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What is Unified Commerce?

Retail never ceases to surprise.

It wasn't very long ago that a smooth customer-facing experience was enough. Now, consumers expect to browse, buy, reserve and return across any given sales channel at any given time. Store formats and assortment strategies emerge by the day. And modern Point of Sale systems have evolved from cash registers to the nucleus of the entire retail experience.

Unified Commerce has made this all possible without the added cost of complexity. No wonder why 73% of retail executives cite Unified Commerce as "extremely or very important," 76% have ambitious Unified Commerce goals and more than 60% have implemented in-store technology to drive Unified Commerce in their organization.

It will only become more important as retail becomes more dynamic, demanding and different.

Unified Commerce is an exciting innovation. But it's also a nuanced one. And you may find yourself trying to parse facts from a variety of strong, sometimes contradictory opinions.

In this blog post, we walk you through the most important aspects of Unified Commerce, informed by our experience unifying 100,000+ stores across 65 countries, engaging almost 250 million customers and more than 40 years supporting and integrating essential retail functions.

What does Unified Commerce mean?

Unified Commerce integrates a retailer's back-end systems with their sales channels to create a complete shopping experience where processes run faster and more efficiently, channels become more profitable and capable, and organizations become more agile and resilient.

Whether it's Curbside Pickup or Buy-Online-Return-in-Store (BORIS), cross-channel order fulfillment services have come to be expected. And as retail experiences and expectations continue to evolve, the list of in-demand services will only continue to grow.

Unified Commerce enables retailers to offer these in-demand services, and more, without disrupting operations or requiring significant investment in supplemental software. Unified Commerce gives retailers the flexibility and latitude to meet each of the wide range of experiences customers want now — and adapt as customer behaviors continue to shift.

What are the benefits of Unified Commerce?

Unified Commerce integrates the experience and enterprise to benefit the retailer holistically:

  • Keep pace with customer and market dynamics without requiring additional technology, evaluating new vendors, creating custom integrations, conducting large-scale testing and rollouts or accruing associated costs.
  • Create relevant and agile experiences that help retailers differentiate, encourage brand loyalty and meet customer expectations — no matter what those expectations are, or how they will change over time.
  • Reach optimal operational efficiency. Unified Commerce not only streamlines your current systems but opens the door to new and innovative opportunities for time- and cost-saving operational optimization.
  • Innovate and iterate rapidly. The combination of unified channels and systems with agile microservices helps retailers test concepts quickly and with minimal downside, while making it easy to scale successful innovations.
  • Access a single point of truth in real time. Cloud-enabled Unified Commerce solutions give retailers near real-time access to key data across the organization, and puts the right data in the hands of the right people at the right time.

The benefits are meaningful: retail executives report that Unified Commerce drives "large or significant impact" in overall profitability (73%), cross-channel customer experience (68%), inventory management (66%) and employee experience (60%).

How does Unified Commerce work?

The best Unified Commerce platforms utilize universal microservices — individual functions that can support all business processes across all sales channels  — and API integrations to connect and simplify every variable that impacts the relationship between customers and products, while unifying all data into an easily accessible, real-time single source of truth.

Unified Commerce vs. Omnichannel

Omnichannel aims to create a cohesive customer experience across all sales channels. However, it does not factor in technology, infrastructure and back-end systems. Omnichannel-enabled organizations that have yet to take the next step into Unified Commerce often struggle with siloed data and operations, inefficient processes and expensive or inefficient tech stacks.

Unified Commerce is the evolution of omnichannel. In addition to aligning sales channels, Unified Commerce also merges a retailer's systems, products, interactions and data to simplify and elevate the entire retail experience, for customers and enterprises alike. But most important of all, it gives retailers the flexibility to adapt now and in the future.

Omnichannel technology rose to solve for the rapid rise of digital sales channels. But while they were quite successful in integrating the customer experience, it made things harder for the enterprise:

  • Many solutions failed to account for technology, infrastructure and processes. In the rush to take new channels live, many retailers didn't consider how to make those channels work together well. Instead of an integrated system that leveraged channels and processes for a rich retail experience, retailers were left with disconnected, inefficient and ad hoc sales channels.
  • This approach was less flexible and agile than necessary for modern demands. The omnichannel transition is inherently reactionary: add new channels after the market demands them. And while this is a big step to serving your customers, it leaves retailers at risk of the future, weighed down by inefficiencies and behind in a market that requires proactivity.

How to implement a Unified Commerce platform

Align your enterprise

A successful Unified Commerce implementation requires a coordinated effort across the enterprise. These talking points can help you earn the buy-in of stakeholders in key departments:

Store Operations

Stores remain the centerpiece of more than 70% of customer journeys. The store is the linchpin to Unified Commerce, serving a large role in supporting every other channel, lifting the customer experience and expanding what's possible.

Inventory Strategy and Management

With Unified Commerce solutions like Aptos ONE, retailers collect inventory data in real time, share it across the entire organization via the Cloud and streamline merchandising and order management functions.


Unified Commerce gives the marketing department the resources it needs to create and execute a unique value proposition that appeals to customers on a universal and personal level, while collecting data for the benefit of the whole organization.

Omnichannel Operations

Treating omnichannel as a network of aesthetically aligned but separate, siloed channels will overwhelm your customers. Cross-channel transactions must be aligned, too, if you expect to succeed. By integrating microservices across channels and retail functions, Unified Commerce makes that easy.


At the heart of Unified Commerce is the ability to adapt and differentiate. Meaning innovation is integral to the approach. With real-time data and agile technology, retailers have the tools to innovate in a low-risk, data-rich and future-proof environment.

How to implement Unified Commerce technology

Technology is the tool that brings together an organization's infrastructure, brand and omnichannel presence — and makes market growth simple. Therefore, the IT team is a core piece of the Unified Commerce puzzle.

The following steps will help the IT team successfully implement Unified Commerce, transforming the retail organization and placing it at the forefront of the retail market.

Prepare your retail organization for Unified Commerce

These are among the most important steps a retailer will take on their Unified Commerce journey. So, we put together the following section into a checklist to help you take the most successful action.

Visit to download your IT checklist. On this page, you'll also find checklists for each key department as well as our Unified Commerce Readiness Guide.

How to prepare your IT team for Unified Commerce

Unified Commerce will do wonders for your IT department. But it will mean significant change in the short term. Here's how you can prepare your IT team for the Unified Commerce transition.

  • Determine which microservices you will implement, and where, in each workflow.
  • If a job has been automated, reassign staff to a strategy, product or brand role.
  • If necessary, reassign redundant roles and resources.
  • Update or create new Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
  • Identify current and potential future technology gaps.
  • Train employees on their new relationship with data.
  • Create a blueprint for success unique to your business.
  • Design an implementation plan.

Implementing Unified Commerce software

Unified Commerce technology must be able to integrate easily into your technology stack and enhance it holistically. Here's how to select the right software and implement it for best results.

  • Run benchmarks and assessments to discover potential risks before roll-out.
  • Determine if multi-tenant or single-tenant Cloud architecture is your best fit.
  • Select a software architecture aligned to your business goals.
  • Audit your existing software for compatibility.
  • Evaluate Unified Commerce vendors based on composability and resiliency.
  • Create an implementation roadmap, incorporating integrations and workflows.

Implementing Unified Commerce on hardware

Hardware demands a lot of money and infrastructure. But the right decisions can drastically improve return on these investments. Here's what to do when evaluating hardware.

  • Map Unified Commerce ambitions to existing hardware architecture.
  • Decide whether you want to keep existing hardware or implement new hardware.
  • Evaluate your prospective vendor's partnerships and hardware strategy.
  • Set your expectations for hardware support and judge vendors accordingly.
  • Define interest in mobile POS for events and in-store factors like linebusting.

Key takeaways

  • Omnichannel is only a piece of the equation. An organization that doesn't have their technology infrastructure and cross-channel interactions aligned is only cohesive on its surface. And it lacks the flexibility necessary to meet a wide range of customer demand or adapt to the highly dynamic, fragmented retail market — neither now or in the future.
  • Unified Commerce, where retailers merge their systems, products, interactions and data to simplify and elevate the entire experience, is the answer. It helps meet demand, future-proofs the business and helps reach a new level of differentiation.
  • With Unified Commerce, CIOs are well positioned to take actions that will make a positive impact on the business and increase the retailer's stature in the market. And at a much lower cost, in much less time and much more often.
  • The store is at the heart of Unified Commerce, serving a large role in supporting every other channel, lifting the customer experience and expanding what's possible.

Unified Commerce is the technology-first, Cloud-native solution to stabilizing and streamlining your organization today, while giving you the flexibility to adapt in the future. Without friction.

By working with departments across the enterprise, you can drive meaningful change through Unified Commerce and help your organization lead the market. No matter what surprises retail has in store.

Book your demo today!