If unified commerce is high on your priority list this year, you’re not alone. Citing a recent survey by Boston Retail Partners (BRP), Retail TouchPoints reported that 81% of retailers will be using unified commerce platforms by the end of 2020.
For those adapting to retail's digital revolution, unified commerce may seem like one more buzz phrase, but the experts at Software Advice, a Gartner Company, argue unified commerce is the real deal, for the long haul.
“You might be thinking ‘great, another thing that I need to worry about,’ but you’d be wrong,” said Justin Guinn, content analyst, at Software Advice in his article Omnichannel Retail Is So 2012 — But What Is Unified Commerce? “A unified commerce strategy isn’t ‘another thing you need to worry about’ — it’s the only thing you need to worry about.”
Gartner defines unified commerce in this way: “Unified commerce is a business design that leverages a harmonious integration of retail processes/systems to provide full transparency of consumers on the back end and seamless customer experiences on the front end, regardless of the journey taken to make a purchase.”
And BRP “identifies cloud-based unified commerce — the use of a single platform to support commerce for stores, mobile and the web — as the linchpin to competing in a fast-changing, omnichannel environment.”
So why is unified commerce so important to the customer? Today’s shoppers expect to be recognised as individuals and rewarded for their loyalty — for not only money spent but also time and effort taken to visit a store. They also expect their favourite brands to offer a frictionless experience, allowing them to see products and fulfil purchases across channels. Anything less is seen as a bit sloppy, the opposite of unified — disconnected. And of course, to be unconnected is a catastrophe in our smart, connected world.
Increasingly, a unified experience is also defined as a personalised experience. “Consumers no longer ‘need’ to go shopping — if a consumer wants an item she can pull out her smartphone, click a button, and the item will be at her door within a day or two. The advent of online shopping has made us constant consumers,” said BRP in a 2017 report, Personalising the Customer Experience. “Because of this constant ability to shop and easily research the lowest price, retailers — especially those with brick and mortar locations — need to further differentiate themselves to entice customers into the store. Providing a more personalised experience and offering value-add services can help even small retailers differentiate and compete successfully against companies like Amazon. The best and most powerful way to succeed is through personalisation.”
BRP’s report cited these findings from other studies, 84% of consumers choose to interact with sales associates when at a physical retailer (Salesfloor), 87% base purchasing decisions from the advice of a retail employee (Salesfloor) and 46% of shoppers will buy more from a retailer that personalises the shopping experience (eMarketer).
Achieving unified commerce requires visibility across the entire retail organisation — for consumers, associates, merchandisers, store managers and leaders in all departments. For example, consumers want a transparent view into which products are available through different stores and channels. Associates need this same inventory visibility, plus a 360-degree view of the customer’s shopping behaviour and preferences. Then they can tailor their interactions to the individual and his/her chosen path to purchase. A merchandiser needs the agility to recognise and respond to product trends in diverse local markets. The CFO and operations executives need to know all transactions will be compliant with local tax procedures, regulations and credit card payment policies. A failure to perform in any one of these areas ultimately impacts the unified commerce strategy. By the same token, retailers who master unified commerce yield big rewards.
Take the global lifestyle brand Ted Baker, which has expanded to run over 500 stores in more than 70 countries. The London-based retailer espouses “unwavering attention to detail.” This clearly applies to not only Ted Baker’s products but also its approach to localised merchandising and omnichannel fulfilment. “We have a clear strategy for growth across both established and new markets which is underpinned by our controlled, multichannel distribution as well as the design, quality and attention to detail that are at the heart of everything we do,” said Ray Kelvin CBE, founder and chief executive, Ted Baker.
The company’s results say it all. In its most recent fiscal year, revenue was up 11.4% to £591.7 million, profit before tax was up 12.3% and e-commerce had grown an impressive 40%. This is unified commerce at its best.
Samir Belkhayat is the UK managing director and business development director at Cegid
Share this story