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Beyond omnichannel: unified commerce is the next evolution of e-commerce

Perhaps one of the biggest buzzwords of 2020 was ‘omnichannel’, as it became increasingly clear to retailers that they needed to offer customers more options on how and where they want to shop, whether it’s offering ship-from-store, click-and-collect, view instore inventory online or reserve-in-store.

But the reality is that it takes more than just a handful of these initiatives to offer customers an enjoyable and consistent shopping experience. Enter unified commerce.

“Unified commerce is the next evolution of e-commerce. We’ve gone through the evolution of the physical store, then there was online, then you had multichannel, then you had omnichannel and now it’s unified commerce,” said Frank Nesci, retail expert and co-founder of unified commerce platform, Comestri.  

“To be honest, a lot of it is buzzwords and vendors trying to drive new technology and in some cases, fear. But at the crux of it, unified commerce is about delivering a consistent and seamless shopping experience across every shopping channel and consumer touchpoint. Unified Commerce is making sure product information, images, pricing, inventory, customer service and returns is consistent across the retailer’s physical store, website, marketplaces, social media or wherever the product is viewed.” 

Here is why unified commerce is where the future of retail success lies.

To offer a consistent customer experience, your systems need to talk to each other

“Brands today look at all these different touchpoints in siloes. I think they’ve come to the fact that their point-of-sale and website need to be synchronised, particularly from an inventory, customer data and order point of view, but they take a very haphazard approach to product data,” observed Nesci. 

“Enriched information like attributes, sizing, materials, care instructions all need to be consistent across all your different channels. The challenge is, how do you do that?”

Nesci pointed out that there are retailers who are still using spreadsheets to help manage this data, which leaves a lot of room for human error. 

“It’s about having a central system, a tech platform that allows you to bring all your data together and synchronised across all the different touchpoints,” he said.

Customers are finding you in a multitude of ways, so service them

The retail industry may think of bricks-and-mortar versus online, but it’s time to throw that mentality out the window and understand that the shopping journey is no longer linear.  

A customer may spot a product on Instagram while scrolling through their feed one night, then decide to check it out in-store another day. They may consider their options after that, then finally decide to add it to their shopping cart while on a marketplace like The Iconic. These are savvy shoppers and they should not be underestimated. 

“Consumers no longer discover, research and purchase products on one channel or another. Rather they will switch and choose different channels at different times,” explained Nesci. 

People are spending more time researching products before making a purchase, whether it’s via social media like TikTok or Instagram or traditional media like newspapers, television and radio. Then there’s online influencers and affiliates to consider, as well as search engines and online marketplaces. 

“No matter how, when and where consumers choose to discover, research and purchase products, all your product information and data needs to be accurate, consistent and uniform across all channels,” noted Nesci.

Retailers need real-time information right now

Nesci notes the excellent customer experience that major retailers Petbarn and Pillow Talk both offer, thanks to their unified commerce platforms. 

“If you go to Petbarn’s website, when you go to the product page, it’s checking real-time if that product is available to purchase depending on your shipping options, like click-and-collect,” he explained. “When you decide to check out, It’s also checking whether all the products in your shopping basket can be fulfilled based on your shipping options.”

To check out unified commerce in action, book a demonstration with Comestri:

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