Retail has undergone decades of transformation in just a couple of years, accelerating long-term trends and simultaneously creating unprecedented disruption.
However, according to Jan-Pieter Lips, head of unified commerce at Adyen, the disruption has shown many retailers the importance of investing in flexibility: “Because they don’t know what’s around the corner.”
While most retailers previously only invested in their in-store presence and e-commerce sites, consumers now expect them to offer mobile channels, kiosks, and self-service options. “These long-term but quickly evolving trends are caused by technology driving convenience and providing consumers with more ways to buy,” explains Lips. “You can buy online and pick up in a store. You’ve got new channels like chat and video. Technology is giving consumers a lot more access to retail.”
Also entering the common consciousness are a number of new ways to pay, including digital wallets; buy now, pay later; and models where customers automatically pay a monthly subscription fee.
“When I talk to retailers, they tell me that part of their customer base that had never shopped online before the pandemic, have now done so for the first time,” says Lips. “That’s an important change because those people will probably not go back to their old behaviour.”
It is this move to omnichannel services that is changing the face of retail, according to Lips. “As humans, we get quite used to friction in our lives, but the moment someone solves this, we become very unwilling to deal with anything less. These new omnichannel experiences have definitely raised customers’ expectations.
“Life is becoming easier for shoppers and retailers are expected to adjust accordingly. That’s the interesting challenge that we are helping our retailers overcome. And Microsoft Dynamics 365 is a key part of this endeavour.”
Unified commerce is the next evolution for omnichannel retail. Where omnichannel offers customers a choice of how to interact with a retailer, unified commerce provides a range of back-end processes that connect every potential interaction channel.
“Behind the scenes, those different channels generally operate in silos,” says Lips. “There is a disconnect, and that’s what unified commerce is changing.”
To truly achieve unified commerce, Lips believes retailers need three things: a central view of stock, a connected financial system, and an understanding of what customers are doing.
“A lot of retailers don’t have a full overview of their inventory that includes both e-commerce and store stock levels,” says Lips. “If a retailer wants to be able to direct customers to where they can purchase items, they need one place that holds all this information.
“That’s what the combination of Microsoft Dynamics and Adyen delivers,” he explains. “We have one platform that can support all those different channels. We can make sure that payments work the same way across channels and that customers can be tracked across each one.”
With the rise of e-commerce and online shopping, retailers have been able to understand their customers better, by tracking what they do and do not purchase, and using artificial intelligence and other technologies to gain insights into the reasons why. However, physical retail stores do not provide this same opportunity.
“This is one of the ways that we can provide real value in unified commerce,” says Lips. “We can enable retailers to use the payments data to identify customers across digital platforms and in store, while considering safety and privacy precautions.”
And the process is fairly simple: if a customer uses the same payment method online and in store, retailers can link these together to identify individuals, providing an overview of what they are buying based on how they have made their payments.
Adyen practices what it preaches when it comes to unified commerce. “We have a single platform that covers all different payments and countries,” says Lips. “Retailers that work with us don’t need different partners for different payments, channels or countries. We do it all – that’s what makes us a unified partner.
“We’ve simplified the whole payment process; there are fewer parties involved, fewer contracts, fewer integrations and fewer handovers of data. A shared client of Adyen and Microsoft told us that it had completed an integration with Adyen in 38 minutes, whereas with other providers it had taken weeks. Of course, this isn’t the typical amount of time for completing an integration, but we were happy we could address this particular need rapidly.”
Lips believes that Adyen’s unique selling point, and the reason it has helped so many retailers, is its natively built integration with Microsoft.
“Microsoft has the ability to have a huge impact because it not only has the right technology. It also has the scale and partnerships to provide personalised solutions that transform customer experiences. Since we are also a technology company, it works really well.
“That’s why I am so enthusiastic about our relationship with Microsoft. We worked with Microsoft as a merchant on tokenised payments to help it significantly realise more revenue. After that, Microsoft chose Adyen as the only natively built connector and payments partner because it saw the value we brought to the platform.”
This article was originally published in the Spring 2022 issue of Technology Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.