With digital commerce revolutionising retail, unified commerce becomes a whole new ball game of opportunities for retailers.
According to comScore, 40% of purchases are made from cross channel sales, either through searching in-store and purchasing online, or vice versa.
Whilst eCommerce has grown to represent approximately 10% of all sales, 90% are still in-store. With multiple channels involved in the modern buying journey, there is opportunity for exponential growth using the best of all channels to close more sales.
Unified commerce is about transforming the customer journey. It’s about removing the friction from shopping by giving the customer the information and support they need to make a buying decision.
There are four major themes emerging across the current retailing landscape:
1. Increased customer expectation and sophistication
Customers have increasingly higher expectations of convenience and access to information, products and service.
Customers want their loyalty recognised in tangible ways and they place a high premium on convenience and immediate service, irrespective of location.
Retailers can utilise technology to gain a better view of the customer, their behaviours, and their buying journeys and opportunities to satisfy customer demands.
Soon, ‘commerce systems’ will begin to supplement and replace the current separate point of sale (POS) and eCommerce systems, directing the future experience of shopping
When making technology investment decisions, retailers need to focus on advancements that will improve the overall customer experience and remove friction from the buying journey.
2. Unified commerce is here and it’s beyond the omni-channel promise
An integrated in-store and online experience is no longer a nice-to-have. It is now a matter of survival in the competitive retail landscape. The unforgiving retail environment leaves no room for businesses using systems that are isolated with limited integration capabilities, which struggle to adapt to rapidly evolving customer purchase journeys.
Ecommerce solutions have already leapfrogged POS. With the ability to perform everything that POS terminals do, providing richer data about customer journeys, faster updates to information, inventory and offer in near real-time, with generally higher levels of reliability thanks to distributed and highly resilient infrastructure.
This opens up the almost limitless potential of integrated data and solution:
A single view of the customer’s interactions and purchases, whether in-store or online – allowing retailers to proactively help their purchase journey.
A unified system of managing a widely distributed fulfilment network through optimal selection of store, distribution centres (DC) and third-party logistics (3PL) models.
3.Overcoming the barriers to unified commerce
Unified commerce is not a goal in itself, instead it is the enabler for placing the customer experience front and centre to your strategy. One of the biggest roadblocks is disparate and disconnected technology and systems.
By locating and processing data and transactions on one integrated platform, retailers gain a single source of truth that delivers accurate and up-to-date information, reducing the number of critical connections to inventory, sales management and fulfillment systems that are a necessary and critical point of failure in many retail architectures today.
4.How true unified commerce technology can fit your strategy
Point of sale systems are becoming increasingly connected within the overall business system architecture. No longer do the instore systems stand separate from the online systems.
They must be integrated with, or to your e-commerce platform, providing a seamless customer experience, and create a competitive advantage - for example when a product is sold to a customer, whether it is in-store, Click & Collect from any store location, delivered or online only.
The sale should be able to be paid through a multitude of payment methods such as eftpos providers, gift cards, layby or deferred payment solutions, or a combination of all.
All customer transactions and sales should occur within the same ecosystem, so it becomes irrelevant if a sale has been made online or in-store, or a combination.
Whether your customer starts their buying journey online or instore, using the most convenient channel becomes irrelevant. Their entire sales history, and your entire fulfilment network is at their disposal to get the right product at the right time, for the right price.
True unified commerce combines the rich content and user experience of online shopping with the functionality of in-store POS and operator-initiated orders and sales.
Matt Neale is the Chief Technology Officer of eStar, Australasia's leading specialist eCommerce solutions provider, delivering outstanding experiences with some of the region's best brands, through a combination of thought leadership, user experience, development, design and partners. Learn more at www.estaronline.com