New-age retail is complex — multiple systems, numerous channels, voluminous product catalogs, and diverse delivery locations require top-class integration to ensure seamless operations. Connected customers too are driving the emphasis on consistency across the web front, the mobile front, the store front, and more. But that’s not all. There are catalogs and e-commerce marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon too, where products and services are bought and sold that organizations need to include in their channel strategy these days. In most organizations, each channel has a different technological platform, process, and team working in silos to promote, sell, and deliver products and services. And while organizations might have the best systems in place to provide great customer experience in each channel independently, they are still at risk of losing their customers and market share. In a recent white paper, GeoCart states that 90% of all shopping cart abandonments happen because customers feel they don’t have enough information. The study also found that 40% of all e-commerce sales are returned, partly because consumers didn’t have the right information when ordering. The writing on the wall is clear: when systems working in silos do not share data efficiently, it affects the shopping experience, which, in turn results in a potential revenue loss. To overcome such disparities in technology and infrastructure, retailers are keen on integrating their front- and back-end systems to offer a seamless e-commerce experience across all channels. Such an integrated technology approach is possible through a unified commerce platform that consolidates mobility, web store, call center, physical store, and other points of sale. The result — better inventory management, consistent customer experiences, increased brand value, and better conversion rates.
Unified commerce for cross-channel capabilities
To improve the shopping experience and serve customers where, when and how they desire, and ensure a consistent brand image across channels, many organizations are turning to unified commerce. 85% of retailers indicate that unified commerce is a top priority, according to Boston Retail Partners (BRP)’s ‘17th Annual POS / Customer Engagement Benchmarking Survey.’ Many have already begun moving towards unified commerce. For instance, Dick’s Sporting Goods has been working towards an immersive and interactive customer experience to integrate e-commerce, mobility, and wearables.
When you think of it, unified commerce is the next logical step in the omnichannel strategy. In today’s digital world, a customer’s shopping could start anywhere and end anywhere. A unified or shared shopping cart across channels truly fulfils the omnichannel promise by allowing customers to shop the way they want – purchase in one sales channel and pick up in another, return purchases in any channel, order online pick-up and pay at store, and track the purchase from inception to delivery.
Adopting a unified commerce approach: What does it take?
Delivering a unified experience requires a centralized IT infrastructure so that data can flow seamlessly and users can get a single interface and one view of the truth. In the unified commerce world, all systems – inventory, order management, sales and returns, payments, pricing and promotion, customer service, and shipping — are connected in real-time. Such integrated systems create connected channels, functions, people, and locations. This creates new levels of efficiencies with empowered employees who have 24/7 access to real-time data to deliver exceptional customer experiences and services that are tailored to individual customer needs and desires. Instead of adding a digital storefront to the in-store infrastructure, organizations must think of integrating their stores (physical or digital) into a centralized infrastructure to create a truly unified ecosystem.
Embarking on a unified commerce path
Despite the clear need, benefits and intent, many organizations have yet to embark on the unified commerce path. Only 23% of North American retailers have implemented a unified commerce platform, according to BRP. But why? There are several hurdles that organizations need to cross to adopt unified commerce. The BRP report highlighted three: budget constraints (64%), IT and business resource constraints (51%), and disparate systems (49%).
While it might not be easy for organizations to tackle these hurdles, not embarking on this journey may not be an option either, as customer expectations are rising. Unified commerce has now become a business necessity. Fortunately, software providers are acting in response to these emerging needs and coming up with unified platforms. But, whatever the platform or solution you may choose, ultimately, it is about synchronizing every aspect of your business to create an experience that meets the expectations of today’s digitally and socially empowered customer.
Skava, an Infosys company, helps organizations compete and differentiate themselves by providing a platform that delivers an integrated, seamless, and consistent shopping experience at all customer touchpoints such as in-store, online, mobile, and social. Skava fully supports buy-online-return-in-store (BORIS) and buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS) scenarios to provide a truly omnichannel experience through a unified commerce platform.