Retailers: It’s Time to Embrace Unified Commerce

unified_commerce_evolution-1030x495The current era of retail marketing is on its way out. According to a recent joint study from National Retail Federation, E-commerce Europe, the E-commerce Foundation and Demandware, 86 percent of retailers are planning to implement a unified commerce platform within the next ten years. Unified commerce aims to take data being collected from multiple sources and bring it together in one place, promising big benefits when it comes to customer engagement and retention.

Streamlining Data
Currently, customer data comes to companies from a range of channels. Brick-and-mortar stores, e-commerce, social media, catalogs and other sales silos segment information in a way that makes it difficult to track changes in consumer behavior. In a unified commerce model, all data is delivered in a single stream no matter where it comes from. This provides real-time updates of how customers are interacting with the business and its brand. People want and need change constantly, and with unified commerce, companies can track these changes and make the appropriate adjustments to ensure that engagement remains high.

Metrics for a New Era
Collecting and responding to this influx of data requires a powerful software solution that everyone in the business understands how to use. Organizations must be unified in the gathering and interpretation of information in order to understand the metrics that are central to unified commerce:

• Customer demographics
• Behavior of website visitors
• Most profitable referral sources
• Past purchasing patterns
• Consumer response to pricing
• Popularity of products
• Success of current ad campaigns

Keeping track of inventory is another essential component of unified commerce. Without a clear picture of which products are available in specific locations, it becomes difficult to deploy the most efficient delivery methods possible, and the customer experience is bound to suffer.

A Comprehensive Look at Customers
The goal of unified commerce is to provide the in-depth information necessary to build complex and successful marketing campaigns and build brand loyalty. By uniting analytics data from websites, social media and mobile channels, businesses can create an experience that’s unique to each customer. Customers already expect this high level of personalization online and offline, and it won’t be long before it becomes standard in all shopping.

Brick-and-mortar retailers are rising to this challenge with plans to use mobile technology to “recognize” customers when they enter stores. This makes it possible to personalize the in-store shopping experience in new ways. In this regard, small businesses may have a leg up on their larger competitors since they have more of a chance to build intimate knowledge of their customer base and deliver exactly the experience each individual expects and desires.

Create the Best Customer Experience
What customers are looking for and how it can be given to them in a way that’s simple and accessible is the biggest question that today’s retailers have to answer. Ninety-five percent of retailers include customer experience and engagement as one of their top three current initiatives and with good reason. The modern retail landscape is highly customer-centric, with the success of brands hinging on their ability to respond to the needs of the modern connected consumer. This includes supporting mobile browsing and shopping, offering delivery options such as ship-to-store and standardizing payment options at all points of sale.

Although the rewards of unified commerce can be great, only 13 percent of retailers report that they’re working on implementing new platforms. Another 23 percent are looking into the possibility. If the majority of retailers want to deliver the kind of experience that the up-to-the-minute consumer is beginning to demand across all devices, they’re going to have to re-think retail’s outdated systems and embrace new technologies that allow for accurate data analysis and fast deployment of services.

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