It’s tempting to believe that a “unified commerce solution” is the latest buzzword in the retail industry. However, it’s not.
In just the last ten years, retailers have significantly changed how they do business. First, retailers became multichannel, where they sold through a number of sales channels, but they handled each of them differently. It produced a scattered and inconsistent image.
Then retailers went the omni-channel route, which forced them to focus upon creating a cohesive brand and user experience across all of their sales channels. No matter where customers found the retailer, whether a physical location, online, a mobile app, or social media, each channel would have the same look and feel. However, each channel also had its own backend system that would only communicate with the other system via costly integrations that often led to data discrepancies, information access difficulties, and delays.
With a unified commerce solution, the business-running software literally unifies all of your sales channels into one platform. Not only do all of your channels have the same look and feel, they also communicate with one another into one database. Retailers can administer and oversee every aspect of their businesses with only one software system, no matter how many sales channels they use. We have six reasons in total for how unified commerce can transform your retail business. The last three reasons are below, with the first three in a previous post.
Give consumers the visibility they demand.
According to a recent report from the Ecommerce Foundation, as many as 88% of consumers research products online before even going to a store. Therefore, inventory visibility and transparency of information across all channels have become a must-have. Consumers are finding discrepancies between the online inventory and store inventory to be unacceptable. If a customer sees from your mobile app that a certain product is back in stock, they’re going to be heavily disappointed if they visit a store to find out the store doesn’t know if it will ever see this product in stock. Now you have lost a customer, and you may lose even more before you can get your systems to communicate with one another.
Additional research from the IBM Institute for Business Value found that 66% of consumers want to know that the item they are looking for is available before they even enter a store. If that wasn’t enough, how about the fact that 46% of shoppers expect store associates to be able to fix out-of-stock products instantly.
As you can imagine, with a unified commerce solution, it’s easy to meet these expectations when it comes to what is in stock in real time. There’s no guessing from your sales associates and no refunds for orders made online because inventory wasn’t updated when the customer made the order.
Offer experiences that go beyond traditional retail.
In an effort to add new revenue streams, maintain steady customer interest, and rope in new customers, many retailers have been providing shopping “experiences” to go beyond simple selling. The following are some of the most popular and effective tactics retailers use:
- Pop-ups: Temporary shops-in-the-shop, appearances at fairs and festivals, and one-time-only in-store events, have successfully broadened the horizons of a brand. As we currently live in a state of FOMO (fear of missing out), these pop-ups excite consumers.
- Courses, workshops, and classes: Workshops and classes are a great way to educate consumers on your products and entice them to look at new or additional products. For example, a culinary store may hold a cooking class that utilizes many of the store’s products. A camera equipment store may hold a workshop on teaching how to use this one feature on a camera to take incredible photos. The ideas are endless, from holding a makeover class, a course on fashion tips, or DIY projects.
- Sampling other verticals: Many big-name retailers have branched out into other industries to further push their brand. For example, many retailers have included dining areas in their physical stores, such as Whole Foods and Barnes & Noble. By using their store locations as eat-in areas, they also get the added bonus of a low-cost, high-value showroom.
To deploy these new and diverse experiences effectively across the brand, retailers will need a unified commerce solution. The only way to keep everything on-brand and consistent is through one software platform. Not to mention, all business operations become quicker to perform, simpler, and more accurate overall.
Know your customers and get personal.
Every day, retailers collect vast amounts of valuable data on consumer preferences and habits through webpage visits, in-store purchases and returns, items customers place in their online wish lists, and even more sales channels. With a traditional retailer system setup, all of this data is stored in separate databases, which makes it difficult to integrate together and analyze. As a result, retailers are left with a treasure of untapped information that they don’t have the time and/or resources extract and analyze.
Retailers using a unified commerce solution do not have this issue. One database stores all of the customer data from across all sales channels. You can easily see your customers’ shopping behaviors, interests, and purchase history no matter how many venues they shop your brand. It provides a complete 360-degree view of your customers.
With that kind of clear and timely insight into your individual customers, it’s simple to leverage them and seal in their loyalty. You can suggest relevant products, deliver personalized communications, and tailor the shopping experience to each of your customers’ individual expectations. And once you have clear, timely insights into your customer base, you can leverage them to suggest relevant products, deliver personalized communications, and tailor the shopping experience to your customers’ expectations.
This data also allows retailers to predict shopping behavior. If you use analytics tools to cross-references your data with external trends, you practically have a crystal ball showing you the future. You will be able to forecast spikes in purchases, upcoming fads, and ultimately know what your customers want before they do.
It’s not just a unified commerce solution
A unified commerce system is not just a new software platform. It’s a new way of running your business, getting a full picture of your customers, and creating a shopping experience that meets their expectations. The benefits of this clear, rapid stream of information ultimately trickle down to your customers, who are able to find the information they need, the products they want, and the promotions that suit them best across all your channels, 24/7.
And there you have it, all six ways a unified commerce system can transform your retail business for the better. If you missed the first three reasons, be sure to check out part 1. If you’re already sold, contact us today to discover a unified commerce solution that will transform your business like magic.