Today’s always-connected consumers are setting the pace for ecommerce, mcommerce and the future of retail with their unbounded power, knowledge and authority. And that pace is accelerating at an ever increasing rate.
How can retailers and brands possibly keep up with today’s customers?
They’re unpredictable. Impulsive. Their shopping journey is random. Customers research, interact and shop a brand according to their preferred channels – more and more are adopting ecommerce in their path to purchase with online and mobile shopping, others love the fact that you can now buy directly on social channels, and most still prefer the physical, in-store experience. But now, more than ever, customers are zigzagging across multiple channels and touchpoints. There’s no rhyme or reason.
How can today’s retailers ensure that every customer that interacts with their brand - regardless of where or how they shop – is being met with a consistent, personalized and engaging shopping experience?
And how can traditional brick and mortars fight back with digital experiences that outshine the competition to boost loyalty and sales?
78% of retailers agree a unified commerce platform is the answer
The results of a 2015 e-commerce benchmark survey by Boston Retail Partners indicated that modern retail is actually much more than e-commerce. It’s about converging digital and physical touchpoints. And 78% of respondents made it clear that within the next five years they would be unifying ecommerce and in-store experiences with enterprise cloud commerce platforms.
Like everything in the world of retail, from trends to store location to inventory levels, the need to unify ecommerce and in-store experiences is a response to customer expectations and demand. Quite simply, customers seek a customized, seamless experience, wherever, whenever and however they are shopping.
Customer experiences: The competitive advantage for modern retailers
Retailers realize the importance of being able to offer engaging and differentiating shopping experiences, like Sports Experts’ interactive shoe wall that empowers customers to discover rich product information and in-store availability. While many retailers are dedicating time and dollars to this effort, they admit there’s still a way to go.
If someone can’t find an item in your store that they’ve seen on your website or mobile app, can your store associate access that information on the spot, and find a way to get it into their hands as fast as possible? If a customer is having trouble completing an order online,can they call or open a chat and have a customer sales rep pull up the information in real-time and help complete the purchase right then and there? Simple. Seamless. Satisfying.
The majority of retailers are listening and prioritizing accordingly
Retailers know what they need to do, the challenge is determining the best way how. There’s much confusion surrounding the various solutions on the market that have evolved as new digital touchpoints continue to change retail as we know it. Multi-channel, cross-channel, omni-channel, unified commerce -what’s the difference?
The truth is in the name: multi-channel, cross-channel, omni-channel are all buzzwords that apply to modern retail, but they are channel-centric and cannot solve for true unified ecommerce and in-store experiences. Which is why unified commerce is the the future of retail success, because it’s customer-centric, not channel-focused. And the one thing that is guaranteed is that the customer is and always will be at the core of every retailer's success or failure.
Boston Retail Partners explored the topic of customer experience and the evolution of unified commerce with leading retailers in their 2016 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Benchmark Survey. It is clear that delivering excellent, holistic experiences is a main challenge, and 51% confirmed it is their top priority this year.
For the customer, an excellent experience means a cohesive, channel-agnostic shopping journey every time they interact with a brand. Whether they are browsing in store and buying online, or browsing on their mobile while shopping in-store, the only way for retailers to ensure their customers remain loyal is to offer a holistic experience, from search to order fulfillment to post-order customer service, consistency is key. And that means a single version of the truth spread across every point of customer interaction with your brand. In other words, unified commerce.
One version of the truth; 360-degree veiw of the customers, and a single customer shopping journey connected in real time. Every channel, every touchpoint, including mobile, web and store and whatever comes next. Unified commerce is "The nirvana".