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3 essential steps to prepare Store Ops for Unified Commerce

Where Store Operations should place their focus for successful Unified Commerce transformation

As retail enters the age of Unified Commerce, some say you should forget everything you know about Store Operations. Others will tell you it's almost too late if your enterprise hasn't shifted its focus to omnichannel. Or to the metaverse.

Others may even tell you the way you transact needs a radical shift.

If you're like many retail professionals, Unified Commerce is shrouded in mystery. And any attempt to find the true meaning of it likely takes you down vague or even contradictory paths.

In fact, the only thing in common between these varying voices is that they overlook a simple truth: the store is still the centerpiece of the retail experience, responsible for more than 70% of sales.

Retailers who put the store at the center of their Unified Commerce strategy are primed to gain the most from the increase in store traffic. Omnichannel customers shop 1.7 times more, and spend more, than single-channel shoppers. And stores typically convert around 30%, while eCommerce conversion rates lag below 5%.

As a Store Operations leader, you have the potential to lead meaningful transformation and major market growth through Unified Commerce. All you need is a little clarity.

In this blog post, we share the three elements of Store Operations where you should focus for the most impactful Unified Commerce transformation. Let's dive in.

Enhance Store Operations processes

To compete today, Store Operations teams need optimal efficiency to operate flawlessly throughout constantly changing conditions. To drive market leadership, they need the agility to rapidly innovate and adapt, and the flexibility to deliver unique store experiences.

These needs can only be met by taking a hard look at your systems and processes.

How can you execute your operations across channels and processes without disrupting experiences? How can you meet high expectations without increasing costs? How can you consistently connect customers with products?

These issues will only become more important as in-store order fulfillment is forecasted to grow by double digits over the next several years, and stores take on more order management functions.

Ripping out your Store Operations systems and replacing it all is expensive, counterproductive and risky. Redefining every rule based on unproven assumptions or inexperienced approaches is dangerous. Despite what you may see, Unified Commerce isn't about that.

In actuality, the aim of Unified Commerce is to integrate your stores and other sales channels with your back-end systems to elevate and simplify the retail experience for everyone involved, particularly Operations. For us, that means integrating your enterprise by coordinating systems, aligning to a single point of truth and keeping pace with the speed of modern retail.

We recommend first that you evaluate your current Store Operations processes. Pinpoint exactly where you can streamline workflows or encourage sales growth with integrated software. Explore the possibilities Cloud architecture and mobile Point of Sale enable. Consider how data can help you improve margins and shape store layouts.

Our step-by-step guide on preparing Store Operations for Unified Commerce walks you through exactly everything you'll need to do to enhance your systems and processes.

Tap into Technology

The Silicon Valley philosophy of "move fast, fail often, break things and make them new" has planted its hooks in retail technology. And while innovation is essential to adapt, differentiate and compete, this approach is dangerous when applied to fundamental business functions.

It's even more dangerous when applied to the store without actual knowledge of the store. The store isn't just critically important. It's notoriously unique, too.

Now consider its most important technology: Point of Sale (POS). Even the shiniest POS will buckle under the pressure if it's built without factoring in the realities of internet outages, sudden customer surges, overwhelmed employees or spilled lattes. How will you transact?

Instead, focus on leveraging Unified Commerce technology to augment your Store Operations. For example, you can lean on technology to coordinate ship-from-store sales, fulfill omnichannel orders or manage mixed carts. You can improve experiences by accessing customer acquisition and loyalty data straight from your POS device. And much more.

The investment is well worth it. One of our customers, L.L. Bean, was able to optimize their 14-minute, manual ship-to-store process, saving ten minutes of labor on every ship-to-store order. Meanwhile a recent report by McKinsey projects technology to double EBIT margin potential within the store by 2030.

Empowered associates empower enterprises

Contrary to popular belief, Store Operations doesn't have to be stripped down to accommodate the least engaged associates. In fact, many associates actually want to work harder and do more, so long as it gives them a sense of pride, ownership or connection to your organization.

No store can be successful without talent. Store associates don't just put your Store Operations strategies to work, they can also have a profound impact on your organization on their own accord. An associate can embody your brand and elevate the customer experience, build a loyal customer base with a consultative approach or turn order pickups into upsell opportunities.

Many retailers' store associate issues stem from overextending and overwhelming their staff. It's hard to avoid turnover when associates are tasked with doing more and more for minimal pay.

The good news: by focusing on processes and technology, you are well on your way to supporting associates and earning their buy-in.

With Unified Commerce, complex tasks and workflows are simplified to the point where associates can be onboarded in minutes. And the right Unified Commerce solution will have the depth of functionality to enable associates to become more mobile, engaged and involved.

Even the best implementation will fall flat without the buy-in of your store associates. That's why we dedicated an entire section of our guide to Unified Commerce for Store Operations on store associates. Check it out to learn how to successfully attract, retain and nurture your associates.

Step up Store Operations with Unified Commerce

Enhanced processes. Modern technology. Empowered associates. Focus on these three elements and you can level up your Store Operations and drive meaningful results. The key is to avoid treating these elements as silos. Instead, weave them together into a holistic and mutually beneficial retail experience.

After all, that's what Unified Commerce is actually about.

Editor's Note: If you're ready to get started on your Unified Commerce journey, Aptos is here to help. Our Definitive Guide to Unified Commerce Readiness was developed based on our experience with dozens of Unified Commerce implementations. Each chapter contains lessons learned with specific best practices designed to ensure Unified Commerce success across the enterprise.