89% of businesses soon expect to compete mainly on customer experience, as reported by Gartner. Customer experience is becoming a key brand differentiator, over price and product. However, as retailers add more selling channels, their customer experience becomes more difficult to manage for every customer touchpoint.
Many merchants realize the need for a seamless customer experience across channels. However, many admit that they currently aren’t doing it well. They don’t have the technologocail capabilities necessary to make it happen.
With fear of customer churn due to bad experiences looming, retailers are looking to unified commerce. In this article, we’ll explain what unified commerce is and its advantages to merchants.
What is Unified Commerce?
73% of retailers plan to have a unified commerce platform implemented by the end of 2019, according to a Boston Retail Partners (BPR) report.
So, what is unified commerce?
As defined by BPR, unified commerce places the customer experience as first priority by leveraging a single commerce platform. A single platform rids of internal channels that operate in their own silos. Instead, merchants leverage a “single, centralized, real-time platform for all customer engagement points.” In this way, unified commerce is achieved.
Omnichannel vs Unified Commerce
Some may think that unified commerce sounds a lot like omnichannel. Ken Morris, partner and co-founder of BRP, when interviewed by eMarketer explains the difference between the two.
“In omnichannel, you have multiple channels, but you don’t have one piece of software, one version of the truth. In the unified commerce world, it’s all connected in real time. I don’t just mean the web side, but the mobile side, the web side and the store side-all in real time.”
Omnichannel also focuses on creating a consistent customer experience across all sales channels. However, merchants have separate, often stand-alone, systems for each channel. This leaves disparate system operating in their own silos.
It’s no wonder than the inconsistent, inaccurate data is shared across the organization. There’s no single version of master data that is easily shared.
Unified commerce relies on a single truth of data. When data is shared in real-time, it’s accessible to the customer and merchant whenever, wherever. That’s the value of unified commerce vs omnichannel.
Advantages of Unified Commerce
There are many advantages of unified commerce. However, they all come back to creating a better customer experience.
Today’s shoppers want to buy anywhere, receive anywhere, and return anywhere. If they buy online, they want to return in-store. If an item is out-of-stock in-store, the sales associate should be able to order something online for them.
Shoppers also need accurate, consistent product information when shopping online. They should see inventory availability across stores. Product descriptions should be detailed and consistent across channels. Product recommendations should be relevant and timely based on past purchased history.
This type of experience isn’t easy to achieve. Business should share real-time data across the organization and your systems. Unified commerce aims to make the possible.
Here are some of the main advantage of unified commerce that help create a better customer experience:
In the same report, BPR found that 60% of retailers indicated they have implemented “inventory visibility across channels,” 80% of those retailers indicate the system “needs improvement.”
When selling on multiple channels, updating inventory quantities across channels in real-time is critical. It ensures that inventory levels are always correct. You can avoid overselling and the awkward situation of telling a customer you can’t ship them an item they bought.
Merchants can also perform endless aisle, which is the capability of allowing customers to buy products that are out-of-stock in-store and ship them to their home. Endless aisle is only possible with supply chain integration and cross-channel inventory availability. Learn more about endless aisle in this article.
Inventory visibility helps with inventory management and ensures your customers have products to buy.
More Delivery Options
Customers don’t see channels when they shop. So, it’s time merchants stop treating channels as their own internal silos.
Customers want a seamless shopping experience whether they buy from you online or offline. Unified commerce helps you provide that type of experience. Merchants can improve their services such as buy online, pick up in-store, buy online, return in-store, and buy online, and ship from store.
These types of delivery options are what today’s consumers expect. Merchants who can deliver will be successful with their customers.
Unified commerce simplifies the technology needed to sell across multiple channels. Merchants today have multiple, disparate systems that help run their different sales channels. Unified commerce calls for a single platform, with advanced middleware, to replace that.
Instead, your business runs on a more simplified technology architecture that easily supplies real-time integration.
Your customers are the real benefiters from such a configuration. With real-time integration, all other capabilities talked above our possible.
If you’re looking for real-time inventory and order integration between your sales channels and fulfillment channels, check out nChannel’s multichannel management platform.
What to Do Next
How well is your business doing at providing a seamless customer experience? Would your customers and organization benefit from unified commerce?
To learn more about unified commerce and the results of the BPR 2016 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey, see here.
Check out other articles from Multichannel Insights:
- Why All Merchants Need Real Time Inventory Availability (And How You Can Get It)
- 6 Customer Experience Trends You Should Know About
- 5 Challenges of Endless Aisle for Retailers