2017 Unified Commerce Survey

45% of Retailers Plan to Utilize Artificial Intelligence (AI) Within Three Years to Enhance the Customer Experience

Stores must now encompass both worlds – the sensory experience generally available in the physical world, such as touching and feeling merchandise and personally interacting with a knowledgeable associate – whether simply human or a combination of AI and human characteristics – married with the unique and personalized shopping experience common in the digital world. The physical and digital worlds are forever intertwined as we look to the future.

BRP conducted the 2017 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Benchmark Survey to understand retailers’ customer experience priorities today and for the future, and how the evolution of unified commerce helps provide retailers with the right people, processes and technology to enable retailers to enhance the customer experience.

The key customer experience capabilities are:

EDUCATE – One of the areas of greatest improvement is the offering of social media as a research option for customers to learn more about the brand and products. Overall utilization is up from 73% of retailers utilizing it last year to 92% this year, however, many retailers indicate that their current social media offerings need improvement.

ENGAGE – Most

retailers have plans to implement new technologies to identify customers via their smartphones, mobile applications and other emerging technologies. Within three years, 59% of retailers plan to use Wi-Fi and 63% plan to use mobile apps to identify customers in their stores.

EXECUTE – 67% of retailers are offering a consistent product assortment across channels; however, many retailers are still struggling with manual processes as 43% indicate the processes need improvement.

ENHANCE – Retailers realize the importance of utilizing customer insights gathered from social media as 89% of retailers are now using social media comments as a critical customer satisfaction measurement, up from 59% last year.

ENABLERS – Enhanced networks are a critical requirement for a unified commerce environment and 76% of retailers plan to enhance or replace their network within the next three years.

The Mobile World of Retail – Special Report

89% of Retailers Plan to Offer Mobile Solutions to Associates Within Three years

Retailers are focused on significantly expanding the use of mobile technology for customer identification, customer engagement, associate training and task management, point of sale (POS) and payments.  The BRP Special Report: The Mobile World of Retail, assesses how mobile devices are completely changing retail operations and the shopping experience for today’s consumers.

Putting mobile devices in the hands of store associates is now a necessity to keep up with the customer who has a plethora of information available at her fingertips. Associate mobile devices enhance the shopping experience by accessing real-time inventory and customer data and offering the ability to service customers and process transactions anywhere in the store.

To better understand the actual impact mobile devices are having on retail and the shopping experience, BRP surveyed the top North American retailers to explore the current state of how mobile technology is shaping retail capabilities, priorities and processes. This special report digs deeper into findings from the BRP 2017 POS/Customer Engagement Benchmarking Survey to explore the significant impact of mobile devices on store operations and how they are “changing retail as we know it.”

The report emphasizes how mobile devices are impacting retail in five key areas:

  • Customer identification – Identifying the customer and then delivering a personalized experience is identified as one of this year’s top priorities by 70% of retailers
  • Customer engagement – 31% of retailers plan to implement mobile tools for customer engagement within the next 12 months
  • Associate Training and Task management – 89% of retailers plan to offer mobile solutions to associates within three years
  • Mobile POS – By 2020, 84% of retailers will utilize mobile POS in their stores
  • Mobile payment – Mobile payment acceptance is increasing rapidly with fewer retailers taking a wait and see approach

Experience Personalization – Special Report

Personalization is the Most Powerful Way for Retailers to Differentiate their Brand and Compete Against Amazon

40% of Retailers Indicate that Personalization is a Top Digitial Priority

Personalization has gone well beyond simple marketing to demographic groups, customer segments or even personas. It is more than simply greeting a customer by name when they walk in the store and it goes beyond merely offering product recommendations on your website. Personalization is not just a trend – it is a critical way for retailers to differentiate their brand to compete against companies like Amazon, according to the BRP SPECIAL REPORT: Personalizing the Customer Experience.

Consumers’ constant ability to shop and easily research the lowest price has made it imperative for retailers – especially those with brick and mortar locations – to find creative ways to entice customers into the store. The best and most powerful way to do this is through personalization. Personalization encapsulates all the details that make your customer’s shopping experience unique to her. It involves knowing your customer and understanding her past purchases and current interests, but it also encompasses how the experience itself meets the customer’s needs for a personalized product or service.

Consumers want a personalized experience and retailers are focused on improving their personalized services. While 40% of retailers indicate they are focused on personalization as a top digital priority, many are not currently offering the personalized services consumers expect. The good news is that retailers have big plans to improve these services over the next few years.

This Special Report provides insight into BRP’s 2016 Digital Commerce Survey, highlighting personalization and the potential methods available for today’s retailers to deliver the optimal customer experience. The three major areas of personalization covered in this report include: personalized in-store experience, curated shopping and personalized products.

The Fine Art of Analytics – Special Report

Real-time Analytics is a Game Changer for Today’s Retailers

Retailers realize the importance but struggle to successfully understand and utilize analytics

Retailers recognize the importance of enhanced data and analytics with 44% indicating improved analytics is a top priority. However, the ability to leverage analytics to improve business performance lags intent due to a lack of organizational alignment and inconsistent processes according to the BRP SPECIAL REPORT: The Fine Art of Analytics.

“It is becoming essential for retailers to broaden their analytical capabilities to effectively address strategic business decisions,” said Gene Bornac, vice president, BRP. “Analytics provide advanced visibility into sales performance by channel, by assortment, and further by item, which helps guide more accurate planning and allocation decisions.”

Implementation of a successful unified commerce analytics approach requires organizational alignment across all business segments. Without organizational alignment, it is difficult to maximize the benefits that big data can bring to omni-channel performance.

However, as organizations increasingly integrate their systems, omni-channel opportunities to gather and utilize data in interesting ways to make smarter merchandising decisions. Real-time analytics are a key part of identifying and understanding the customer across channels and creating the right assortment available at the right time for that customer. By prioritizing an investment in a systems architecture that handles collection and utilization of data universally across the organization, retailers can best position themselves for profitability and key differentiation to their customers.

This Special Report provides insight into BRP’s 2016 Merchandise Planning Survey, highlights the challenges facing leading retailers today relating to data and analytics, and offers next steps for retailers to make the most of the data that exists across their organization.

Complete the form to the right to download and read the full report.

2017 POS/Customer Engagement Survey

The Proliferation of Mobile Devices is Driving the Rapid Shift to Unified Commerce

The mobilization of retail and a renewed focus on customer centricity is the catalyst for the new retail paradigm of unified commerce. According to the 2017 POS/Customer Engagement Benchmarking Survey, retailers understand that the always-connected consumer expects a personalized, seamless experience wherever, whenever and however she shops and they are focused on delivering a unified customer experience.

Unified commerce goes beyond omni-channel, putting the customer experience first, breaking down the walls between internal channel silos and leveraging a common commerce platform. Retailers are moving in this direction with 71% planning to have a unified commerce platform within three years.

BRP’s 2017 POS/Customer Engagement Survey of top North American retailers offers insights into retailers’ current priorities and initiatives as the digital and physical worlds converge to facilitate a seamless experience across channels. Critical to unified commerce are the four key pillars that define the required customer experience: personal, mobile, seamless and secure.

Personal – Today’s informed consumer researches products and shops anywhere and anytime and she expects a personalized experience wherever she shops.

  • 75% plan to use Wi-Fi to identify customers with their mobile devices in the store by the end of 2019
  • 80% will suggestive sell based on previous purchases within three years

Mobile – Having a constant, virtually unlimited array of information at our fingertips through mobile devices has changed the shopping experience and elevated customer expectations for customer service.

  • 89% will offer mobile solutions for associates within three years
  • 84% will use mobile POS within three years 

Seamless – Real-time retail is the ability to deliver a seamless and personalized experience to the customer whenever, wherever and however she chooses to shop.

  • 71% plan to have a unified commerce platform by the end of 2019
  • 60% plan to have centralized POS within two years

Secure – Today’s retail environment requires security beyond retailers’ current focus on payments and networks.

  • 96% will have end-to-end encryption (E2EE) by the end of 2019
  • 73% will offer a single token solution across the enterprise within three years
Complete the form to the right to download and read the full report.

2016 Merchandise Planning Survey

Survey of Leading Retailers Reveal that Planning Organizations are not Ready for Unified Commerce

Savvy retailers know their current planning tools are not capable of supporting the unified commerce environment necessary to satisfy today’s customers. According to the BRP 2016 Merchandise Planning Survey, retailers understand that merchandise needs to be available across channels, however, this makes planning exponentially more complex and challenging.

Today’s retailers wrestle with a myriad of business and IT issues as they strive for an efficient and effective omni-channel environment. The common issues include: current organization structure is not set up to plan and support an omni-channel environment, planning applications are ineffective and not integrated, and the current environment can’t support the complex analysis of the high volume of data required to optimize planning decisions and meet customer demand.

BRP’s 2016 Merchandise Planning Survey of top North American retailers offers insights into retailers’ current state of merchandise planning and their priorities and challenges as they strive to meet the needs of today’s omni-channel customer. Key findings from the survey include:


What are retailers doing today?

  • 71% do not have formal omni-channel demand planning processes
  • 38% plan brick-and-mortar as an individual channel
  • 44% have integrated planning teams but 86% need improvement

How can retailers overcome today’s obstacles?

  • 44% indicate that improving analytics is a top priority
  • 21% indicate that disparate systems and process challenges are the biggest planning obstacles
  • 41% plan to upgrade their omni-channel demand planning systems within two years

What integration issues are retailers facing?

  • 63% have integrated the planning organization across channels but 75% need improvement
  • 70% have integrated planning business processes across channels but 83% need improvement
  • 53% have integrated planning systems across channels but 77% need improvement

The 2016 Merchandise Planning Survey report provides retailers the following insights:

  • Understand key industry trends in merchandise planning
  • Identify how your merchandise planning capabilities and processes compare to your competition
  • Discover practical ideas and opportunities to improve your planning
Complete the form to the right to download and read the 2016 Merchandise Planning Survey Report.

2016 Digital Commerce Survey

73% of Retailers Plan to Utilize an Order Management System at the center of their Unified Commerce Platform within 3 Years

According to the BRP 2016 Digital Commerce Survey, 56% of retailers indicate their top digital priority is to create a consistent brand experience across channels. Retailers understand that consumers expect a personalized, seamless experience wherever, whenever and however they shop and they are focused on delivering a unified experience.

BRP’s 2016 Digital Commerce Survey of top North American retailers offers insights into retailers’ current digital commerce initiatives, priorities, and future trends that are focused on the customer journey and how the digital and physical worlds must combine to provide customers the seamless experience they expect.

The key digital commerce trends driving today’s initiatives are:

PERSONAL – Effectively engaging customers requires retailers to offer personalized, relevant, compelling and consistent brand messaging across channels.

  • 40% are focused on improving personalization as a top digital priority
  • 50% will have customer identifying technology within the store in 2 years
  • 58% plan to utilize geolocation within 2 years

UBIQUITOUS – Heightened customer expectations for a personalized, seamless experience necessitates that retailers have the ability to follow the customer’s journey as she shops across and among channels.

  • 46% are improving the mobile shopping experience as a top digital priority
  • 75% will host a single shared cart across channels within 3 years
  • 50% will offer “start anywhere, finish anywhere” within 5 years

UNIFIED – Retailers’ organization and infrastructure need to be unified and aligned across channels to offer a seamless and consistent customer experience.

  • 56% are focused on a consistent brand experience across channels as a top digital priority
  • 73% plan to utilize an OMS as their unified commerce platform within 3 years
  • 38% are adding new roles and employee initiatives to accommodate omni-channel tasks

To download the full BRP 2016 Digital Commerce Survey report, please complete the form to the right.

Enhance Engagement with Social Media

81% of Retailers Utilizing Social Media for Customer Engagement Indicate their Methods Need Improvement

According to this special report from BRP, social media produces unlimited opportunities to create a memorable and personalized customer shopping experience; however, most retailers are not successfully executing their social media strategies. According to the BRP SPECIAL REPORT: Enhancing Customer Engagement Through Social Media, 81% of retailers using social media to engage with customers indicate that their processes need improvement.

Social media provides retailers with unprecedented visibility into their customer base. It provides a venue where retailers can directly communicate with their customers and it can be an extremely powerful tool for collecting and using customer insights to improve planning decisions. Retailers can understand who the customer is, what she wants, when and where she wants it, and even why she wants it based on social media postings and feedback.

This Special Report provides insight into BRP’s 2016 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey and highlights the social media opportunities and challenges facing leading retailers today.

The report identifies five key areas where retailers should utilize social media to improve the customer journey:

  • Experience – 69% of retailers see opportunities to utilize social media to enhance the customer experience
  • Interaction – 75% of retailers support customer interaction via social media
  • Endorsement – 59% of retailers plan to utilize brand advocacy/ social media endorsement as a source for identifying their most valuable customers within three years
  • Satisfaction – 59% of retailers utilize social media comments as a means of measuring customer satisfaction
  • Insight – 60% of retailers capture customer feedback and insights from social media and online comments
Complete the form to the right to download the complete report:

BRP SPECIAL REPORT: Enhancing Customer Engagement Through Social Media
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2016 Unified Commerce Survey

75% of Retailers Plan to have a Single Commerce Platform within 3 Years

Retail is more complicated than ever! The customer journey is never a linear process – customers want to quickly and easily move across channels to research, shop, and interact with your brand and they expect their journey to be personalized. To complicate this further, the mobilization of retail has spurred the convergence of the digital and physical experience – creating the need for real-time retail. The key to meeting elevated customer expectations is to create a consistent, personalized and satisfying shopping experience wherever, whenever and however they shop. Delivering on that experience requires a different approach that sets the stage for unified commerce.

According to the 2016 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey, 51% of retailers indicate that creating a seamless experience across channels is their top priority. To support a seamless customer experience, 23% of the retailers surveyed have already implemented a single, unified commerce platform and another 52% plan to implement one within the next three years. Unified commerce leverages a single commerce platform to eliminate individual channel silos and solve the omni-channel integration challenges to offer a holistic customer experience across all customer touchpoints – in real-time.

Retail Partners (BRP) conducted the 2016 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Benchmark Survey of top North American retailers to understand what retailers are currently undertaking to enhance the customer experience and the current state and future plans of unified commerce. Key findings in the 2016 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey include:

  • 51% of retailers indicate that creating a seamless and optimized experience across channels is a top priority this year
  • 44% of retailers state that increasing customer loyalty is a focus for the next 12 months
  • 75% of retailers plan to have a single commerce platform within 3 years
  • Nearly 90% of retailers plan to have as part of their unified commerce platform, centralized inventory management, order management system and integrated CRM
  • 89% of retailers indicate that within three years social media will be the predominant forum for interaction with the brand
  • At least 75% of retailers plan to have mobile apps for associates and customers within three years

Complete the form to the right to download the complete 2016 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey Report for more insights.

Unified Commerce is the goal, what is reality?

Retailers recognize the need for a holistic customer experience that transcends channels, but most attempts are falling short

According to the BRP SPECIAL REPORT: Unified Commerce is the Goal, “Faux” Omni-channel is the Reality, 85% of retailers indicate that unified commerce is a top priority. However, many retailers have taken the “just get something done” approach to deliver a seamless customer experience across channels. The unfortunate result of this quick fix approach is a “faux” omni-channel model that doesn’t execute as promised and risks disappointing customers.

The industry has reached a critical point where retailers can no longer afford to operate from within channel silos. They must transform their organization, business processes and technology to align with the demands of their customers. Retailers realize the importance of offering a true unified commerce environment to their customers but most have not reached that goal yet. Only 18% of the retailers surveyed in BRP’s 2016 POS Survey indicate they have implemented a unified commerce/single commerce platform, and two-thirds of those companies indicated that it “needs improvement.”

Unified commerce goes beyond omni-channel, putting the customer experience first, breaking down the walls between internal channel silos and leveraging a single commerce platform. The idea of a single, centralized, real-time platform for all customer engagement points is a key tenet of unified commerce. A unified commerce platform is not simply the future in-store or web platform, but combines POS, mobile, Web, call center and clienteling into one single integrated platform. It has become the new retail imperative.

This Special Report provides insight into BRP’s 2016 POS/Customer Engagement Survey and highlights the unified commerce objectives and challenges facing leading retailers today.

Complete the form to the right to download and read the full report.