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Omnichannel Retailing Hasn’t Fixed the Divide: It’s Time for Unified Commerce

Working Hard. Wearhouse Workers.

Omnichannel is critical, but it can only help so much 

Presenting the customer with a sleek and functional experience for online shopping is a top priority for leading retailers, making omnichannel retailing a key strategy in the industry. Omnichannel retail ensures a brand presents consistently across all customer-facing channels. However, omnichannel retailing alone has not sufficed to create a complete customer experience. It falls short on the backend for companies that are expanding and wish to effectively make use of customer data. 

In the beginning, many retail companies used unconnected channels and systems to provide ecommerce to their customers. Without the foresight to predict the path of retail digital transformation and innovation, companies began building their in-store and online experiences separately. This practice led to a divide that grew wider and wider, making it more difficult for companies to gather and share data between the channels effectively. 

In all the excitement surrounding digital advancements for ecommerce in retail, the focus on the physical store fell away. The in-store experience became stagnant while retailers invested all their resources in online shopping. Online shopping contributes a large percentage of sales for most retailers, and it is especially popular among wealthier demographics. On the other hand, it’s a mistake to discount the importance of an impressive in-store experience, especially when it comes to creating a seamless transferable experience among the channels. 

Revamping the in-store experience has become critical to retailer success, but the renovations are more than physical. In-store innovation recently has included order management with in-store pickup, curbside pickup, and delivery – a pivotal factor that kept many stores alive despite lockdowns and persisting fears and has now morphed into an expected convenience. To effectively provide these conveniences to customers, retailers cannot rely on outdated and disconnected systems. Instead, they must turn to unified commerce. 

Unified commerce is all the rage in retail 

Unified commerce allows the retailer’s channels to engage with customers and collect and share data with one backend platform. This unification of channels simplifies the way a retail company conducts data collection and analysis, and it helps avoid issues of the past such as duplicate customer information and incomplete information. In real time, a customer can begin their buyer journey in the physical store and finish it online, and vice versa. They can easily pass between channels, always identified as the same person with complete data, able to utilize their rewards and complete orders with ease. In this way, retailers can also have a more complete view of their customers, gaining critical insights into their behavior and how best to market and offer products for a seamless customer experience. 

The buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS) model depends on unified commerce because it enables retailers to track inventory across channels and locations in real time. This advancement was a huge success for CVS, especially when personal care products and COVID-19 test kits were scarce. When pandemic fears and supply chain issues left shelves nearly empty, customers could immediately locate what they needed before they left their homes and purchase for pickup or delivery to avoid social contact. Another example is Carter’s, which needs the capability to track sales of their clothing and accessories in their store and on their website as well as through third-party sellers like Amazon and Target. 

To stay competitive, retail companies must create not only an omnichannel experience but a unified one in which customers can jump from device to device and from keyboard to register without skipping a beat. 

To simplify your commerce across channels, take advantage of Perficient’s retail and unified commerce expertise.

Join our workshop at RICE on June 13th: “What Should I Do Now vs. Next? How to Prioritize Your Unified Commerce Capabilities.”

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Erica Lee

Erica Lee is a director of digital strategy at Perficient, specializing in digital transformation, customer experience, commerce, digital responsibility, and digital business strategies. She’s been a senior ecommerce and digital leader at several multi-billion dollar B2B and B2C companies.

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