What Is Unified Commerce and How It Will Help Your Business?
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Customer experience has become the principal differentiator between brand prices and products. According to PWC research titled ‘Experience is Everything’, 42% of consumers stated that they would pay more for friendly, welcoming customer experience, and 52% would pay more for faster and more efficient customer experience.
The world is ever-changing; especially in the world of commerce. Your goal as a retailer in this ever-changing, customer-centric world should be to improve customer experience through a seamless shopping experience. Now, as a retailer, you need to embrace the act of bringing multichannel and omnichannel together as one form of commerce – unified commerce!
What Is Unified Commerce?
Unified commerce is essentially a single platform or piece of software that allows you to connect all the dots within your business. That is to say, it offers you a single view of your inventory and every channel you carry out your sales in—beginning from your website and mobile channels to various brick-and-mortar stores as well as marketplaces. On the other hand, it also offers you a single view of your customers’ behavior such as buying history, personal data irrespective of their choice of channel for interactions with you.
Unified commerce combines in one platform eCommerce, m-commerce, order fulfillment, inventory management, customer relationship management, Point of Sale (POS) capabilities — and so much more. Any business built with a unified retail strategy uses a central platform to provide real-time connection and function to all customer touchpoints. This means, unified commerce not only prioritizes your customers as would omnichannel, rather than relying on multiple internal channels of operation, it also serves as a connector of each separate point in the system.
Picture 1. Unified commerce process
You can regard Unified commerce as the term used to define a retail software system capable of joining all your business inventory and customer data from all sales channels. This, in turn, will afford you the ease of offering constant individualized customer experiences for all customer interactions.
Unified Commerce and Omnichannel: What Are The Differences?
The word “Omni” means in several ways or places” so, in omnichannel retail, it simply means selling across several/multiple channels either in-store, in a marketplace or online. If you’ve heard the term “omnichannel,” you might wonder what differentiates it from unified commerce. It’s quite clear; while omnichannel can be said to be an experience; unified commerce presents a medium through which the experience can be delivered. To further explain this, you can think of unified commerce as the next evolutionary step when you use omnichannel.
Picture 2. The difference between single channel, multi channel, omni channel and unified commerce
Unified commerce is the crown of the omnichannel, a full circle for digitally empowered commerce!
Read more on the difference between omnichannel and multichannel in our other article: Omnichannel Retailing: What Is It and Why Is It Important?
Why You Need the Unified Commerce Strategy?
It is speculated that in the near future, marketers would expect to be competing almost completely on the sole basis of customer experience. This means that the delivery of excellent customer experiences would define the business growth curve as completely seamless shopping experiences will soon be the bar by which retailers are measured.
In order to deliver a seamless customer experience in commerce, businesses must involve themselves in the process of creating a unified commerce strategy.
The Benefits of Unified Commerce Strategy
Here are various ways Unified commerce enables you to give your customers the best customer service, make you more competitive, drive up your sales and improve customer engagement.
This is one of the most exciting and important features of unified commerce. With Unified commerce, you have access to viewing, tracking, moving and managing your inventory no matter where it sits in your stores or warehouses. Since there is a real-time link between your inventory and all channels which feed into your overall stock count, you will run no risk of overselling products or even displaying ‘out of stock’ messages when there’s stock available elsewhere.
If you have the stock, and someone is ready to purchase, your commerce system should be able to fulfill the order from wherever the stock is available. This is often impossible if your retail systems differ in various locations. But once unified commerce is implemented, the options are endless. It allows your customers to save on shipping as they can order online and collect in your physical store. Or perhaps you don’t have the size or color that a particular customer is seeking – your point of sale should allow you to view whether their choice is available elsewhere and then ship directly from there, allowing you to maximize opportunities for both sales and improved customer experiences.
With all your sales, orders and shipping occurring within one system, unified commerce also avails you the opportunity to carry out automated communications through email and text messages. Through these media, you can improve customer experience by keeping your customers informed at every step of the order process and thereafter, following up with a request for feedback or a product review. You can even offer a promotional gift for their next purchase.
Unified commerce also benefits your business by serving as a communication tool within your organization. Your staff has access to all the information they need to answer customer inquiries and solve queries. It ensures every information regarding both inventory and customers is literally at their fingertips
Components of Unified Commerce Strategy
Unified commerce is made up of four components which are interactions, channels, systems, and products.
Picture 3. Components of unified commerce strategy
The customer journey is far from a linear process. It is a journey on different channels, times and devices. As a retailer, it is therefore very difficult to predict the behavior of all consumers. Especially if you have more products!
Because your customers are going to interact with different sales channels of your business like e-commerce, mobile, and in-store, it is critical that you record their behavior in a unified way across each channel.
Instead of just recording how your business interacts with customers, interactions also give insight into how your business should act within its own departments, in order to provide the best customer experience possible. This is why it is extra important to record your customer interactions on one single platform covering all channels.
For example, if you equip your sales assistants with a mobile POS, they should have the opportunity to see the purchase history and add loyalty points in case you’re running a loyalty program. Let’s say a customer buys a pair of glasses in your store and receives a digital receipt on the purchase, when the customer gets home and studies the receipt, it should contain updated loyalty points and several recommended products generated with Machine Learning. After watching videos on those products, she would be convinced to make an extra purchase from those recommendations.
Your customers should not encounter restrictions on any channel when investigating and purchasing items. The idea behind unified commerce is that customers get a satisfying customer experience regardless of whether they stay on the same channel or if they choose to change channels along the way. Every channel you have must be able to provide your present and potential customers with an enjoyable and seamless customer experience. If a customer switches to a different channel within your enterprise, the experience must remain smooth and easy to navigate.
A customer must be able to find the same level of information in your brick-and-mortar store as they can on your website. Consistency is the key and core focus of unified commerce. A good example is having the same promotions available in person, online, or through a mobile app, so a customer doesn’t have to check multiple places to end up with another brand for a better deal before checking out.
Here’s another example to clarify this; when customers see your product on Instagram with a caption that says “Get 10 percent discount by clicking this link” If they click on it and add the product to check out, they should be able to see the discount code applied.
All of the systems within an organization must be working cohesively with one another. Whether it’s a retail-management application, POS solution, e-commerce platforms, or channel management solution, each is equally important for specific business functions and serves as a part of a larger ecosystem.
Therefore, to achieve a unified integration of processes and systems, an ERP system is needed to unify financial management, orders, POS, inventory management, and statistics. All of these systems must work together to enable companies to follow their customers from the beginning of their journey to the very end.
For example, a customer visits your web store and observes that size 8 of a pair of shoes is in stock in your store. When your sales staff meets the customer, they should be able to verify that the boots are in stock via the POS system. Using tools like RFID and Mixed Reality, you will have a properly counted inventory that regulates and ensure you deliver a great customer experience across systems.
Accurate product information is one of the most important aspects of the customer journey. Without question, every information on your products must be accurate and up to date. Coherent and identical product information across all levels helps create a comprehensive business design.
Along the buying journey, unifying your product information across all channels is integral to creating a unified commerce platform that delivers the right information to your customers and also your sales teams. Your sales employees should be fully informed about the same product information seen on your online channels. At the same time, if your product information is available in the cloud, they should have quick and easy access to it when they have a customer present.
For example, a customer has searched the internet for a new monitor and found a particular model that is in stock in your physical store. When the customer visits your business, he should be greeted by well-informed sales staff ready to help him with the relevant information to conclude the sale.
How Unified Commerce Will Help You Grow Your Business?
Having understood the difference between omnichannel and unified commerce and the importance of the latter on your business, here are several ways a unified commerce strategy will help in growing your business.
Automated Business Processes
Rather than spend time managing manual and time-consuming business processes, a centralized platform will build your business to automatically handle your critical processes. Your business will effectively appropriate your employees’ efforts. This means that your employee productivity will improve as they are spending their time on more valuable tasks that drive revenue and improve customer experience.
Because the data you have will never be more accurate, it allows your company to make better predictions and forecasting as to customer behavior. With this data, you can design promotions, sales, and other revenue-generating initiatives for your business using the unified commerce approach.
Unified commerce leverages technology to connect your ecosystem into a single source of truth, which reduces errors, costs, and improves your business’s operational efficiency. Moreover, it helps you predict potential errors and deal with them in advance.
There isn’t anything bigger than this as it is virtually what every business is made for. With a unified commerce strategy, your business can leverage the experience to acquire new customers because it makes the buying and shopping process simple for anyone to use. Whether customers want to buy online, pick up at the store, or any other combination of returning items, it’s possible with unified commerce. You will able to leverage available data by improving your marketing and promotional campaigns leading to an increase in sales.
What Form Do You Want Your Business Future to Have?
From this point forward, the technological advances available are exciting and very possible. With a unified retail platform, bringing all your systems together in a single, easy-to-use, accurate and current location with easy access irrespective of place or time will be the right way to start.
This retail strategy will improve your customer engagement as your shoppers will enjoy a superior customer experience always. Imagine integrated shopping carts that are shared between store POS, tablets, and eCommerce sites. Or artificial intelligence that can recognize in-store shoppers via their mobile phone, translating their past purchase history and current in-store movements into useful information for in-store staff or targeted online marketing once they leave the store.
Unified commerce will help you grow your business by putting the customer experience first, breaking down the walls between internal channel silos and leveraging a common commerce platform.
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