May 10, 2022

Unified Commerce: a new way of improving sales strategies in the Retail industry

Unified Commerce

It’s been a while since the retail world has actually understood the need to modernize its processes, adapting them to new customers’ needs and to the digital transformation process.

However, the Covid-19 acted as the real driver of this necessary process of change. It literally forced companies that were not yet convinced to prioritize digital transformation and meet consumers’ needs.

But what does the retail world actually need? Surely, it needs to focus on a constant customer journey’s innovation to reach two crucial goals and survive on the market.  The retail world should offer an innovative and memorable shopping experience, considering customers’ specific preferences and personalizing it accordingly. How? Focusing not only on the concepts of e-commerce and omnichannel, but also on the new paradigm of Unified Commerce.          

Let’s find out more.

WHAT DOES UNIFIED COMMERCE MEAN? LET’S DEFINE IT

We can define unified commerce as the ability to offer customers a unified brand experience, regardless of the channel they use to make their purchases.

Unified commerce is very similar to omnichannel commerce, as it allows customers to buy from the channels they prefer too. However, it also allows brands to manage and monitor all the touch points and business areas with a single system. This gives companies complete visibility into all sales channels and inventory. They will be able to track the purchasing behavior of individual customers and their interactions with the brand, analyzing the data related to the purchases.

Unified Commerce breaks the “in silos” working model and pushes companies to adopt a centralized platform in real time, with the aim of converging all channels: click & collect, store to home, loyalty programs’ management etc

Nathalie Echinard, Director of Retail Business Unit Cegid.

Moreover, if we want to define unified commerce on the basis of its main features, we would certainly mention:

–  The ability to access customer data from any channel;

–  Immediate and real-time stock visibility; 

–  Constant orders’ monitoring;

– An adequate IT (Information Technology) to collect, view and modify all this information through a single platform.

But concretely, in what way can companies simplify the purchase process while rendering more efficient both supply chain and storage management?

Let’s see some practical examples.

SOME KEY POINTS IN UNIFIED COMMERCE

Some typical elements of unified commerce are endless aisle, completely touchless customer journeys, click & collect or ship-from-store options, and other hyper-customized purchasing solutions such as e-reservation.

Let’s do deep to the heart of the matter:

By endless aisle we mean a “virtual shelf”: it is a purchase method that integrates the physical store and the digital world, as it is born in the store, but is completed online. While in the store the customer has the need to buy a certain product, but it is not currently available either on the shelves or in stock. What happens then? The seller can order the requested product online and offer the customer the opportunity to receive it at home or come back later to collect it in the store.

This element has developed thanks to the need for social distancing forced by Covid-19. It consists in offering the customer the possibility of buying in a totally touchless and contactless way: customers purchase in-store, but using a specific app on their phone so they actually touch the product they want to take home only.

In this case we refer to all purchases that consumers conclude directly from home. However, they can decide whether to collect the products in the store or have them sent to a specific address.

This is one of the most customized solutions and still not so widespread: customers have the opportunity to order products online and try/evaluate them in the store before completing the purchase.

UNIFIED COMMERCE: AN OVERVIEW IN THE B2B AND B2C WORLD

Unified Commerce – B2C

Let’s imagine a possible purchase path of a customer and what can be the main benefits of unified commerce in the B2C world.

Based on their loyalty card, the customer receives a message on their phone with a promotional code. Via a link, the client accesses the site, where they begin to browse the product catalog and choose what to add to the cart. When the customer decides to head to the store for the test, the products are already available: a sales employee has prepared the items based on the contents of the online cart. At this point, the customer can check out in the store, using the promotional code and the advantages offered by the loyalty card. This journey is an example of a customer experience based on unified commerce. The integrated system extracts the necessary information to suggest the best cross-selling actions and to increase customer loyalty.

Unified Commerce – B2B

After the covid-19 pandemic, even the B2B world has understood the importance of connecting various technological solutions to offer a consistent experience across all channels and throughout the customer’s life cycle.

Unified commerce guarantees ease of action and linearity in the purchase path. Customers can add items to their cart, schedule appointments and order additional materials. Sellers can log on to the customer’s account to view the order history, contract status and consumption levels. All of this using the same user interface.

83% of B2B leaders say that omnichannel and unified commerce are more effective than traditional methods. Although face-to-face meetings remained an option, buyers said they preferred a cross-channel mix, balancing physical and digital interactions.

UNIFIED COMMERCE AND ITS BENEFITS FOR THE RETAIL SECTOR

Like many other sectors, the Retail one suffered the consequences of the pandemic. Therefore, it needs to redefine its logic, taking action to meet new customers’ needs.

In this context, unified commerce represents a winning solution with which the Retail sector can grow and innovate. How? The key to everything lies in the back-end where it is necessary to integrate and optimize the interactions between the physical and the digital world. In unified commerce, all channels are based on the same technological platform capable of managing the data coming from physical stores and online channels in real time.

Let’s find out together what are the main advantages of this approach.

First of all unified commerce allows to achieve a high degree of proximity. It allows companies to be where, how and when the customer wants. In this way, the store becomes a real hub in constant connection with the network and the customer’s needs. Therefore, the physical store offers indispensable support for e-commerce as it allows the collection of purchased goods and guarantees a fundamental in-store stock for optimizing logistical flows. Not only that, in this context in which the antithesis between physical and online commerce is eliminated, the store becomes an alternative to e-commerce and point of sale. Users can access it online, from desktop or mobile, and directly view the products where and when they want.

WHY ADOPT UNIFIED COMMERCE?

Thanks to this new approach, it is possible to achieve a unified experience that guarantees the consumer a personalized and limitless experience. Therefore, Unified commerce represents the ideal answer for all those markets and sectors that want to define the transition from a necessity to a real alternative, offering the end user a mix of options that simplify the purchase process.

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