The Future of Commerce is Unified: Is Your Brand Ready?

Multi-channel enablement allowed each channel to function separately and exist as an individual marketing or sales opportunity. With each message, piece of content, or style of a page looking completely different to the customer—its backend systems operating on different timelines as well. With multichannel, the product or service is at the centre of the marketing strategy and channels delivered messages individually as they were not integrated, forcing customers to seek information from specific channels. Omnichannel also involves multiple channels used to engage customers, yet these channels are integrated with each other, so the customer receives a single message through all channels and can move between touchpoints seamlessly. Optimising and automating this customer journey is where unified commerce comes into play.

According to Gartner, unified commerce is a “modern dominant business strategy that provides retail consumers with a continuous experience as they browse, transact, acquire and consume, regardless of touchpoint.” In 2023 the connection between e-commerce and brick-and-mortar has never been more substantial, as brands and retailers continue to implement retail technology solutions. Closely associated with omnichannel commerce, unified commerce is the next level up--providing consistency with customer-facing channels and synchronising backend systems to react in real-time, no matter how or where the customer stops or continues their journey.

Unified commerce, however, is more than just a buzzword. Retailers agile enough to consider this solution will benefit in the long run, as a unified commerce strategy caters to customers at all stages of engagement across the organisation, providing curated suggestions and actions at the appropriate stage in the customer journey.

Journey of retail to Unified Commerce

How is the industry changing, and what is the shift from Omnichannel to Unified Commerce all about?

Many retail brands have been transitioning from omnichannel to unified commerce in recent years in order to better serve customers across online, mobile, and brick-and-mortar stores. Some examples of brands that have adopted unified commerce in the past include Adidas, H&M, and Sephora. Last month, the largest U.S. specialty women’s swimwear brand, Everything But Water, deployed a cloud-native unified commerce strategy across its 85 retail locations in the country. Using Manhattan Active Omni offerings – the brand was able to synchronise order management, point of sale capabilities, and clienteling into a single solution. Doing so allowed the store associates to have a 360-degree customer view and transact against merchandise no matter the location. Cole Haan is another retailer to implement unified commerce, using the Aptos ONE platform as their solution. Like Manhattan, the platform is cloud-native, delivering enterprise-grade POS that are delivered mobile first, with additional offline capabilities for transactions anywhere. Technologies like Aptos ONE have open architecture, which allow the brands to quickly adapt to changing customer needs.  Having a technology infrastructure with public specifications allows room for brands to upgrade and add additional products to their tech stack, synchronising them to integrate the enterprise with the customer experience.

Why are brands making the shift?

Brands and retailers are moving to unified commerce because it allows them to provide a seamless and consistent customer experience across all channels. Unified commerce integrates all the different touchpoints of a customer's shopping journey, including online, mobile, and in-store, into a single, unified system. This enables retailers to offer a range of services, such as BOPIS (buy online pick up in store), buy online and return in-store, and the ability to view and purchase products in real-time through a variety of channels. By adopting unified commerce, brands can create a more personalized and convenient shopping experience for their customers, which can lead to increased loyalty and sales. Additionally, unified commerce allows retailers to collect and analyse customer data across all channels, which can provide insights into shopping behaviour and help brands make more informed business decisions.

How Technology Teams can support Unified Commerce

Fusing omnichannel capabilities into a single solution requires breaking down of digital and physical systems. In the past, while transitioning to omnichannel solutions, retailers experienced data silo gaps, knowledge gaps, system gaps, and a plethora of other challenges that held them back from transformation. However, as the retail industry continues to push for brands to close these gaps, the momentum must also move to unifying and modernising them. Consolidating these solutions for the retailer’s technical landscape requires platforms that allow for scaling. Reusability, composability and the ability for a system to integrate with anything should be at the forefront of a retailer’s mind when searching for service solutions. Choosing a modern app development platform with native cloud and mobile functionalities enables a digital experience that is crucial for customers and employees to be flexible and meet the needs of customers.

Retailers should be equipped with the right tools to respond quickly to changing market conditions, and a unified commerce solution is a crucial aspect of this. By partnering with a system that is composable, retailers can streamline order management across all channels and regions, giving them the freedom to expand their sales channels and offer new customer experiences at scale.

Absolute labs is here to help guide retailers through this transformational journey. Our team has the expertise and capabilities to assist you in navigating the complex requirements of unified commerce, from strategy to development, to implementation. Our technology expertise and vendor selection capabilities guide retailers on the tools and expertise necessary to provide the best possible customer experience. At Absolutelabs, we are dedicated to helping our clients adapt to the evolving market landscape and meet the changing needs of their customers.

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