Best Practices For Unified Commerce Strategy

Best Practices For Unified Commerce Strategy

The digital landscape today is evolving rapidly and the way consumers engage with businesses is constantly changing. The modern consumer's journey is no longer limited to the physical store or a stand alone online platform. On the contrary, it's a multi-faceted experience, knitting physical and digital touchpoints together across an array of channels. From searching for products on social media, to making price comparisons on e-commerce websites, to making purchases on mobile apps, today's consumers demand a seamless, integrated shopping experience at every touchpoint. This is where Unified Commerce enters the stage..

Unified Commerce is the new paradigm for customer-centric retailing. It is an evolutionary leap beyond omni-channel retail. x Going beyond merely offering multiple sales channels, unified commerce focuses on providing a consistent and personalized customer experience across all channels.Unified commerce requires all of the company's sales channels to be interlinked, which, in return, ensures real-time synchronization of inventory, pricing, and customer data. This allows for a cohesive shopping experience that caters to the consumers' need for convenience, speed, and personalization.

In this blog post, we will deep dive into the best practices for implementing Unified Commerce in your business. We will look into how to break down silos between different sales channels, put into practice efficient data management strategies, and leverage technologies like AI and machine learning to personalize the customer experience. Regardless of whether you're a retail giant or a small business, these insights will provide you with the knowledge to navigate the future of retail and be successful in the age of Unified Commerce.

Definition of Unified Commerce

Unified Commerce is an approach to retail that integrates all sales channels and customer touchpoints into a single, cohesive system. It aims to provide a seamless and consistent shopping experience for customers, no matter how, where, or when they choose to interact with a business.

Instead of treating different sales channels (like physical stores, online stores, mobile apps, and social media) as separate entities, Unified Commerce combines them. It ensures real-time data synchronization across all channels. This ranges from inventory, pricing, to customer data, and allows businesses to have a integrated view of their operations and customer interactions.

10 Best Practices For Unified Commerce Strategy

Below you may find the best practices that can guide your retail business in implementing a successful Unified Commerce strategy:

  1. Understand Your Customer Journey
  2. Break Down Operational Silos
  3. Leverage Advanced Technologies
  4. Implement Real-Time Inventory Management
  5. Personalize the Customer Experience
  6. Ensure Brand Consistency Across Channels
  7. Empower Employees with the Right Tools and Training
  8. Implement a Single, Unified Commerce Platform
  9. Prioritize Data Security and Privacy
  10. Measure Success with Relevant KPIs

Understand Your Customer Journey

Understanding the customer journey is the cornerstone of any successful Unified Commerce strategy. . This involves understanding how customers engage with your brand across different touchpoints, both physical and digital.

Within the context of Unified Commerce, the customer journey is not linear but rather a bundle of interactions that happen across multiple channels. Customers may discover a product on social media, search the details of it on your  website, then check some reviews on other, third-party platforms, and finally decide on a purchase in your physical store.

Understanding this journey necessitates a deep dive into customer behavior data. Find out the touchpoints your customers use, get their preferences, and analyze their purchasing behavior. This, in return, will help you to map out the customer journey, unleashing patterns, pain points, and opportunities.

By having a solid understanding of your customer journey, you can:

Predict customer needs and preferences, for the personalization of their shopping experience.

Find out gaps or pain points in the customer experience and address them proactively.

Optimize the customer experience at each touchpoint, and improve customer satisfaction and loyalty by doing so.

Delivering a truly frictionless, personalized shopping experience is at the core of understanding your customer journey, which is ultimately the main goal of a successful Unified Commerce strategy. 

Break Down Operational Silos

Operational silos in a business may come up as major obstacles for  implementing a successful Unified Commerce strategy. The independent operation of different functions, departments within a company, without any effective communication or data sharing results with a disjointed customer experience.  As an example, if your online and in-store inventory systems aren't not in sync, a customer may discover a product online yet failto purchase it in-store due to out-of-stock, which would lead  to frustration, revenue loss and even churn..

Breaking down these silos requires integration of your systems and data across all channels. What this means is that information about inventory, customer data, orders, and returns would be centralized and accessible in real-time across all channels. This, in return, would enable a seamless flow of information and ensure that all parts of the business are working in sync to provide a cohesive customer experience.

For instance, if a customer makes a purchase online and chooses to pick it up in-store, the store staff should have this information immediately to prepare the order. Similarly, if a product is out of stock in-store, the staff should be able to check inventory data in real time and advise the customer to make an online purchase or go to another store location. 

Breaking down operational silos would enable you to::

Ensure a seamless, consistent customer experience across all channels.

Improve operational efficiency by reducing duplicate efforts and improving communication.

Make better informed business decisions via having a holistic view of your operations.

Leverage Advanced Technologies

Modern technology has an important role in the implementation of a successful Unified Commerce strategy. Leveraging advanced technologies can assist businesses to streamline operations, gather valuable insights, and offer a superior customer experience.

Below you may find a list of key technologies to consider:r:

  • E-commerce platforms: Such platforms can integrate your online and offline sales, which would enable you to manage all your channels of sales from a single place.
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems: A robust CRM system brings together  customer data from all touchpoints, which, in return, provides a 360-degree view of the customer. Personalizing the customer experience and improving customer loyalty would be imminent benefits..
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML): Predictive analytics, customer segmentation, and personalization are among a variety of initiatives that can be taken via AI and ML. They can help businesses to understand customer behavior, foresee future trends, and provide customers with personalized experiences.
  • Data analytics tools: Suchtools can enable businesses to create meaning from large volumes of data, providing insights that can drive decision-making and strategy.
  • Omnichannel communication tools: These tools integrate communication across channels. This provides room for consistent and efficient communication with customers.

By making use of these technologies, businesses can enhance their operational efficiency, make data-driven decisions, and deliver a superior, personalized customer experience. Never forget that the goal is not just to adopt technology for the sake of it, but to put it into practice as a tool to better serve your customers and achieve your business objectives.

Implement Real-Time Inventory Management

Real-time inventory management is key for a successful Unified Commerce strategy. It ensures that regardless of where or how a customer chooses to make a purchase, they have accurate and up-to-date information about stock availability..

In a Unified Commerce environment, inventory data from all sales channels (including physical stores, online stores, mobile apps, and more) should be in sync in real time.. What this entails is that once an item is sold in one channel, the inventory data should be updated simultaneously across all other channels. 

Having real-time inventory management has several benefits:

  • Better customer satisfaction: When you  provide accurate inventory information, you can prevent customer frustrations due to out-of-stock..
  • Increased sales: Having real-time inventory management would enable you to unlock services like "buy online, pick up in store" (BOPIS) or "buy online, return in store" (BORIS), which, in return, can drive more sales.
  • Reduced overstock and stockouts: A real-time view of your inventory would allow you to make better decisions about reordering products, which would help you to prevent overstock and stockout situations.

Implementing real-time inventory management requires investing in advanced inventory management systems or integrating your existing systems. Yet, such an investment would certainly lead to significant improvements in customer satisfaction, sales, and operational efficiency.

Personalize the Customer Experience

Personalization has the most important place in a Unified Commerce strategy,. In order to remain competitive, businesses need to adjust ever changing consumer expectations.

Personalization in a Unified Commerce frameowork involves using customer data from all interactions to enhance the customer experience. Personalized product recommendations, targeted marketing messages, or customized customer service can all be included . Making each customer feel recognized and valued wouldlead to increased customer loyalty and higher sales.

Here are some ways to personalize the customer experience in a Unified Commerce strategy:

  • Product Recommendations: Recommend products based oncustomer purchase history and browsing behavior..
  • Targeted Marketing: Send targeted marketing messages via using customer segmentation and predictive analytics.
  • Personalized Customer Service: Your customer service should be personalized with customer data such as purchase history and previous interactions. 
  • Personalized In-Store Experiences: Usingmobile apps to provide personalized experiences in physical stores will help youprovide personalized product information or offers when customers visit your store.

A personalized  customer experience can increase customer satisfaction and loyalty, drive more sales, and elevate your brand in a competitive market.

Ensure Brand Consistency Across Channels

It is essential to have a consistent brand image for Unified Commerce. . 

In other words, your brand messaging, design, and overall experience should be consistent no matter where a customer interacts with your brand-be it in a physical store, on your website, on a mobile app, or on social media.

Brand consistency contributes to building brand recognition and credibility among your customers. In this way,customers have the same understanding and expectations of your brand, regardless of the channel they are interacting. Here are a few strategies to ensure brand consistency:

  • Unified Messaging: Make sure that your brand's mission, values, and unique selling proposition  are unifiedly communicated across all channels (pun intended).
  • Consistent Visual Identity: Consistently design your visual identity, including logo, color scheme, fonts, and visual elements, across all communications.
  • Consistent User Experience: Regardless of the channel, have a similar user experience across all channels. Your entire process of browsing products, making a purchase, or contacting customer service should be consistent and intuitive.
  • Quality Assurance: Maintain a consistent brand presence in all your channels with regular reviews This can involve periodic audits of your physical stores, website, mobile app, and social media accounts.

Brand consistency doesn’t mean every channel should look the same. You should take each channels’ own characteristics into account. However, the overall look, feel, and messaging should be inline with your brand identity.

Empower Employees with the Right Tools and Training 

A successful Unified Commerce strategy can only implemented with employees crucial help. . It is they who interact with customers, handle operations, and represent your brand. With that in mind, preparing your employees with the necessary tools and training is important for them to function  in a Unified Commerce environment.

Here's how to empower your team:

  • Provide the Right Tools: Give your employees access to the tools they need to do their jobs effectively. This could include POS systems that integrate online and offline sales, customer relationship management systems that provide full customer insight, or collaboration tools to streamline communication..
  • Invest in Training: Offer regular training to your employees to ensure they understand what they're doing.  Customer service skills, sales techniques, and understanding customer behavior should also be covered.
  • Encourage Cross-Channel Understanding: Your employees should have the motivation to learn about the channels other than their own focus areas.. Customer service can be improved when customers move between channels.
  • Foster a Customer-Centric Culture: Your core value must be customer experience.. Inspire your employees to always think like a customer and to strive to provide the best service.

Increased customer satisfaction, boosted sales, and better operational efficiency are ensured as long as you are providing the necessary tools and training to your employees

Implement a Single, Unified Commerce Platform

The success of a Unified Commerce Strategy depends on the implementation of a single, Unified Commerce platform. It would serve as the central hub for all your business operations, by integrating all your sales channels, customer data, inventory, and other key business functions into one, single system.

With a Unified Commerce platform you can get the following: :

  • Real-time data synchronization: You will have all your data synced in real time across all channels thanks to having a single platform. This, in return, would mean that your pricing, customer data and inventory information are always up-to-date, regardless of where or how a customer chooses to shop.
  • Consistent customer experience: You may enable a consistent customer experience across all channels with a single platform..Thanks to that, your customers can circulate seamlessly across channels, with their shopping cart, wish list and in the meantime their profile will be available at whichever channel they chose to shop from.
  • Improved efficiency: Operational efficiency can be improved by a  single platform by reducing the complexity coming from managing multiple systems. By providing a single source of truth for your business data, using a single platform can help automating many processes while reducing risk of errors. 
  • Better insights: Having all your data in a single platform, you can generate better insights regarding your business operations and customer behavior. This, in return, can assist you with making more informed decisions and improve your strategy.

The implementation of a single, Unified Commerce platform would require a significant investment in terms of time and money. Yet, the benefits such as an enhanced customer experience, better operational efficiency, and solid business insights make  Unified Commerce strategy crucial for success.

Prioritize Data Security and Privacy

For Unified Commerce strategy, businesses need to collect, store, and analyze a significant amount of customer data. Whilst this data is important for the personalization of customer experiences and for making informed business decisions, it also brings a certain level of responsibility. Businesses need  to prioritize data security and privacy to ensure customer trust and comply with legal regulations.

Listed below are some strategies to prioritize data security and privacy:

  • Implement Strong Security Measures: Such a strategy entails encryption, secure access controls, regular security audits, and using secure platforms and tools. It's also critical to have a response plan in place for a potential data breach.
  • Comply with Data Privacy Laws: You need to ensure that you acknowledge and comply with all relevant data privacy laws, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU or the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the US. The prerequisites for that pertains obtaining explicit consent to collect and use customer data, providing transparency about how you use customer data, and providing customers with the right to access, revise, or erase their data.
  • Educate Employees: You need to train your employees on the importance of data security and privacy, and provide them with the guidelines on how to handle customer data securely and responsibly.
  • Communicate with Customers: You need to be open to your customers with regards to how you collect, use, and protect their data. Such transparency can help to build trust and reassure customers that their data is in safe hands.

Prioritizing data security and privacy in the right way, can protect your business from the financial and reputational damage of a data breach, which, in return, can assist you with complying with legal regulations, and ensuring the trust of your customers.

Measure Success with Relevant KPIs

Implementing a Unified Commerce strategy requires a significant investment, therefore it is critical to set the necessary Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for measuring its success. . These are quantifiable measures that companies can use to track the performance of a business unit, a certain department, or an employee based on pre-set targets.

Below are some KPIs that would be relevant for measuring the success of a Unified Commerce Strategy: 

  • Customer Satisfaction: Customer surveys, reviews and ratings and net promoter score (NPS) are effective metrics to measure customer satisfaction. 
  • Omnichannel Metrics: Such metrics would include cross-channel sales (e.g., online purchase, in-store collection), channel switching rates, and customer journey completion rates.
  • Operational Efficiency: Inventory turnover rates, return or exchange rates and the time taken to order processing would be effective measures for operational efficiency. 
  • Data Security: The key metrics for data security measurement would be  the time taken to detect and respond to security incidents, the number of data breaches or security incidents,, and the level of employee compliance with policies in place for data security..

Tracking these KPIs would enable you to get a clear view on the impact and success of your Unified Commerce strategy, and help you with identifying areas for improvement, and making data-driven decisions that would optimize your strategy. You should set clear, measurable goals as your KPIs, and review them regularly to ensure they remain relevant,  serving your business objectives.


İrem Isık

İrem Işık is a Head of Marketing at Storyly. She holds a bachelor degree in business administration from the Middle East Technical University and MSc. degree in marketing & strategy from University of Warwick. As a former brand manager İrem knows/writes about marketing tech stack, brand management, marketing strategies, growth hacking.

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