Today’s consumer is a demanding consumer with more information at their fingertips than ever before about availability, price, product features, delivery options, return policy and more. Shoppers expect to view online inventory, order online and pick up in store and be able to return orders in a way that is most convenient for them. They expect the retailer to know who they are and what preferences they have across all channels. And of course, they expect their personal information will not be compromised.
Retail unified commerce connects all the channels in real time. Data must be available to all parties from store operations, buyers and marketing to vendors, suppliers and the customer. Since retailers sell through multiple channels, web, mobile, kiosk, catalog and store data must all be interconnected.
While retailers recognize the importance of unified commerce, executing a true unified commerce strategy has its challenges. Serving the customer as they wish must also be balanced with profitability.
What is Unified Commerce
Real time data available to all interested parties including:
- Supply Chain
- Store Ops
Touching all areas of the business including:
- Customer Orders
- Product Information
Disruption is the New Normal
How consumers buy and retailers sell will change more in the next 20 years than it has in the past 20 decades. Disruption has become the new normal. In recent years, there has been a major shift occurring with the blurring of lines between retailers and manufacturers. Retailers are designing and sourcing product. Manufacturers have become retailers. Online-only retailers are gaining strength and opening stores.
Up to a few years ago, fulfillment was linear moving from the factory to the DC and then the store to the consumer. Now it is dynamic. The customer can order any item, anytime, from anywhere and expect to have it in hand today or tomorrow. To achieve this, orders must be filled from DCs, stores, factories and partners.
Consumer expectations and behavior have changed – thanks to mobile phones and tablets.
Research retailer or product prior to purchase
Buy from anywhere on any device
Expect fast delivery from and to anywhere
Want a seamless shopping experience
Want retailer to know “who I am”
Demand their privacy is protected
Retail Lags Behind
For years, airlines have made pricing, ticketing, check-in and flight status available online and through mobile devices. Banking is interconnected virtually by ATMS. Taxi service has been revolutionized by the likes of Uber and Lyft. However, the retail industry lags behind when it comes to offering a seamless and unified shopping experience.
Yesterday’s older systems, processes and methodology cannot support changing customer needs and expectations. Lack of customer analytics across channels, siloed organizations, poor data quality and inability to identify customers across shopping trips are some of the challenges holding retailers back from offering a cohesive unified commerce customer shopping experience.
The Unified Commerce Journey Roadmap
Developing a strategic roadmap is the first step in the journey to unified commerce. A roadmap should identify the biggest pains and opportunities, where the retailer needs to get to and in what time frame. Since unified commerce touches every aspect of the business, identifying and addressing organizational issues that separate the channels is essential as there will likely be change to the organizational structure and job functions. Involve all areas of the business impacted from the beginning. Projects that only comprise of IT tend to fail.
Decide what is important for the customer and company:
- Endless Aisle
Evaluate each existing piece of the puzzle to interact seamlessly, in real time:
- Merchants (buyers)
- Supply Chain (Planning, Digital, Fulfillment, Store)
Finding the Right Solution
To improve business processes, exceed these ever-increasing consumer expectations and achieve future business growth, companies are rethinking how they respond to consumer demand by investing in more functionally rich, configurable and integrated retail unified commerce solutions. The goal is to streamline processes across all channels and geographies, better match supply and demand and centralize information to achieve superior service levels both online and in store. Transition almost always takes longer than planned. Be realistic about timeframes and plan for delays.
Considerations when selecting a new software solution:
Can it provide and share real time data?
Is it user friendly?
Is it flexible and configurable?
Is it scalable?
Is it functionally rich?
Is it secure?
Will the vendor continue development to meet tomorrow’s needs?
Is it easy to implement and interface?
Is it easy to maintain?
Is support for the underlying technology readily available?
What are the initial and ongoing costs?
Reality of Retail Transformation
Consumers expect an omnichannel shopping experience and retailers must meet consumer expectations or they will get left behind. Retail unified commerce solutions are the doorway into a journey toward meeting tomorrow’s needs and expectations. As you embark on the journey to unified commerce be realistic and flexible. Nobody believes retail is at the end of its transformation. Change will continue at a rapid pace. Revisit and reevaluate the unified commerce strategy often and with an open mind.