Driving modern customer journeys
Modern customers engage with brands across multiple touchpoints ranging from mobile to web to physical stores and more, and expect a seamless experience regardless of where, when, and how they shop. The success of a brand is anchored around their ability to handle this mesh of customer journeys and deliver seamless, personalized, and convenient shopping experiences. This requires retailers to unify all channels and data.
Unified commerce brings together all critical data into a centralized platform, providing a single view of the truth of customers, transactions, orders, and inventory across channels. From product purchase to inventory management to order fulfillment, unified commerce ensures complete accuracy and transparency and offers improved, seamless, and personalized omnichannel retail experiences.
What the report tells us
This targeted research by TCS OmniStoreTM in collaboration with RIS News revealed some interesting statistics on unified commerce. The key findings are:
Most retailers understand the importance of unified commerce, but only 3% retailers currently provide a ‘truly unified experience’.
Despite knowing the value of accessible single customer views, 33% retailers do not have the capability to build single views of their customers across channels.
54% retailers desire their POS to be extremely flexible, but only 7% currently possess flexible POS.
Read on for the full report that benchmarks the current state of unified commerce platforms across the industry and pinpoints where your peers are investing to create meaningful connections with customers.
How retailers view unified commerce
There is very little variation in how retailers view unified commerce, with 77% believing it means ‘seamless experience and consistent data’ (Figure 1). More than half consider it to provide a shopping experience on a single platform and the ability to have a personalized shopping experience across channels (57% and 53%, respectively). When defining unified commerce, few (13%) consider the back-end benefits, such as easier tracking of data, KPIs, and performance.
It appears retailers understand the benefits of unified commerce since most of them are at least working toward delivering a unified experience across channels, with 60% categorizing their organization as ‘a work in progress’, while almost a quarter (23%) are at least ‘close to providing a truly unified experience’ (Figure 2). Retailers have room to improve their customers’ experience with only 3% currently providing a ‘truly unified experience’.
Investments in unified commerce
With most retailers are at least working toward offering a unified customer experience, over six in 10 (64%) are invested in the unified commerce space, with 30% being very or extremely invested (Figure 3). Only 6% are not invested.
Composable or all-inclusive?
Once buy-in or investment in the unified commerce space is established, retailers need to consider the ideal composition of the platform. More than a third (37%) envision a platform pieced together using the best components available—a ‘composable, best-of-breed ecosystem approach’ (Figure 4). In comparison, over a quarter (27%) think that an all-inclusive platform would be the best option (‘all-in-one platform from a single vendor’). Other retailers (20%) would select a standard commerce platform requiring small customizations, and the choice of 17% of retailers would be a fully customized platform built ‘from the ground up.’
What customers really want
Retailers recognize there are several elements significant to customers as they shop. For almost six in 10 (57%) retailers, a consistent experience across channels is top two in importance for their customers (Figure 5). Related to the overall experience, 30% of retailers think their customers place very high importance on consistent pricing and promotions across channels, eliminating the need to check prices across a retailer’s channels. Product availability and faster checkout are also important for an ideal shopping experience. However, retailers think customers place less importance on loyalty programs, return policies, personalized selling, and the availability of in-store tablets.
Personalization always matters
Unified commerce platforms also allow retailers to offer their customers a more personalized shopping experience. As more than half work toward offering customers an integrated shopping experience across channels, personalization capabilities shouldn’t be ignored. Personalized marketing and digital advertising (57%), personalized recommendations (50%), and personalized offers available at digital touchpoints (46%) are retailers’ top personalization capabilities (Figure 6). However, it seems more difficult to offer it in stores, with only 18% currently able to make personalized offers available at store touchpoints. Fewer retailers have capabilities related to the connection of platforms and channels. Only 21% have identity-matching capabilities across platforms, while less than one in five (18%) have the ability to personalize content or images across all their channels.
How flexible are POS platforms?
Investments in point-of-sale (POS) platforms is likely necessary for most retailers as they work toward unified commerce. Over half (54%) of retailer respondents desire an extremely flexible checkout platform, but only 10% respondents say they currently offer that level of flexibility (Figure 7). In fact, almost one in five (17%) characterize their current POS platform as having very little or no flexibility.
Building a single view of customers
Retailers who know their customers can easily provide optimal shopping experiences consistently across channels. The capability of building a single customer view helps retailers to learn about their customers by keeping data in one place on shopping habits and product preferences gathered from different channels. Almost half (47%) of retailers use a customized single data platform to build single views of customers across channels, while one in 10 (10%) opt for an off-the-shelf customer data platform (Figure 8). Despite the value of easily accessible single customer views, a third (33%) of retailer respondents do not currently have the capability to build single views of their customers across channels.
Unified commerce capabilities that matter most
Although uniform commerce platforms offer a variety of capabilities, retailers say that POS and e-commerce are the most important, with 74% and 59%, respectively, saying they are the top two important points (Figure 9). Few find other capabilities, including order management systems (OMS), inventory, product information management, workforce management, payment gateway, and content management system, as important to their organizations. Many of the retail respondents do not consider workforce management to be an important unified commerce platform capability, with almost two-thirds (64%) rating it as least important (ranked as in the last two).
Key benefits of unified commerce
Unified commerce platforms provide a host of benefits that help build customer relationships. Still, most retailers (76%) consider a seamless shopping experience to be one of the top two most important benefits (Figure 10). Over six in 10 (61%) also find a 360-degree view of the customer to be a key advantage despite a third of retailers not having this capability. Significantly fewer respondents consider increased basket size and reduced time spent on integration or maintenance to be important benefits.
Unified commerce capabilities: upgrade status
With continuous advancements in technology, upgrading unified commerce capabilities is vital in providing customers with an optimal shopping experience. Most have upgraded or are in the process of upgrading real-time order and inventory visibility across channels (80%) and unified pricing and promotions (76%) (Figure 11). Retailers also appear to appreciate the importance of learning about their customers, as many have at least started major upgrades to capabilities related to data-driven insights (67%) and unified customer views across channels (63%). Clienteling and virtual assistance are capabilities few or no retailers have upgraded, with over four in 10 (41%) and a third (33%), respectively, having no plans to do so. However, over half (57%) of retailers have plans to upgrade virtual assistance capabilities within the next 24 months.
What does ‘unified commerce’ mean to you?
We have got your response
This study was conducted from June 16 through the end of June 2022, targeting retail executives from both large- and small-scale retail chains. Almost half (47%) of respondents work at retail companies with at least $1 billion in annual revenues, and over a third (37%) have more than $5 billion (Figure 12).
Respondents were recruited across specialty (30%), grocery or convenience or drug (23%), mass market or general merchandise or discount (20%), and apparel (20%) retail segments, with 7% categorizing themselves as ‘other’ (Figure 13).
Almost half (47%) of respondents work in IT or technology (Figure 14), with over half (53%) having a job title of vice president or higher (Figure 15), and a third (33%) are directors.
The research threw up some interesting findings. They include:
77%) of respondents said unified commerce means a ‘seamless experience and consistent data.’
3% retailers are only providing a ‘truly unified experience’ currently, with most at different stages of working toward that goal — 60% are ’a work in progress’ and 23% are ’close to providing a truly unified experience’.
30%, or less than a third of retailers describe their organizations as being very or extremely invested in the unified commerce space.
33%, or about a third, do not have single views of their customers available to them.
61% of retailers consider a 360-degree view of customers an important unified commerce platform benefit.
74%, or about three-fourths of retailers rate POS as the most important unified commerce platform capability, followed by ecommerce (59%).
Your ticket to omnichannel success
To remain competitive, retailers will have to accelerate the process of creating their ideal unified commerce environment.
As technology advances, retailers have more opportunities to connect with their customers through various channels, offering them the convenience of shopping ‘anywhere at any time’. Customers are looking for a consistent shopping experience regardless of the channel they choose. Most retailers understand the importance of making that seamless experience available to their customers, but only a few are currently equipped to deliver it. However, there are many retailers working toward that goal by starting or upgrading their unified commerce technologies.