“Unified Commerce” Demystified


October 23, 2017

We live in a world where buzzwords are ever-changing. Terms like “the cloud” and “augmented reality,” which didn’t exist 15 years ago, are now heard every day. “Unified commerce” has also entered into our vernacular, but its true meaning is often misunderstood. I’m going to demystify “unified commerce” here to stimulate some thoughts around consumer behavior and shopping.

Unified Commerce Defined

Unified commerce is the concept of having a single software system that is used to capture and manage orders that come in via a multitude of channels. Sound a lot like omni-channel commerce? It does, but the primary difference is that most companies conducting omni-channel sales are doing so through separate systems. Unified commerce is about creating a cohesive customer profile and being able to see a holistic view of their purchasing behavior in a single database solution. One might think of it as the convergence of retail, CRM (customer relationship management), and branding. If I place an order via phone or in-person, should my confirmation emails look like they come from two different places? Unified commerce would argue, “No they should not” as that would not feel like a cohesive customer experience.

Just think of all the scenarios that are occurring today:

  • Yesterday I placed my Starbucks order via their mobile app so it would be ready when I walked in the door.
  • At a tasting room last week, I ordered a case of wine to be shipped to my house, and a separate bottle to bring to my hotel room.
  • Tonight I plan to order dinner online and have it delivered via Uber Eats.

I won’t bore you with how many times in the last month of I have ordered from the 800-pound gorilla of marketplaces, Amazon.com. Consumers today expect to place orders via a variety of channels and have those orders fulfilled via a plethora of methods. It’s a buy anywhere, ship anywhere world now.

Unified Commerce in Action

To do this most effectively merchants should leverage a single database solution for online, phone, and in-person orders. They also need visibility into available inventory at various locations — if a product doesn’t live in a specific location, it’s much easier to determine fulfillment methods if you have this information readily available!

Just think of the power that unified commerce gives to a person working on a retail floor:

  • Uplift — Once the customer is identified, the retail worker can see which products they have purchased most often across all channels so they can upsell with complementary product recommendations.
  • Reward — They can see the lifetime value of the customer and their type so they can best determine if a good customer discount is in order.
  • Adapt — If inventory visibility is active, they can offer shipping options if the desired item is out of stock. Can you imagine doing this using 3 or more different systems? Neither can I.

So, to reach unified commerce nirvana do you really need to be using a single system? Not really, but it is ideal. Alternatively, you could use a single database solution with an open API that integrates orders and customers across all of your channels and funnels, and then into a central repository that could also give you a holistic view of your customer purchasing behavior. This gets tricky though when dealing with available inventory since inventory might live in a multitude of ever-changing systems.

At TrueCommerce, we are continuing to forge down a path that gives you the tools you need to turn unified commerce from a concept into your own reality.

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