Why You Need Unified Commerce in Your Retail Business

a smiling retailer sits at their desk surrounded by shipping boxes while holding a cell phone

Key Takeaways: Why You Need Unified Commerce

  • Unified commerce integrates in-store and digital operations, providing a consistent customer experience across channels while empowering retailers with actionable insights and inventory management capabilities.
  • Unified commerce surpasses omnichannel by merging the entire sales process, including products, payment systems, production, and customer interactions.
  • Embracing unified commerce strategies enhances operational efficiency and improves customer experiences by eliminating inconsistencies, enabling personalized interactions, and facilitating seamless fulfillment options.

In retail, omnichannel strategies have revolutionized business operations by consolidating sales channels for consistency and precise inventory management. Unified commerce takes this concept even further, enhancing the seamless experience.  Today, most retailers have transitioned from the traditional omnichannel approach to a more integrated unified commerce model.

What Is Unified Commerce?

Unified commerce merges in-store and digital operations into one comprehensive system that delivers a consistent customer experience (CX) across sales channels. This creates a more integrated and seamless buyer experience with actionable insights for retailers.

Unified commerce empowers retailers to integrate data and operations across various platforms, including physical stores, eCommerce websites, mobile applications, call centers, and other customer interaction points. This integration enables the creation of a unified perspective on inventory, customers, and orders. 

Customers benefit from a consistent experience as they transition across channels, while retailers gain the ability to monitor and manage every aspect. This capability is vital as nearly three-quarters of shoppers utilize multiple channels throughout their purchasing journey.

Omnichannel Vs. Unified Commerce

But is there an actual difference between unified commerce and omnichannel? If you think unified commerce sounds like omnichannel retail, you’re not alone. At their foundation, they both bring consistency across sales channels.

Unified commerce, however,  goes beyond omnichannel retail, bringing together the entire sales process, including products, payment systems, production, and customer interactions, as part of a seamless solution. For example, unified commerce aggregates data from your retail POS systems to track in-store sales and eCommerce payment processing.

According to a Harvard Business Review Analytics Services (BRAS) study, most retailers currently provide an omnichannel sales experience. However, despite this, 85% of consumers express the need for more consistency across departments or channels. Simultaneously, retailers must fully utilize the data they receive cohesively, with only 16% of companies possessing a unified view of their customers across all interactions.

Ultimately, retailers should embrace omnichannel and unified commerce strategies to create a truly seamless customer experience. 

The Importance Of Unified Commerce

Customers today expect a seamless experience across physical retail stores and digital sales channels. Omnichannel is part of the solution, but reducing friction and meeting customer expectations take more. And that’s where unified commerce comes in. 

Unified commerce strengthens omnichannel retail by establishing a holistic supply and value chain, which includes:

  • Resolving channel conflicts: Ensuring precise inventory management across all channels to prevent overselling, stockouts, or pricing discrepancies.
  • Centralizing customer data: Empowering retailers to monitor every customer interaction regardless of the channel, leading to more personalized experiences.
  • Harnessing data-driven insights: Establishing a reliable source of truth to inform superior marketing and operational strategies.

A well-executed unified commerce strategy enables retailers to deliver compelling brand interactions and experiential retail across all channels while simplifying data accessibility.

3 Key Benefits of Unified Commerce

Unified commerce strategies have been shown to fuel higher revenue growth, lower operational costs, and better customer experiences.

1. Revenue Growth

The 2023 Unified Commerce Benchmark report tracked 124 retailers across 11 segments, tracking real purchases and returns. The study included top omnichannel retailers (by revenue) and digitally native vertical brands (DNVBs) and showed the power of unified commerce. Retailers deploying unified commerce strategies outperform their peers by a factor of 3X to 6X.

Unified commerce creates:

  • A consistent brand interaction that encourages customer retention
  • Higher conversion rates across channels
  • Expanded reach by providing more shopping access points
  • Ease of creating new sales channels that integrate with existing ones

2. Operational Efficiency

Retailers also benefit from more efficient operations, reducing errors and providing comprehensive data across channels.

Benefits include:

  • Reducing errors from disparate or disconnected systems
  • Creating more precise forecasts for customer behavior
  • Producing more accurate inventory management
  • Automating business processes to eliminate manual tasks
  • Sharing order management through any channel
  • Ease of scalability using cloud or Software-as-a-Service tools
  • Integrating retail POS software for consistency across channels and in-store

By eliminating redundancies and data silos, retailers have a more efficient way to manage operations, reducing operating costs.

3. Better Customer Experiences

A PwC study reveals that half of consumers will switch to another merchant if it makes the shipping experience easier.

Unified commerce enables a better customer experience by overcoming common challenges. For example, less than a third of retailers provide real-time inventory counts on their product detail pages, limiting customer visibility into sales inventory. Just 15% of retailers allow customers to change purchase fulfillment methods after order confirmation — limiting the ability to use multiple payment or delivery options. 

While merchants accept online payments, only 6% enable unified cart access across channels. Each of these creates barriers that might negatively impact the customer experience.

A unified commerce strategy produces better CX by:

  • Making it easier for customers to track and redeem loyalty rewards
  • Eliminating inconsistencies in pricing and promotions across channels
  • Creating a consolidated view of customers for associates and support teams
  • Producing a seamless fulfillment system for in-store, pickup, or delivery

Inventory management headache?

KORONA POS makes stock control easy. Automate tasks and get a clear picture of your entire inventory. 

How Unified Commerce is the Future Of Retail

Unified commerce puts the customer at the center of your retail strategy, similar to how they shop. With everything connected, your backend implementation mirrors the customer journey. 

Using these four components, unified commerce keeps everything in sync.

1. Systems

Your foundational systems should be adaptable and scalable, catering to customers regardless of where or how they shop. Seamless integration of back-end tools facilitates effortless expansion into new markets, locations, or channels. Should you close a channel or location, automatic inventory reallocation ensures uninterrupted operations. 

This flexibility is essential for accommodating evolving customer behaviors and simplifying the implementation of services like buying online, picking up in-store or buying online, and returning in-store. Integrating these systems also mitigates customer frustrations, such as encountering difficulties when attempting in-store returns for online purchases due to disjointed sales records.

2. Channels

Integrating payment systems with your point of sale (POS) infrastructure across all channels enables seamless customer identification and linkage, regardless of their shopping destination. 

This unified approach facilitates efficient tracking and measurement of results, such as analyzing the impact of opening a new retail shop location on eCommerce sales in the area.

3. Products

Maintaining accurate inventory counts is essential. Yet, many retailers need help due to dispersed products across various locations, distribution centers, and channels. 

The Auburn University RFID Lab conducted a notable study revealing that the average inventory accuracy for U.S. retailers was merely 65%. This discrepancy often frustrates customers when online items are unavailable upon in-store pickup. 

Unified Commerce addresses these challenges by offering diverse delivery options and additional sales opportunities, such as implementing “endless aisles” to showcase the entire inventory to in-store shoppers via kiosks.

4. Customer Interactions

Today’s customers prioritize factors beyond price, emphasizing speed, convenience, and consistency when purchasing. According to McKinsey research, personalization has become an essential retail aspect, with seven in ten customers expecting personalized interactions. 

Unified commerce enables the delivery of personalized experiences across channels and locations, catering to the expectations of modern consumers. 

Embracing Unified Commerce with the Right Tools

Sekure Payment Experts helps you find everything you need to manage your retail business effectively across channels and physical locations. Our partnerships ensure you get the best solution for your unique business needs. Talk to one of our experts and discover how Sekure can help you lower your payment processing rates, improve customer experience, streamline operations, and drive revenue growth.

**Note** This is a guest post from Sekure Payment Experts. Inquire with us if you’re interested in learning more about their payments solution.

Photo of author

Written By

Shane Ortale

As a history enthusiast, Shane loves reading and writing. He blogs about small businessmarketing and cloud based POS. He is also an avid bird watcher, and Liverpool FC fan.