An Introductory Guide to Unified Commerce

The sun shines through the arched entrance to a luxury shopping street in Italy

The ecommerce and retail industries always seem to be in flux, and trends come and go regularly. That is not a bad thing, as recent trends like omnichannel and multichannel experiences have sought to vastly improve the customer experience. Now, say hello to the industry’s latest buzzword: unified commerce. 

In this case, however, unified commerce is more than just a trend. By tightly connecting the many aspects of digital commerce into a single platform, unified commerce represents the future of digital retail.

What Is Unified Commerce?

While omnichannel delivers excellent cross-channel customer experiences, its systems are often unconnected and disjointed. Unified commerce connects a company’s backend systems with all customer-facing channels onto a single, unified platform. It neatly combines ecommerce, mobile commerce, inventory management, order fulfilment, customer experiences and other retail aspects into one tidy package. This unified set of processes, solutions and systems gives brands better data insights, a simplified ecosystem and consistent and seamless customer experiences.

Why Is There a Need for Unified Commerce?

Today’s consumers have gotten used to moving through multiple channels in their buying journey. For instance, a person may research a product online, check it out at a physical store and buy it through a mobile app. Along the way, they may also visit review sites and comparison shop in-store or on multiple ecommerce sites. Gone are the days of one-stop shopping.

Reports show 67% of customers now use multiple channels to complete a single transaction, bouncing from online to offline and back again. Additionally, 85% of customers start a purchase on one device and complete it on another, while 40% of consumers will not do business with brands if they can not use their preferred channels. 

Since consumers demand shopping experiences that cross all channels, it has become imperative for brands to give them what they want. Hence the need for unified commerce experiences.

The Difference Between Omnichannel and Unified Commerce

Omnichannel aims to deliver a seamless experience across channels by connecting mostly front-end systems to gain alignment. However, it is largely a set of distinct but separate tools that depends on manual processes and multiple interfaces. This separation of systems creates siloed channels with little or no integration. As a result, businesses may not be able to sync information across channels, hindering their ability to collect cohesive customer data.

Unified commerce rectifies the shortcomings of omnichannel experience by replacing disparate and disconnected systems with a single, centralised platform. Connecting all systems and channels gives brands a holistic view of their business. By consolidating all channels, payment systems, products and customer interactions, unified commerce eliminates separate internal channels that operate in their own silos. The result is a wholly unified customer experience.

The Four Core Components of Unified Commerce

A retail associate uses a touch screes POS

Unified commerce consists of four main components: systems, channels, products and interactions.

Unified Systems

Unified commerce’s centralised platform ensures that all of a brand’s systems work cohesively as part of a broader ecosystem. Connecting customer-facing and backend systems results in better scalability, expansion into new channels and overall business growth. Managing different systems becomes more cost-effective as operational efficiency is improved and data collection across channels becomes easier. 

Consolidated Channels

Unified commerce gives customers a consistent experience as they jump from one channel to another. Consolidation ensures every channel delivers the same seamless and meaningful journey across all touchpoints. By unifying channels, brands can also offer a central payment system rather than various payment systems spread across many channels. Fulfilling cross-channel orders in a secure environment and collecting customer data also becomes easier to manage.

Product and Service Consistency

A centralised platform gives companies and customers a consistent view of products and services across online channels and physical stores. This way, customers who start shopping on one channel find consistent inventory information as they switch across channels. Consolidating product information across channels creates a cohesive platform that gives customers and sales teams up-to-date inventory information. 

Brand Interactions

Unified commerce delivers on customer expectations of fast, consistent and highly personalised brand experiences. It enables brands to gather all customer interactions in one location and easily identify consumers across multiple touchpoints. With a deeper understanding of customer behaviour, companies can give consumers the streamlined, reliable and personalised interactions they expect.

How Unified Commerce Benefits Businesses and Consumers

The key benefit of unified commerce is it allows brands to build more robust, meaningful and highly personalised customer experiences. This leads to heightened customer satisfaction, loyalty and retention, less cart abandonment, increased sales and greater revenue and profits. 

Additionally, brands that implement robust unified commerce strategies can enjoy a solid long-term ROI. In fact, by 2025, brands offering customers unified commerce experiences will see at least a 20% boost in total revenue.

Other significant benefits include:

  • A 360-degree view of the entire business ecosystem
  • Better data collection and insights for precise customer targeting
  • Product consistency across all channels
  • Greater automation that leads to reduced human error
  • Flexibility to add or remove channels as needed
  • Ability to pivot to meet changing market conditions
  • Real-time order and inventory management
  • Better forecasting and prediction of customer behaviour

Customers benefit from increased flexibility that allows them to shop wherever and whenever they want on any of their preferred channels. They also enjoy more meaningful brand interactions, smoother transactions, expanded customer service and personalised and interactive experiences.

The Takeaway

In an ultra-competitive ecommerce marketplace, brands need to do whatever they can to keep customers satisfied and happy. Unified commerce offers them a chance to give customers the personalised and hassle-free transactions that are so important these days. 

Unified commerce represents the next logical step in multichannel shopping. While connecting all systems and channels into a unified whole can be challenging, brands that make the effort will be well rewarded.

When it comes to omnichannel experiences, ESW can help your brand enable next-generation global DTC ecommerce that delivers world-class customer experiences and brand interactions. Talk to one of our ecommerce experts today to learn more.