Today’s retail shoppers have tremendous flexibility in how and when they buy. They can purchase items online using an array of smart devices, phones, tablets, and laptops. Speaking of unified eCommerce, even Siri and Alexa can shop and buy for you now. Of course, there are still the traditional ways of buying, including buying online and pickup in-store, curbside pickup, and ship-to-store.
Customers expect a consistent experience in all purchases, delivery, and other customer touchpoints throughout their shopping journeys.
Unified eCommerce means that regardless of the touch points along the journey to make a purchase, their customer experience should remain the same — seamless. This can be achieved when all aspects of the retail business have visibility into one another.
The Nature of Modern Retail
Today’s retailer is faced with many challenges and levels of complexity in order to provide unified, omnichannel eCommerce experiences. The following is a deeper look at some of them.
eCommerce platforms come in a variety of flavors, offering different functional capabilities. They can be cloud-based, on-premise software, or home-grown systems. From a functional point of view, most commerce platforms provide an online store but differ in backend functional capabilities. These include content inventory, Product Information Management (PIM), Order Management (OMS), and Point of Sale (POS) integrations.
Many rely on integrations with other third-party or home-grown systems to complete the omnichannel shopping experience. However, these systems don’t necessarily communicate well with each other. This creates a fractured environment – of both systems and data – that cannot deliver the 360° customer view required to provide a seamless, frictionless omnichannel shopping experience.
Each system in the retail environment typically has its own database, thereby creating “islands of information.” In today’s omnichannel retail environment, there are many necessary systems – Content Management (CMS), PIM, Order Management, Warehouse Management (WMS), and Customer Service Management, to name just a few.
Behavioral and transactional data from all retail systems across the enterprise must be aggregated and transformed to provide actionable information throughout the customer journey. eCommerce website metrics are usually captured in tools like Google Analytics, but this information is not made available for other business units to make informed decisions.
Disjointed business units
Individual business units initiate ad-hoc actions and sometimes forget to consider all the downstream effects on other departments and, ultimately, the customer. For example, a product recall requires merchandisers to remove the product from store shelves, eCommerce sites, marketplaces, and other retail partner locations. The merchandising department, busy focused on the recall, may forget to inform other areas of the business, such as marketing and customer service.
At best, this could be a minor oversight. At worst, marketing could have launched a campaign promoting this unavailable product, leading to a surge in customer service inquiries. Customer service, unaware of the recall, finds itself unprepared for the increase in call center volume due to recall returns and promotions of a no-longer-available product. This type of situation negatively impacts the customer experience.
Inconsistent or incomplete eCommerce analytics
Each department typically has its own set of metrics and reporting to gauge the performance of eCommerce KPIs. The systems supporting these departments each produce their own reports. Often, these reports are inconsistent with one another due to differences in update processes and the data attributes used to create the reports.
Unified eCommerce focuses on the customer experience. It unites all the omnichannel elements – such as commerce, mobile commerce, order management (OMS), inventory management, customer relationship management (CRM), point of sale, customer service, etc. – into a single platform.
In doing so, unified eCommerce breaks down operational and informational silos to create a unified, consistent customer experience. It also delivers a true 360° view of the customer. Unified eCommerce goes beyond omnichannel, putting the customer experience first, breaking down the walls between internal channel silos, and leveraging a common eCommerce platform.
Regardless of your business model, unified eCommerce enables a delightful customer experience with benefits to both the retailer and customer, including:
- Increased sales
- Personalized merchandising
- Improved forecasting and demand planning
- Streamlined operations
- Increased customer loyalty
Unified eCommerce helps increase sales by creating a highly personalized, “white glove” experience. The ability to understand purchase history and purchase propensity gives marketers the ability to cross-sell and upsell with highly relevant offers.
Accurate and actionable information extracted from a central database enables improved forecasting and demand planning.
Merchandisers and buyers will now have visibility across the omnichannel environment to see the real-time sales volume and inventory levels.
Unified commerce streamlines operations across the omnichannel environment. Delivering an infrastructure where all systems communicate with one another and leverage a single source of record enables retailers to automate workflows and processes. These include processes that enhance the customer experience such as order fulfillment from warehouses and stores or simplified returns management.
Building a unified ecCommerce strategy won’t happen overnight. With a multitude of moving parts, retailers setting off on the unified eCommerce journey should have a big picture of the end game.
- Audit your current customer experience journey and ideate improvements.
- Don’t dive into unifying experiences across your business without understanding what each is.
- Take time to think critically about what their optimal design would be to eliminate experience gaps.
- Use customers’ purchase journeys and personas to personalize offers and recommendations across the lifecycle.
The central pillar of unified commerce is a blending of transitions between interactions, channels, systems, and products, enabling a consistently seamless experience for the customer.
Learn more about RETISIO Commerce, a powerful eCommerce platform for retailers and brands that empower seamless, unified eCommerce.