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Unified Commerce is a strategy where businesses seamlessly integrate all their operations and channels to provide a cohesive and consistent customer experience. Unlike omni-channel retailing, which focuses on connecting various channels (such as in-store, online, mobile, etc.), unified commerce brings all of these channels onto a single platform, providing a truly integrated customer experience.
With unified shopping as the key strategy, customers can engage with the business across multiple touchpoints, with a consistent level of quality and service. Be it shopping online, in mobile, in-store, via social media or any other channel that your business exists, the customer experience will be frictionless across channel.
Unified commerce requires the integration of various different technologies such as point-of-sale (POS) systems, e-commerce platforms, inventory management systems, and customer relationship management (CRM) tools. The connection across these systems will enable businesses to have real-time access to crucial data, including but not limited to customer behavior and preferences,levels of inventory, and sales data, cross-l channel, which will contribute to providing a more personalized and efficient service.
Among the numerous benefits of unified commerce, the key ones would be better customer experience, increased operational efficiency, and enhanced capability to track and act on market trends in real time.
The main components of unified commerce include:
Centralized data management sits at the very heart of a successful unified commerce strategy. It enables the capability of storing all data, including customer information, inventory levels, sales, and order history,in a central location that is accessible from all channels. This, in return, enables real-time visibility and synchronization of data across all touchpoints.
Systems and channels (online, mobile, in-store, etc.) needs to be interconnected on a single platform for unified commerce. This would be valid for eCommerce platforms, point-of-sale systems (POS), order management systems, inventory management systems, and customer relationship management (CRM) systems.
Being able to provide and sustain a consistent and seamless customer experience across all channels is the most crucial element of unified commerce. To make that happen, businesses need to integrate all touchpoints and ensure that customers can effortlessly circulate in between channels without experiencing any friction.
A real-time inventory management system that enables a company-wide, accurate view of the inventory is one of the key requirements of unified commerce. The reason behind this is that it helps to fulfill orders more efficiently and avoid out of stock situations in some channels.
For a unified commerce strategy to succeed, understanding the dynamics of customer behavior and preferences across all channels is important.. To make that happen, businesses need to collect and analyze data on customer interactions and transactions and based on that they should personalize their shopping experience to cultivate customer loyalty.
Integrated payment systems are also an integral part of the unified commerce strategy. In brief, they enable customers to make payment using their preferred method, regardless of the channel they are making the purchase from. The preferred methods may vary from traditional credit/debit card payments to digital wallets and mobile payment solutions.
Order fulfillment is another crucial element of unified commerce. The customers should be able to purchase, carry through, and return orders across any channel. Such experiences may involve cases such as the customer making the order online, while picking it up in-store (BOPIS), or deciding to return an online order at a physical store, or even fulfilling online orders from store inventory.
There are a variety of reasons behind why unified commerce is a hot trend today::
Thanks to unified commerce, customers can have a seamless and consistent experience across all platforms. Be it in-store or online, customers can enjoy a consistent shopping experience. The convenience, personalization, and consistency that unified commerce provides made it increasingly popular as a strategy.
The visibility across all channels that unified commerce provides helps businesses manage their inventory a lot more efficiently and effectively. It enables businesses to fulfill customer orders better and reduces the chances of out-of-stock and over-stock
As unified commerce requires the integration of different systems into a single platform, it also reduces the time and human effort necessary to manage separate systems for each channel. It streamlines the overall operations and improves efficiency.
Data collection, analysis and leveraging are the fundamentals of unified commerce and this also enables offering personalized experiences based on customers' past shopping behavior. In today’s highly cluttered world, personalization happens to be the driver of revenue, and customer loyalty, which makes it an indispensable element of the retail landscape.
Having a unified commerce approach can provide businesses with a competitive edge in today’s increasingly digitized world. It enables businesses to keep up with their customer expectations, improve customer satisfaction, and ultimately drive more sales.
Unified commerce fosters ultimate efficiency. It enables businesses to fulfill orders from the most efficient location, be it from a warehouse, a store, or a distribution center. Aside from an improved level of efficiency, it also allows businesses to ensure faster delivery times, driving up the customer satisfaction.
With a unified view of the business, decision-makers have access to accurate and comprehensive data. This enables them to make more informed decisions,which lead to better business outcomes, ranging from reducing costs to enhancing customer service.
From time to time omnichannel and unified commerce may be used interchangeably, since both aim to provide a seamless and consistent customer experience across multiple channels. Yet, the main difference lies in the level of integration.
The integration of all customer touchpoints on a single platform that offers real-time data collection and analysis for a seamless and consistent customer experience is an imperative for unified commerce. When it comes to , omnichannel retail, it also involves multiple channels working in sync, but these channels may not necessarily be fully integrated on a single platform.
Regarding data synchronization, unified commerce provides real-time data across all channels. This enables a comprehensive view on all levels of the operation from inventory to customer behavior, and other crucial business metrics. Yet, in omnichannel retail, as the channels operate independently, there may be delays or discrepancies in data synchronization.
The high level of integration that is required for the unified commerce strategy may make it more complex than an omnichannel approach. Yet, once implementation is done, unified commerce can lead to more efficiency in operations and a more seamless customer experience. When it comes to the omnichannel approach, it may be easier to carry on with but may not offer the same level of efficiency in operation and consitency in customer experience as the unified commerce approach does.
Starbucls is an excellent example for a company that is successfully implementing unified commerce.. The company's mobile app stands as a testament to its unified commerce approach.
Here are some key notes on how Starbucks implemented unified commerce:
The Starbucks app enables customers to do many things from one single interface. They can order in advance, customize their drinks, pay on mobile, and collect loyalty rewards. Regardless of whether a customer makes an order in-store or through the app, their reward points and order history are updated in real-time across all systems. This, in return, creates a single, unified view of the customer's interactions with Starbucks.
Starbucks integrated its inventory management system with its app. This integration ensures that if a particular drink or ingredient is not available at a certain store, it is reflected in real-time within the app. As a result, customers are always informed on what they can order based on the current availability..
Starbucks allows customers to order in advance and make the payment from the app, and then pick up their order from the store, on the go, without waiting in line. This is a classical example of a seamless integration between digital and physical channels.. Regardless of how a customer chooses to interact with Starbucks – in a physical store, through the mobile app, or via the website – the experience is crafted to be seamless and consistent.
The unified commerce strategy that Starbucks has chosen to implement, not only serves for a superior customer experience but also brings in valuable data and insights regarding customer behavior, preferences, and buying patterns.
A Unified Commerce Platform is an integrated technology solution that connects all areas of a business's retail operations into one system. It aims to provide a seamless, integrated, and consistent shopping experience across all channels, from brick-and-mortar stores to e-commerce websites and mobile apps.
This platform ensures all retail systems, including eCommerce, Point of Sale (POS), inventory management, order management, and customer relationship management (CRM), are unified and interact seamlessly, providing real-time data and visibility across all channels.