile apps, websites, retail locations, social media pages, and connected devices. With the proper utilization of all these channels, interactions between brands and consumers can take place in real-time. For example, if an e-commerce company has an app that offers customers an easy way to shop for products anytime or anywhere they want (including on the go), it’s offering a very specific type of unified commerce experience.
Unified Commerce Vs Omnichannel – Evolving into One Version of Transactional Truth
The rapid growth of omnichannel has left retailers with one distinct problem – how to provide a seamless customer experience across all channels when managing multiple systems can be quite complex. The rapid proliferation of digital touchpoints has created complexities that leave retailers struggling to manage multiple systems, networks, and data silos in order to create a customer-centric experience. However, there is hope on the horizon with unified commerce platforms that bring order out of chaos by aggregating product data into a single source of truth. By integrating POS, WMS, ERP, CRM/CMO solutions into a single platform for managing merchandising content, brands can deliver more personalized shopping experiences while also unlocking critical insights about customers throughout their journey.
Retailers Aren’t Yet Delivering the Truly Seamless Customers Experiences that Shoppers Want
If you’re a retailer, then chances are your website is already unified. In fact, you probably already have a mobile shopping app for your brands. But what about in-store shopping? That’s where you might be falling behind. According to Gartner, over 30% of retail sales still take place in physical stores, but in 2022 more than 65% of sales will occur online. If that prediction holds true, then it doesn’t bode well for retailers that aren’t prioritizing unified commerce solutions at their brick-and-mortar locations or on their websites.
What Is a Unified Commerce Platform?
A unified commerce platform is a single, all-encompassing digital storefront that gives customers complete access to your brand, products, customer service channels, mobile apps, social media accounts, websites, etc. The goal of unified commerce is to encourage your customers to interact with your brand through multiple channels while simultaneously making it easy for them to find the information/product they are looking for. To do so successfully requires cross-channel product listings that are consistently accurate. Also critical is an omnichannel experience where any interaction with your brand automatically updates in real-time across every channel. Even more importantly, it allows you to meet each customer on his or her own terms by offering customized interactions tailored directly to their preferences.
Unified Infrastructure Designed for Company Growth
Most retailers are already experiencing growth in sales, which means their infrastructure should be ready to support increased growth. For example, if a company has only 200 customers today but expects 1,000 new customers within 12 months, then unified commerce is critical. With integrated systems across all channels of communication, businesses can better understand who their customers are. This will allow them to deliver an experience that’s personalized for each individual customer. Because of omnichannel capabilities combined with retailer-specific features designed to grow your business, unified commerce helps you grow your bottom line while staying ahead of industry changes.
The Advantages of Delivering Unified Customer Experiences
The first advantage of unified commerce is that it allows businesses to offer customer-centric shopping experiences. Customers want a seamless shopping experience, which means it should be easy for them to browse products on their smartphones and buy those products quickly and efficiently through an e-commerce site or a mobile app. Giving your customers quick access to your inventory as well as options like click-and-collect delivery services increases their chances of making a purchase with you. Giving them multiple ways to complete purchases, such as email receipts and pick-up codes for shoppers who order online but don’t have home delivery service available in their area, also makes purchasing easier for them — and makes them more likely to shop with you again in the future.
How to Deliver Unified Commerce Experiences & Preparing for 2022 and beyond with a Unified Commerce Strategy
When we at ETP were building our product roadmap in 2015-2016, we already had a good idea that omnichannel retail solutions would be one of our most in-demand products over the next six years. However, once we had firmly established ourselves as an Omni-channel Retail Solutions provider for luxury and lifestyle retailers across APAC, India, and the Middle East in 2018-2019, we saw that unified commerce was quickly becoming a trending topic in the immediate future as well. At that point, it was clear that unified commerce was going to be one of our key points of focus for our 2022 strategy. As such, we decided to develop specialized products that can benefit that various types of retailers. We have also created a dedicated page on its core components and main advantages to help you better understand unified commerce and omnichannel retail solutions.