Unified Commerce: A buzz word or the key to eCommerce Success?
Why you should be planning your unified commerce strategy
What is Unified Commerce?
Unified commerce is defined by research firm Gartner as ‘the practice of providing flexibility, continuity and consistency across digital and physical channels to deliver a superior customer experience.’ While many assume that unified commerce is just another buzz word interchangeable with omni-channel, it can be used to describe the step beyond omni-channel. At its core, unified commerce is the merger of all touchpoints in the customer experience. Whilst Omni-channel commerce looks to list and sell products ‘in all ways or places’, unified commerce is about finding ways to take all of these selling points be it marketplaces, eCommerce platforms, social media marketing, affiliate marketing tools, warehouse and fulfilment requirements and managing for a single point to ensure consistency across the brand and a seamless customer experience from start to finish.
40% of purchases are made from cross channel sales either through searching in-store and purchasing online, or vice versa
Why should merchants establish a unified commerce environment?
Due to technological innovation and enhancement, the customer journey has dramatically shifted from the original brick and mortar model. Retailers are finding that they need to meet their customers on a growing number of online channels and the expectation for a high-quality experience is evolving with each positive experience customers encounter. With multiple touchpoints and this higher expectation from customers, retailers need to ensure that they are providing a unique and uniform customer experience across all channels in order to maintain customer loyalty.
Image: Vision Critical
A unified commerce platform can lend itself to simpifying your commerce environment by automating a number of systems used by the business. In picking a trusted vendor (an understanding of your needs, industry and how best to communicate with you is required) that can support and update your network as needed, you can decrease the number of vendors involved in maintenance of your commerce environment. This, in turn, can reduce complexity in the training of new staff and reduces overall business costs.
Maximise stock turnover
One of the biggest challenges in retail remains getting the right product in the right size in front of the right consumer at the right time so stock turns are maximised with minimal cost. With the use of an Order Management System, retailers can maximise the visibility of their complete inventory across all stores, warehouses or suppliers. Now when their customers place orders, the OMS can direct these orders back to the location of that inventory, therefore turning every warehouse, drop ship location and brick and mortar store into a fulfilment centre.
Missing or incomplete customer information is a problem for most businesses. By maintaining an integrated customer database, retailers can get a 360° view of their customer, which can lend itself to tailor-made promotions and optimised campaigns that can maximise marketing ROI and enhance the customer experience with the brand.
By using a unified commerce platform, a merchant can harmonise the customer’s product experience across the entire selling network. In ensuring consistent messaging, branding and pricing, customers can be taken on a journey from a Google search, through their social channels and finally to cart either on a brands eCommerce site or instore.
When should I look to implement a unified commerce platform?
While the above may sound like a no brainer for any merchant looking to decrease costs and maximise sales, a couple of steps should be taken to ensure that any platform implemented can succeed in helping you to achieve your goals.
Understand your current customer journey
It is important to have a clear understanding of what your typical customer sales process looks like and take the time to think about the way in which this can be improved and enhanced by a unified commerce platform.
Data analysis and accuracy is key
Taking data seriously will be key to seeing the benefits of implementation of a platform. Make sure to take the time to focus on collecting, analysing and leveraging insights learned from customer data as well as ensuring product data is accurate. By using these insights, you can optimise your selling channels and ensure that your products are not being blindly distributed to the detriment of your bottom line (ie bulky items being distributed across long distances resulting in large shipping costs).