The enormous growth in technology has revolutionized our shopping experience in every possible way. With varied e-commerce portals and mobile apps, we are just a click away from ordering and receiving our favourite products. Online shopping platforms have made it convenient for individuals to choose where they can shop, purchase, and return across all retail channels with ease. The evolution in technology has influenced the evolution in the world of commerce too. What it takes to make a retail enterprise successful has expanded far beyond the basics of the product, brand, or single touchpoint.
With the pandemic sending a wave of uncertainty, retailers are forced to meet customer expectations without any compromise. To make this expectation a reality, retailers are pushed to integrate their processes and systems as well as provide seamless customer experiences that allow shoppers to seamlessly move across the various touchpoints (online, in-store, mobile, web, etc.). This paved the way for Unified Retail Commerce.
Unified Retail Commerce is a platform that combines e-commerce, m-commerce, order fulfillment, inventory management, customer relationship management, Point of Sale (POS) capabilities, etc under a single roof. According to Brian Brunk, Principal at retail industry consulting firm Boston Retail Partners (BRP), “Unified commerce goes beyond omnichannel, putting the customer experience first, breaking down the walls between internal channel silos and leveraging a common commerce platform.”1
Components of a Unified commerce strategy:
Components of Unified commerce strategy3
Unified commerce strategy constitutes of four major components, they are:
- Interactions: As a retailer, it can become extremely challenging to predict a customer’s behavior or their journey, especially when there are numerous products. In unified commerce, the customer interacts with different products and services all under one platform. It is therefore important to record the customer’s interactions which would help with a better insight into how a business should be tailored to provide the best customer experience.
- Channels: The channel provided to the customers should be hassle-free and satisfactory. The major notion behind unified commerce is to ensure that the customer gets a pleasant experience irrespective of whether they stay on the channel or not. A customer should be able to access all information be it in person or online. For example, having the same promotions available in person, online, or through a mobile app, which minimizes the customer’s search for better deals
- Systems: It is mandatory that the systems work cohesively with one another. Implementation of an ERP system is one of the components that help to achieve a unified integration of both the processes and systems. With systems being linked together they are able to enhance a smooth customer journey from the beginning to the end.
- Products: In a unified commerce ecosystem it is essential to provide accurate information about the products and services which are the cornerstones of the customer’s journey. Along the buying process, it is of utter importance to unify your product’s information across all channels so that customers get the right information irrespective of the channel they are visiting.
How a unified commerce platform can help a retail organization?
The unified commerce platform has become a boon to both retailers and customers. According to the National Retail Foundation,
- “In the near-term, 53% of retailers surveyed across markets plan to implement a unified commerce platform to consolidate key data elements, business rules, and functionality historically housed in multiple systems.
- Australia 60%, US 53%, and Europe 51%. This outlook represents a nearly 50% increase year-over-year.
- Over the next ten years, 86% of surveyed retailers plan to leverage a unified commerce platform, making it the emerging standard as technology matures.”4
According to the Boston Retail Partners 2018 POS/Customer Engagement Survey of 500 top North American retailers, 81% of retailers will have deployed unified commerce by the end of 2020.5 Here’s how unified commerce can enable an organization’s growth:
- Growth in sales: Organizations are turning towards a unified commerce approach as it is consistent in leveraging the customer’s experience. This has made the buying and shopping process simpler for anyone to use. Customers are at the leisure of doing what they are comfortable with and in return organizations are able to gain their momentum in sales. According to Channel Advisor, “eBay, Amazon and other marketplaces such as Rakuten.com Shopping, Newegg, Sears, and others account for about a quarter of total online retail sales, and are continuing to grow.”6
- Customer experience, the center of attraction: Gartner reports that 89% of retail businesses believe that by 2020, most competition will center their businesses around the quality of the customer experience.7 Strategize the organization’s growth based on customer feedback and interaction. Keep in mind that the customer’s shopping experience is the key to launching an organization, as they interact with an organization through varied channels they expect accurate information and quality products, irrespective whether they shop online, in-store, or get it done through a call center.
- Strong digital presence: Digitalization is the new normal that is driving the growth of an organization. Unified commerce, being digitally sound enhances an organization’s presence in the digital world. According to goecart, “Digital interactions influence approx. 36 cents of every dollar spent at retail stores (worth $1.1 trillion)”.8
- Clear forecasting: The data collected from various sources allows the companies to build their marketing and sales strategies and revenue-generating resources based on the acquired information or data.
Unified retail commerce has managed to blend the concept of both offline and online shopping experience and make it more accessible to customers all over the world. With the current scenario of social distancing and the fear to venture outside, a unified platform is a one-stop solution that caters to customer’s needs and digitizes stores for a better experience. It has managed to differentiate factors and power in-store experience, develop a closer bond with the customer by connecting with them on varied channels, and improve massive operational efficiency. Unified retail commerce helps overcome today’s challenges and enables a roadmap to deliver a seamless retail experience that customers expect.