By Lynn Hughes
Like many retail phrases and terms, unified commerce has been lumped in with multi-channel and omnichannel simply as a means of selling across platforms and locations. While this may be true, it is certainly not the full vision of what it means to be unified.
So, what exactly is unified commerce? In a nutshell, it’s a systematic practice of having a single view of the customer. That seems essential to fulfill personalization and customized experiences for demanding customers who expect this as table stakes.
With nearly half of all shoppers still preferring to shop in stores, unified retailers are leveraging brick and mortar to become hubs for order fulfillment, distribution, customer experiences, customer support and service needs.
Today, many brick-and-mortar retailers sell online and offer integrated services like BOPIS (buy online and pick-up in-store), but this is just one element of being unified. True unified commerce requires retailers to rethink every aspect of the customer journey and experience. It is about price and promotion management across all channels and having each account, cart and shopping history recognized across all devices (laptop, tablet, mobile, POS). It is about loyalty identification and social visibility regardless of where and when a customer engages. Savvy retailers have mastered and managed delivery of products and services where, when and how customers want to be served. This expectation has forced retailers of all sizes to transform their business models to leverage technology (especially data and analytics) to deliver an optimum experience.
Unified Commerce in Practice
Effective unified commerce is about a single shopper using his or her mobile device to search your website or view your product on social platforms, and then having your brand recognize the behavior and retarget them. It is a balance of push/pull marketing communications. A unified retailer will capture every touchpoint and centralize the data to personalize the experience. This single view of the customer can be leveraged by planning teams, marketing and customer service to provide a seamless, frictionless transition between channels, platforms and devices.
Unified retailers know who bought what and when, they can track products from sourcing to shelf to returns or exchanges, restock their shelves and market to the consumer with relevant selections after the purchase. Unified retailers utilize RFID to enhance the customer journey and ensure universal inventory visibility. And, with nearly half of all shoppers still preferring to shop in stores, unified retailers are leveraging brick and mortar to become hubs for order fulfillment, distribution, customer experiences, customer support and service needs.
Rethinking the Supply Chain
With the recent health and economic global challenges, the industry has had to rethink everything from supply chain to same-day delivery and has since elevated consumer expectations. These trends are here to stay and, as a result, customers are only becoming more demanding. Elevating POS systems is no longer a sole strategic initiative; it must be part of a total retail transformation that embraces centralized inventory, efficient and fast fulfillment and delivery and attribution models that value every step of a purchasing journey.
Digital commerce has enabled retailers to measure and monitor actions and transactions instantly, but collecting, storing and accessing one data stream for both online and offline is still a hurdle for many brands and companies. Add in the emergence of live shopping, social commerce and marketplace distribution layered on top of wholesale, specialty, and ecommerce, and many retailers start to spiral with what to address first. That’s where experts like Columbus Consulting come in. Let our team of industry practitioners help you audit your systems and solutions, create a strategic roadmap and supplement your in-house teams to execute your vision to stay competitive in 2022 and beyond.
*Republished with permission from The Robin Report