Unified CommerceThe Future of Retail: Getting to know Unified Commerce
Fulfilling the Promise of Omnichannel Retail
What it takes to make a retail enterprise successful has expanded far beyond the basics of product, brand, or single touchpoint. In this new world, the shopping experience itself is just as important. Shoppers expect a fully integrated experience where they can shop, purchase, and return fluidly across all retail channels with ease. This experience is known as omnichannel retail.
To make this expectation a reality, retailers have to integrate their processes and systems as well as provide seamless customer experiences that allow shoppers to move across all consumer touchpoints (online, in-store, mobile, etc.). This is the definition of Unified Commerce. Unified Commerce enables retailers to deliver the modern, fluid, and unpredictable shopping journeys that today’s shoppers demand. In short, Unified Commerce is how retailers deliver on the omnichannel promise.
Below, we’ll cover the current state of omnichannel retail as it evolves towards Unified Commerce, how Unified Commerce improves processes for both shoppers and retailers, and why it’s important to choose the right partner for migration so opportunities to optimize your business aren’t missed.
The Gaps in Omnichannel Retail
In most of today’s omnichannel retail environments, while the shopping experience may feel integrated to the consumer, there are not typically unified systems behind the scenes to truly integrate things for the retailer. It’s a struggle, because up until now, technology has been built around siloed operations. Retailers have been stuck in a game of technology catch-up, adding and tacking things on to make a partial attempt at integration, but finding hurdles and roadblocks along the way.
Take integrating in-store and ecommerce purchases for example. Traditionally, these two types of transactions would operate very differently in how they’re processed and tracked.
In a traditional store with a cash and carry model, everything is built around a transaction log. There is no lead generation or unification of order fulfillment. Tracking systems such as loyalty cards are able to provide you with simple transaction data, but everything is built around the moment of sale. Returns, exchanges, and any other additional actions are all done leveraging that transaction log. In contrast, in an ecommerce scenario, there’s the ability to have much deeper data for a much longer span of time, but you’re also managing systems that can help fulfill the order, track inventory, and monitor shipping until it reaches the customer. The goal of Unified Commerce is to bridge this gap between transaction and order. But that can be easier said than done.
In recent years, retailers have been bending over backwards to find a way to get these different kinds of data to fit and work together, but more often, retailers find themselves just papering over existing systems. Some look for ways to manage their online orders by merging them into their physical transaction logs. Others simply use online orders as their holistic view of customer activity. While these paste-up approaches may work somewhat in the short term, unintegrated retailers find themselves stuck with knowledge and visibility gaps paired with convoluted and inefficient processes. There’s a growing desire and need to rethink retail and find operational solutions that can be deployed and managed uniformly across all possible Channels.
Enter the Next Frontier of retail. Enter Unified Commerce.
Unified Commerce: The Next Generation of Retail
As mentioned above, Unified Commerce, technology that creates a seamlessly integrated system with a holistic view across all channels, is how the promised Omnichannel Retail experience will be implemented in a profitable way. Retailers who unify their systems in this way find themselves matching “shoppers” expectations step-for-step and seeing the results in their businesses.
Here’s an example of how an Ideal Unified Commerce Environment works:
A shopper walks into a brick and mortar store. As they compare products, a deal for a featured brand is pushed to their mobile phone. The retailer is able to track what the shopper looks at, carries, and eventually purchases or does not. Later, the customer then receives a retargeting banner ad or a specialized social media campaign to promote a complementary or considered product.
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A shopper researches a product on a tablet. They encounter a shoppable Instagram ad that allows them to add the item to a cart from there. They can order that product for pickup in a local store in a seamless purchase flow from the tablet, and later receive mobile messages when the product is ready in the store. Once the product is picked up, the shopper receives follow-up marketing messages that promote complementary or predictive products or well-timed discount offers for additional purchases.
This custom research report refers to the increasing digitization of the store — and this goes far beyond point-of-sale (POS) and transactions.
There are multiple ways that implementing Unified Commerce Technology can create a true Omnichannel experience for retailers and customers.
Consumers demand a shopping experience that matches the evolution of their personal technology. This continual rapid change in consumer behavior can leave retailers struggling to keep their POS systems in step. In fact, the experiences consumers want can wreak havoc with the pace of change expected in POS systems. In a Unified Commerce environment, retailers can react to evolving technology in an agile way, innovating and updating through unified solutions. And it won’t cost the entire IT budget to respond to a consumer trend.
Unified Commerce makes it easier to make connections between the waypoints in a consumer’s shopping journey. It allows for robust data integration, for more effective and meaningful strategy. Now instead of receiving disjointed retargeting banner ads for a product already bought, unified consumer data allows shoppers to find marketing messages that are truly relevant to them and their current needs. Now the shopper is enjoying helpful content, while retailers save ad spend and marketing dollars.
Pre-omnichannel retail, finding the right target market was all about broad demographics. The best you could do in regard to understanding your target markets were broad behavioral assumptions. In today’s world of big data, we can now dig deeper and segment target markets better than ever. Retailers who use Unified Commerce to take advantage of this capability find themselves able to track shoppers’ behavioral data and reach them with strategic messaging that’s meaningful and moves them towards conversion.
This is not business as usual. Instead of efficiency, retailers need to focus on being nimble. The rapid pace of change in the industry means that retailers can’t implement new operational technology and then run it for years before they think about enhancing it. Consumers expect retailers to be agile to keep up with their demands. Unified Commerce allows for flexibility, speed, and adaptability in a way that siloed operations simply can’t match.
Why Shoppers Love Unified Commerce
In a Unified Commerce world, retailers are able to move out of the exhausting game of technological catch-up and actually delight their customers again. The foundation of a Unified Commerce platform allows retailers to imagine ways to inspire loyalty and affinity in their customers and then actually implement those updates quickly and easily. With Unified Commerce, technology will once again become an enabler to success, rather than a limiting factor to growth.
Aptos ONE: The Power of ONE Platform
The path from multichannel to omnichannel has already been a struggle. But the path from omnichannel to Unified Commerce can feel like trying to replace a heart and lung while running a marathon. Our Aptos ONE Platform is specifically designed to help you transition to a Unified Commerce platform. Aptos ONE is the most robust, flexible and scalable technology platform in the industry, leveraging Aptos’s long legacy of retail capability leadership alongside a revolutionary and patent-pending approach to modern, cloud-native micro-services based solutions built to help you transform to a truly unified enterprise.