Consumers expect emotionality, simplicity and personalization when they shop. But how can retailers meet these expectations in a market that is constantly changing e.g., due to the Corona pandemic? As our guest authors Frank Müller and Milos Kuhn explain, the key lies in the efficient merging of sales channels (unified commerce).
What is Unified Commerce?
In order to address customers individually at all touchpoints, a retailer’s various channels must be connected as seamlessly as possible, from the website to mobile channels, stationary retail and eCommerce marketplaces. This is the starting point of unified commerce. All sales channels are connected on a central real-time platform.
Unified Commerce enables retailers to efficiently serve all customer touchpoints. The central platform accompanies customers throughout their entire customer journey. Consumers receive consistent real-time updates on products, availability, prices and recommendations. It doesn’t matter whether the customer starts shopping on a computer, for example, or switches to a brick-and-mortar store and then checks out on a smartphone. Everything is synchronized in a single, unified system.
Unified commerce for successful omni-channel experiences
Customers frequently switch between channels and touchpoints during a purchasing process. As a rule, retailers offer their products across multiple platforms and enable their customers to enjoy what is known as an omni-channel experience. However, a study by Periscope (PDF download) shows that 78 percent of retailers cannot deliver their omni-channel experiences fast enough.
That’s because systems are often disconnected behind the scenes. Accordingly, fast, omni-channel coordination is difficult because there is no single, easily accessible platform. As a result, data is inaccurate or incorrectly stored, resulting in gaps in the buying experience. Hence, retailers cannot offer complete flexibility to their customers.
Unified commerce builds on the omni-channel principle and closes said gaps in the customer experience. It links channels by connecting backend systems and ensures that consumers stay connected to the central platform across all touchpoints. Thus, retailers reach their customers faster, flexibly and with a higher level of personalization.
Providing data centrally
To implement unified commerce, retailers must be able to function automatically across all channels, business processes and system boundaries. Therefore, all data distributed in different IT systems in companies must be provided centrally. The challenge lies in eliminating existing data silos.
Once a central platform has been established, new data – payments, for example – also flows from all channels into the same system. This promotes the agility of companies. Retailers can identify customer needs earlier and respond in a timely manner, across all divisional boundaries (marketing, sales, service, etc.).
There are other benefits
The centralized platform also enables unified commerce merchants to check, track and manage their own inventory in stores or warehouses. Since there is a real-time connection between inventory and all inventory channels, out-of-stocks are usually reduced. Retailers are thus more flexible and can offer customers services such as „Endless Aisle“ through the central data system.
For example, if the particular color or size of a product that the customer wants is out of stock, retailers can check the availability of the product elsewhere and ship directly from there. This creates more opportunities for sales and improves customer experiences.
Recognize changing market situations
One example: If restrictions due to high incidence values prohibit the opening of brick-and-mortar stores, changes in the market as a result can be quickly identified by the central data system. Retailers can react at an early stage and, for example, use stores as additional warehouses from which to serve the growing number of online customers without loss. In this way, companies generate strategic advantages through the central data system.
Cross-channel loyalty programs
As sales channels are interconnected on a central platform, retailers can use cross-channel loyalty programs. The platforms recognize customers and offer personalized benefits. This means retailers don’t have to rely solely on their staff to recognize and serve repeat customers. This makes customers feel especially valued.
Unified Commerce gains importance
Unified commerce is becoming increasingly important due to changing restriction situations during the Corona pandemic. According to a nets study (PDF download), the purchasing behavior of one in four customers in German-speaking countries changed permanently during the pandemic. „Click and collect“, i.e., shopping online and picking up in a stationary store, as well as other hybrid shopping forms have consistently gained popularity among many customers.
Until the pandemic ends, more consumers will also establish new behaviors with regards to their shopping behavior. However, the fact that online shopping is gaining in popularity as a result (source: PwC) does not mean the end of stationary retail. Rather, it is a matter of using unified commerce to offer what the customer wants at the right time via the right channel – online and stationary.
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Milos Kuhn is a student and works for the Corporate Communications-team at ec4u. He is currently studying media sciences at the Hochschule der Medien, Stuttgart.
https://www.ec4u.com/ec4u-blog/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2021/06/Blog_Unified_Commerce_157021283.jpg270710Juliane Waackhttps://www.ec4u.com/ec4u-blog/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2016/02/Logo-ohne-Schriftzug.pngJuliane Waack2021-07-27 08:00:092021-07-01 11:41:59The New Normal: Unified Commerce for a seamless shopping experience