Delivering tomorrow’s customer experiences with unified commerce
3 December 2018
81 per cent of retailers plan to deploy unified commerce software within three years, BRP Consulting reports.
Digital disruption has accelerated change in retail. Today, consumers can get any piece of information or product they want with a swipe on their phone. Instant gratification is the new normal.
As speed and convenience become ordinary, retailers are left to compete on other fronts. Walker Insights predicts that by the year 2020, the battlefield for brands will be customer experience. At the same time, consumers’ expectations on what constitutes a great experience are also evolving.
Not your grandmother’s shopping experience
In yesterday’s retail world, friendly in-store service, a functional e-commerce website and a decent mobile app – all handled as separate functional entities – were enough to stay on top.
Not anymore. Today, customers demand seamless, information-rich, engaging and personal experiences. While many retailers still manage their business as a set of disconnected channels, consumers expect consistent, smooth interactions across all brand touchpoints. They want to browse, buy, pick up, return and exchange products where, when, and as they prefer. They also expect to see all the information they need to make a choice, when they need it – product details, item comparisons, and real-time stock availability, online and offline.
Today’s customers also require personal attention. They demand store associates to be engaging, and as knowledgeable as they themselves are about products. For modern shoppers, loyalty goes two ways: they expect to be recognised by the brands they patronise, and want personalised attention and suggestions, whatever the channel they use to interact.
The new paradigm
Retailers using yesterday’s tools and technologies won’t be able to deliver today’s great customer experiences. Take visibility of products. To offer this, retailers need to have a single view of their inventory, and the means to share this knowledge with stores associates on one side, and consumers on the other side.
Consumer tastes shift rapidly. To keep up, retailers must be able to see product demand in real time across their chain. To deliver personalised attention, retailers must be able to recognise customers across channels, and combine these interactions into a single view of their consumers.
For businesses running traditional standalone retail software systems, all these tasks sound impossible. And they are. In a traditional retail setup, information on products, customers or sales is stored in separate databases, and can’t be easily connected in a meaningful, reliable way. As a result, retailers are left juggling fragmented data which could be used to deliver great customer-centric experiences – if it weren’t too costly and complex to organise, analyse, and correlate.
In order to effectively use the data, and deliver the experiences consumers demand, retailers need new technology. They need unified commerce.
The future of retail: unified commerce
BRP Consulting defines unified commerce as “a single, centralised, real-time platform for all customer engagement points [which] combines POS, mobile, web, call centre and clienteling”. Unified commerce replaces all the separate, badly connected, hard-to-integrate software solutions and databases that retailers use across their business with just one, enterprise-wide software platform.
Unified commerce software centralises all data on prices, inventory, offers, orders, customers and product content into one management system. This enables retailers to easily oversee and manage all their information in a uniform, consistent way across all of their sales channels.
By maintaining all information in one database, unified commerce software also gives retailers a straightforward, real-time picture of their customers’ habits, preferences and behaviours. This highly organised data can then be run through predictive analytics and artificial intelligence tools to deliver valuable business insights, which retailers can leverage to take better business decisions – for example, aligning pricing and replenishment to actual demand – and build more effective, engaging, and personalised customer interactions.
Unified commerce enables retailers to put customers at the heart of their business – but that’s not all there is to it. Unified commerce is, at its core, a holistic approach which encompasses the whole enterprise, and transforms it for the future. By unifying all data into a single platform, it reduces complexity, errors and delays, and keeps retailers prepared for the continuous evolution of consumer expectations and demands.
As Justin Guinn, content analyst at Software Advice, says: “A unified commerce strategy isn’t another thing you need to worry about – it’s the only thing you need to worry about.”
Learn more about LS Retail unified commerce software
by Eloise Freygang, Chief Marketing Officer, LS Retail