Unified Commerce Transcends Omnichannel Experiences


Over the years, retailers have focused on omnichannel experiences, but most limited the approach to customer service or marketing. As lines between marketing, service, and commerce disintegrate, retailers must shift their thinking toward a unified commerce agenda with the goal of creating engaging experiences that transcend today's disconnected interactions toward frictionless experiences anywhere, anytime.

Heightened demands for context, convenience, and control in all customer interactions require retailers to reevaluate how they serve their customers across the shopping journey. A confluence of interrelated factors, running the gamut from the rise of the on-demand economy to the emergence of ubiquitous connectivity, have thrown the retail landscape into a state of flux.

Consumers now expect what they want when they want it, at the time and place of their choosing. 451 Research's VoCUL: Consumer Representative Survey, Q2 2017 shows the battle for customer loyalty is now being fought on new battlegrounds, such as the level of consistency and personalization of the shopping experience. Retailers can no longer get by with having a channel-specific viewpoint of the customer. Failing to weave the context of previous interactions into the shopping journey, however, results in not only a frustrating customer experience, but also missed revenue opportunities and increased costs due to redundancies.

Strategies to Re-Imagine the Future for Unified Commerce

Rethink customer experience and leverage new, innovative technologies.

Retailers must achieve operational efficiency and improve agility without compromising customer service. Stores need to adapt to the emergence of alternative distribution channels and leverage e-commerce improvements, supply chain efficiencies, and data-driven marketing promotions.

Measure opportunity lost through maintaining legacy systems.

Retailers have attempted to keep pace through tactics such as click-and-collect and mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) to provide the impression of integration and cohesiveness between channels and internal systems. However, legacy and compartmentalized software, such as marketing, commerce, inventory, POS, and order management often remain the barriers that keep customer data and interactions siloed, reducing the effectiveness of these approaches. Additionally, the cost and complexity to implement these siloed platforms often stall initiatives due to lack of ability to execute on vision.

Eliminate friction points.

Shoppers abandon purchases frequently due to inefficient checkout lines or difficult online transactions. Likewise, sales will suffer if store staff are unable to check item pricing or inventory for a shopper without leaving the sales floor. The ability to check out customers in the aisles also gives retail staff more opportunity to make product recommendations, employ up-sell strategies, and generally provide more personalized customer service.

Modern retail systems are a path forward.

This focus on delivering improved experiences will see more retailers invest in technologies, processes, and strategies that help deliver a unified and consistent experiences across all touchpoints. New investments in retail software platforms that deliver a consistent view of each customer show a path forward. We are beginning to see early evidence of the industry rising to the occasion to deliver on this vision through innovative software approaches that will transcend complexities previously encountered to address the digital divide between digital and physical experiences before, during, and after a purchase.

As technology becomes increasingly central to how individuals experience the world around them, retailers must focus on unified commerce initiatives that cater to consumers' preferred ways of shopping and provide unique engagement strategies as a critical part of retailers' strategic value proposition and competitive differentiation.

Sheryl Kingstone is research director for customer experience and commerce at 451 Research. Jordan McKee is a principal analyst for customer experience and commerce at 451 Research.

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Posted March 22, 2018