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Unified Commerce: The Catalyst to Move Beyond Channels

Retailers—pay heed to the new wave in retail, officially known as unified commerce.

Based upon the premise that customers engage with brands and not individual channels, retailers are shifting their focus to a holistic customer experience that merges the digital and in-store experiences. Unified commerce goes a step beyond omni-channel, putting the customer experience first, breaking down the walls between internal channel silos and leveraging a single commerce platform.

To put unified commerce in perspective and understand how it differs from its strategic predecessors, let’s review the evolution of retail sales channels:

  • Unified_CommerceFirst, was single channel, most retailers started with single channel offering (i.e. only brick-and-mortar or only Web-based)
  • Second, retailers evolved to multi-channel, offering multiple channels, but with little to no integration and frequently an inconsistent customer experience
  • Third, retailers attempted to adopt an omni-channel approach, integrating channels and the customer experience, but from a standpoint of still operating in separate silos and utilizing disparate technologies across channels
  • Enter, unified commerce, which eliminates individual channel silos and offers a holistic customer experience across all customer touch points, and solves the omni-channel integration challenges by leveraging a single platform

The idea of a common centralized and 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, and clienteling into one platform. The retail technology landscape is being forever changed as vendors and retailers work to build and implement new technology to support the rapidly changing face of retail.

The key to delivering on the seamless and personalized customer experience is real-time retail. Today’s customer can quickly, but not yet as effortlessly as needed, navigate multiple touchpoints, and expects real-time feedback, whether it’s inventory, promotions or product recommendations to personalize her experience. Again, the easiest approach to enabling real-time retail is a centralized platform that can support instantaneous transactions and access to CRM, inventory, and product information across the enterprise. Also needed, is a robust analytics engine to deliver real-time personalized promotions and recommendations, as well as provide the retailer with margin and inventory optimization.

Executing new strategies, let alone ones as transformational as unified commerce, are undoubtedly a challenge for retailers, but unified commerce presents a more relevant and simpler solution than previous approaches. Many retailers have embraced the imperative for change, but have struggled with the integration of existing channels, disparate technologies, and siloed processes. More so than ever, the customer is in the driver’s seat, and smart retailers are adopting a unified commerce approach to win and meet the expectations of today’s and tomorrow’s customer.

Within 5 Years, 75% of Retailers Plan to Identify Customers when they Walk in the Store

Unified Commerce is the evolution of both multi-channel and omni-channel retailing that provides a
seamless experience in the store, on the Web or anywhere customers choose to shop. The key Unified Commerce initiatives, such as enhancing customer engagement, collecting and analyzing customer behavior, and personalizing the experience, are the top priorities for retailers, as evidenced by the results from the Boston Retail Partners 1st Annual CRM/Unified Commerce Benchmark Survey.

The 2014 CRM/Unified Commerce Benchmark Survey of top North CRM Study ReportAmerican retailers offers insights into retailers’ current state and planned initiatives, priorities, and future trends that relate to customer relationship management (CRM) practices associated with the retail industry’s shift to Unified Commerce.

Many retailers are now focused on implementing the technologies to deliver Unified Commerce, but there is still a lot of work to be done to deliver these capabilities. Delivering Unified Commerce requires seamless execution of the right strategy, technology, and business processes.

To deliver the seamless experience, retailers need to gather, analyze and disseminate customer, product, pricing and inventory data in real-time.  Leveraging technology, Unified Commerce provides the platform and real-time retail is key to delivering the experience. Retailers that successfully deliver Unified Commerce will understand and adopt a ‘unified’ approach for: strategic customer initiatives, technology, business processes and execution.

Key Survey Results

  • 95% of the respondents indicated customer experience/ customer engagement is one of their top three current initiatives
  • 3% have the ability to identify the customer when she walks in the store, and another 72% plan to implement this within five years
  • 16% currently have real-time retail from POS (which offers the “Amazon” experience in the store) and another 63% plan to implement within five years
  • 28% currently use mobile marketing and another 62% plan to implement this within five years (56% plan to implement mobile marketing within two years)
  • 81% have implemented some type of customer database, typically as part of a CRM or loyalty platform
  • 22% of retailers have implemented real-time analytics and 61% plan to implement it within two years.

To download the complete 2014 CRM/Unified Commerce Benchmark Survey: Click Here!

CRM Study Graph1

 

Task Management Helps Align Staff with Changing Store and Customer Needs

RETAIL TOUCHPOINTS – This is Part 2 of a feature highlighting the strategies retailers are using to improve workforce management. This installment spotlights task management. Part 1, which ran in the March 18 newsletter, focused on e-learning. Quotes from Ken Morris, principal at Boston Retail Partners, emphasize how task management is a key component of real-time retail.

http://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/special-reports/task-management-helps-align-staff-with-changing-store-and-customer-needs

In-Store, Customer-Facing Technology Is Most Important To Retailers

RETAIL TOUCHPOINTS – Retailers stated that in-store, customer-facing technology is “most important” to their organizations, followed by real-time retail and unified commerce. These and other findings were revealed in the 15th Annual POS/Customer Engagement Benchmarking Survey, issued January 2014 by Boston Retail Partners.

http://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/industry-insights/in-store-customer-facing-technology-is-most-important-to-retailers

Sports and entertainment venues flock to beacons for commerce opportunities

MOBILE COMMERCE DAILY – As beacon technology picks up speed for marketers, outdoor venues such as sports stadiums and theme parks are among the first to deploy the Bluetooth technology to deliver geolocated, personalized deals and messaging. Includes quotes from Greg Sokolowski, vice president at Boston Retail Partners.

http://www.mobilecommercedaily.com/outdoor-venues-flock-to-deploy-beacons-for-engagement

Customer Engagement, Enabled by a Unified Commerce Platform, is the New POS, New Survey from Boston Retail Partners Reveals

BULLDOG REPORTER – Customers engage with brands—not individual channels—and top retailers are now shifting their focus to a holistic shopping experience across all customer touch points, according to a new study from Boston Retail Partners.

http://www.bulldogreporter.com/dailydog/article/pr-biz-update/customer-engagement-enabled-by-a-unified-commerce-platform-is-the-new

WEBINAR REPLAY: The ABC's Of Delivering A Superior Customer Experience

RETAIL TOUCHPOINTS – So what are the best ways to enable store associates to deliver a superior customer experience? This webinar will outline 5 ways retailers can win the battle for brand loyalty and long-term success. Features insights from Ken Morris, principal, Boston Retail Partners.

http://www.retailtouchpoints.com/component/k2/the-abc-s-of-delivering-a-superior-customer-experience

2014 Review & Outlook

RIS NEWS – Whatever happens next year, whether it is surprising or epic, the following experts will be sure to see it coming and be prepared to manage it. See how a select group of retail’s thought leaders view the current state of retailing and what lies ahead for 2014. Includes insights from Ken Morris, principal, Boston Retail Partners.

http://risnews.edgl.com/magazine/December-2013/2014-Review—Outlook89767

A Conversation With BRP: The Future Of Omni-Channel Retailing

During a recent interview, a few of the consultants at BRP participated in an interesting discussion about the future of Omni-Channel Retailing.

A_Conversation_with_BRP-The Future of Omni-channel Retailing

Forget The Register: Stores Use Mobile To Make Sales On The Spot

ALL TECH CONSIDERED – Article on the use of mobile technology to enhance the customer experience. Includes comments from Brian Brunk, principal, Boston Retail Partners.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2012/12/10/166890714/forget-the-register-stores-use-mobile-to-make-sales-on-the-spot