Adopting Unified Commerce – the Next Generation of Retail

Adopting Unified Commerce – the Next Generation of Retail

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.

The opportunities to create an engaging retail experience


Gone are the days where retail used to be treated as a transactional business where in retailers sold the products to consumers who came to their stores to buy those and the mutual give and take of the product and the cost was the be all and end all. It has all changed now. While the transaction is still integral, it is just one of the many processes that make the retail business the way it is today.

A shopper not only buys a product from a retail brand, he/she wants to interact and engage with brand across certain stages of the shopping journey which has evolved into a complex, multi-dimensional journey that shoppers embark upon when they want to buy a product. This complexity has come in due to the influence of technology into the retail sector leading to substantial shifts in the shopping behaviour. The point to focus is not on the complexity but the opportunities that retailers have to connect with their end customers.

Consider this scenario – a shopper intends to purchase a mobile phone. So he decides to research about the options and varieties online on the website of his preferred retail brand. He is not happy with the options so he decides to further research on a market place online. Having shortlisted the devices that he could consider to buy, he visits multiple stores to check out the devices, to have an experience of their look-and-feel. Still not convinced of which one to go with, he goes onto social media and seeks opinions. Moreover, he also checks out information portals that review products.

Now, the above shopping journey is an incomplete one since the purchase has not happened yet, however it is interesting to note the number of times the shopper has interacted with the brand through multiple touch-points. From a retailer’s point-of-view, these are indeed the opportunities for the brand to interact and engage with the customer. The above scenario is one of the complex shopping journeys and the complexity can further increase along with the number of touch-points that can be used throughout the entire shopping journey. Again, these are multiple opportunities that retail brands have to interact and engage with the customer and create the impact.

To sum up, as shopping behaviour has evolved, it has provided ample opportunities for retail companies to go beyond the traditional concepts of retailing. Rather, this evolution has enabled brands to meet and greet their customers across multiple stages and touch points of their shopping journey. Ultimately, customers prefer an engaging experience and those brands who will be able to offer that kind of an experience will thrive.

Malls – One-stop retail shopping destinations!


The Christmas festive season is almost here, as is the end of another year and we look for the best in the New Year. The past 2 years have probably been one of the biggest testing times for the retail industry, especially for physical retail. In the wake of the last year, which seen many known retail brands going bankrupt or shuttering stores, debates on whether physical retail would witness an apocalypse because of the rise of online shopping have been happening across the industry; but it seems like the predictors of the doom of physical retail have been silenced, thanks to the reinvention of retail.

Malls still face a threat from e-commerce shopping due to rising number of consumers preferring to shop online. The major reasons being a wide range of options available online, more discounts on online purchases, convenience of shopping from home while avoiding crowds and even reducing the chances impulse shopping. One of the major debates were whether malls would survive the online shopping or e-commerce onslaught, but the numbers are in favor of shopping in a mall. A recent survey indicated that more than 60% of consumers would visit the mall for apparel shopping as opposed to shopping for clothing online, and another 39% prefer to go to the malls, not only to explore multiple retail brands in one location, but also try on and compare clothing options. Malls offer strategic advantages which are still a hit among consumers.

One of the biggest clicks for shoppers visiting malls is the tangibility of products. Brick-and-mortar retail has thrived on the ‘touch-and-feel’ feature that shoppers love when it comes to purchasing apparel, footwear and other items. Moreover, most retail brands would be present in malls and this allows shoppers a fair opportunity to explore different brands belonging to similar categories and then take a conscious decision on what to buy, from where. Another major advantage that malls offer is socializing. Consumers prefer shopping with family and friends or even interacting with store associates to help them find the right product, as they find it easier to seek opinions and then make a purchase. In addition to this, malls are a one stop destination for shopping, entertainment and eating, thus offering wholesome experiences to shoppers for their time and money.

The bottom line is that malls and e-commerce will continue to coexist as consumers will always look at multiple options to satisfy their shopping needs. However, the catch is to ensure customers get what they want and retail brands are able to do that no matter which channel they use.

When to start the festive season sales?

And yet again the festive season is here. This is arguably the best time of the year for many, as it is also considered to be the holiday season in many regions. Ultimately, this is the time of festivities, color, new beginnings, gifts, and also the best time to shop. This is the right time for retail brands to capitalize and score big to add glitter to their festive season. One important query that retailers seek to resolve is to know the right time to start the festive sales

Officially speaking there is no specific start date for retailers to begin launching their festive season sales. In fact, every year, new standards are set by different retailers, making this shopping season a dynamic one and which continues to evolve further. Having said that, deciding the start of the festive season sale should be typically based on 2 factors:

  • The nature of the business: The best starting point would be to look at earlier trends of the business and understand what the competition is doing as this will give retail owners a benchmark. Then applying those learnings to their business will help them in taking the right steps towards launching the campaign. Also, it is very important to consider business objectives and align efforts accordingly because the business’ long term goal should be.
  • The market the business serves: It is important to understand and sense the market trends and the sentiments of the consumers. Various factors such as season, geography, ethnicity, and others, largely influence the target markets’ shopping behavior.

A good example of considering the above to factors for starting the sale is a scenario where a retail business deals with selling products that are generally perceived to be of high value and exclusive, with a limited stock. In that case it would be better to start closer to the festival as the bonuses come in and thus there may be demand for high range products then due to the increase in purchasing power.

Taking into account the nature of the business and its market will really help retailers make the right decisions towards launching their festive season sales.

5 learnings for retail businesses from the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket launch

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US entrepreneur and CEO of SpaceX, Elon Musk has successfully launched his new rocket, the Falcon Heavy, into space from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and set the Tesla Roadster car into space. This would go into the history books as one of the biggest and most influential achievements by man.

From the same pad where NASA launched rockets that carried astronauts to the moon, a big, new American rocket called the Falcon Heavy, built by SpaceX, the company founded and run by the billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk was launched successfully into space.

5 important learnings for retail and other businesses from this epic happening:

Think different

The Falcon Heavy is capable of lifting 140,000 pounds to low-Earth orbit, more than any other rocket today. Because the boosters are to be recovered to fly again, a Falcon Heavy launch costs not much more than one by the company’s existing rocket, Mr. Musk said.  SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy is estimated to cost $90m per launch; Nasa’s planned SLS rocket, a comparable system, is expected to cost about $1bn per flight.

Retail businesses must look to be different than their peers and be able to create experiences that are different, not only from their competitors but also different for every customer, making it more personalized and customized for them.

Take risks and be ready for failure

Mr. Musk estimated that his company had spent more than half a billion dollars on Falcon Heavy and said that the program was almost canceled three times. It was billed as a risky test flight in advance of the lift-off.  As the SpaceX CEO said the challenges of developing the new rocket meant the chances of a successful first outing might be only 50-50.

Retailers should not shy away from the risks that can manifest themselves while considering important technological transformations such as omni-channel, mobility and so on. They should be ready for that risk and be prepared for failures and then learn from these.

Strive for being better

Since 2010, SpaceX has been sending the smaller Falcon 9 rocket into orbit, deploying satellites and carrying cargo to crews aboard the International Space Station. The company has disrupted the global launch business with its lower prices and reusable boosters. However, taking the disruption further, the success gives SpaceX momentum to begin developing even larger rockets.

Retail businesses must look at trying to get better and not be contented with a business that works fine. They should constantly endeavor to enhance their businesses progressively to succeed in the long run.

Dream big and look towards the future

The successful launch of the Falcon Heavy into space seems to be the step in the right direction to fulfill Mr. Musk’s dream of sending people to Mars.

Retailers should always have the future in mind while doing business and setting goals that may seem to be big and unattainable. With that said, every effort to achieve these goals set in the future will help the retail businesses to proceed ahead.

Inspire with action

The success of launch of the Falcon Heavy is not the only historic achievement. This launch was historic in multiple other ways. For the first time ever, a pair of recycled boosters helped send a heavy payload to space. Only eight minutes later, those same two Falcon 9 side boosters returned and landed simultaneously at adjacent landing pads. This near flawless success is a major step toward cheaper, more frequent spaceflight, making it easier for governments and businesses to lift massive projects into space or set off on deep space missions.

Retail business owners must look to become leaders and pioneers in the industry and thus become a benchmark for other businesses not restricted to retail. This will help them achieve that status and stature which will be an example for others to egg and imbibe.

7 Trends shaping Asia’s future retail landscape


1. Foreign retailers focusing on core Asian markets

With the likes of China, India and other large Asian countries poised to have a large consumer base in the coming years thus creating a higher demand for international retail brands. This scenario is prompting big-name retailers to focus on capturing revenue from core Asian markets.

2. Big players emphasizing on Southeast Asian markets

As barriers to entry are erected in some of the larger Asian markets, Southeast Asian countries in-turn are seemingly converting into new playgrounds for big-name retailers.  Countries like Indonesia, which is seeing a strong population growth and a rise in the income, and Vietnam, a country which is relatively FDI-friendly, are favoring big retail players to enter these markets.

3. The line between online-offline channels are blurring

As omni-channel retailing is the new rule in the retail playbook enabling retailers to transform their business and add features such as click-and-collect, endless aisles. Further, driving engagement using retail touch-points is becoming popular favoring the connected consumers’ sentiments and preferences of swift and simplified shopping.

4. Deeper penetration

From time-to time brands are announcing the grand openings of more and more stores and outlets in Asian markets. As in China, flagship stores are popping up in tier three and tier four cities, going beyond tier one and tier two cities, other regions will also witness a similar trend in the future.

5. Discount retailing

Although the discount retail channel is not as strong as it is in Western Europe, the trend is catching on in Asian countries such as China, India and so on where discount retailing is becoming popular online and Japan in the form of 100 Yen stores.

6. Equipping for m-commerce and s-commerce

Global e-Commerce growth is going to be driven by Asian retail markets, which are equipping themselves for m-commerce and emerging forms of social media commerce. As consumers in the Asian market are heavy mobile users and active on multiple social media channels on a daily basis, retailers adding m-commerce and s-commerce capabilities will favor these consumers.

7. Importance of local shopping cultures to retail markets

As foreign retail players are looking to expand their brands and businesses into Asian markets, they will need to imbibe the local flavor of the domestic retail markets and adhere to their respective shopping cultures as these will prevail over the coming years. As such retailers entered into countries like China (the likes of Starbucks) have opened outlets that feature local tastes and preferences.