Retailers Accelerate Toward ‘Unified Commerce’

HFN – The growing importance of mobile devices to retailing, along with customer centricity is accelerating retailers’ move to “unified commerce,” according to a research report by Boston Retail Partners.

Unified commerce breaks down the barriers between a retailer’s internal channel platforms (brick-and-mortar stores, e-commerce and mobile commerce) to create a common commerce platform, as defined by the retail consulting firm. “Unified commerce goes beyond omnichannel, putting the customer experience first,” said Brian Bunk, principal at BRP. “Retailers are moving in this direction, with 71 percent planning to have a unified commerce platform within three years.” Sixty percent plan to have centralized POS within two years.

Based on a survey of North American retailers, the report identified “four key pillars” that are critical to unified commerce: personal, mobile, seamless and secure. Regarding the personal aspect, consumers research products and shop anywhere and anytime, and thus expect a personalized experience wherever they shop. Seventy-five percent of the responding retailers said they plan to use Wi-Fi to identify customers with their mobile devices in the store by the end of 2019, and 80 percent said that within three years they will suggest products for customers to buy based on previous purchases.

BRP noted that mobile devices have given consumers a constant and virtually unlimited supply of information, which has changed the shopping experience and elevated shoppers’ expectations for customer service. Eighty-nine percent of the surveyed retailers said they will offer mobile solutions to store associates within three years, and 84 percent will use mobile point-of-sale within that same time frame.
Security is another pillar of the shopper experience, and this goes beyond providing security for payments and networks. Ninety-six percent of respondents said they will have end-to-end encryption (in which data is encrypted so that only the message’s recipient can open it and read it) by the end of 2019. Also, 73 percent said that within three years they will offer a single-token solution (which uses tokens containing biometric data in place of passwords to verify one’s identity).

“A unified commerce platform is not simply the future in-store or web platform, but combines in-store POS, mobile, web, order management, call center and clienteling into one integrated platform,” according to the report. “It has become the new retail imperative.”

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