The retail sector is all about omnichannel and unified commerce right now. Bolstered by mobilization of retail, digital commerce has placed the power in customer’s hands. The latter is now dictating changes in the market. As the retail landscape is becoming more and more competitive, marketers need to minutely analyze the pressures, plus points as well as pitfalls regarding each and every marketing strategy.
Customer experience is a decisive factor
Statistics highlight that 89% of businesses are expecting to be competing with each other solely on customer experience in the near future. Subsequently, the decision to adopt either the omnichannel model or take advantage of unified commerce becomes crucial for the survival of businesses.
Defining the omnichannel model
Ken Morris, the co-founder of Boston Retail Partners, is often considered as a reference in the retail sector. His definition of the omnichannel model is that businesses offer “multiple channels” that do not converge into one piece of software, thus giving “many versions of the truth”.
In other words, omnichannel refers to a type of retail that offers different methods of shopping such as, online, in a physical store or by phone etc, aiming at improving customer experience. Multiple channels are combined together to offer a seamless experience to clients. However, if these channels do not work together, the model is not considered as omnichannel.
For example, a business may have a well-designed website, a blog, and social media pages which it may use to connect with customers. Yet, if the messages are not consistent with each other and the customer experience is not seamless, it cannot be referred to as an omnichannel model.
Businesses adopting the omnichannel strategy have to align their messaging and goals across each channel and device.
Designing your omnichannel infrastructure
Each business has to develop its own unique omnichannel infrastructure. There is a complete set of strategies and planning that need to be aligned with input from every department. The stakeholders are executives, the IT department, the marketing department, customer service and staff directly too. The latter have to understand your omnichannel goal for smooth transition.
Examples of businesses having successfully implemented omnichannel
Disney does not spare the least detail. Their website is mobile-responsive and their trip-planning website is mobile-friendly too. You can plan everything: from where you will eat to getting your Fast Pass. Disney allows users to use the mobile app to locate attractions while they are in the park. They can even view the approximate amount of time they need to reach at various locations. Disney’s Magic Band program is another tool that allows customers to use it as a hotel room key, a photo storage device and even to order food.
Starbucks is another example of a company having successfully adopted the omnichannel. With its reward app, whenever clients make a purchase, they have the opportunity to get a free rewards card. This card can be checked and reloaded via phone, website, in-store or on the app itself. Any change pertaining to the card is automatically updated across all channels available in real-time.
Defining the unified commerce
Unified commerce has become the latest trend in marketing. 2017 is even considered as the year of unified commerce. What is it all about?
Unified commerce is a strategy whereby all business logistics are collected in a homogenous manner. The various channels pick up and send data to a central engine. In other words, the same information is to be found in a physical store as well as the web, for example. Since all data converge towards one central engine, there is no need for manual administration of information; data is shared in real-time, avoiding congestions.
Retailers, today, can no longer afford to operate various channels in silos. The unified commerce platform becomes the consolidation point for absolutely all transactions, pricing, order management, inventory and call center amongst others.
Mobile device is the focal point in unified commerce
A mobile device holds numerous opportunities to enhance customer experience. It is the bridge between in-store and digital experience. In the 2016 Annual E-commerce Survey conducted by Boston Retail Partners, it has been demonstrated that 45% of respondents of the survey consider that mobile websites have the most influence on revenue, and they are preferred over mobile apps. Customers need a really compelling reason to download an app and launch it when needed. However, this does not apply for retailers with larger products offerings as well as related customers who find mobile app more convenient.
Designing your unified commerce infrastructure
Setting up a unified commerce platform will undeniably require considerable organizational change to support new business processes within the physical store. Store operations are more likely to experience significant change compared to e-commerce operations.
Examples of businesses having successfully adopted unified commerce
The online-retail colossus is constantly trying to extend its reach and enhance customer service. In this breath, Amazon has launched Prime Now, Alexa, Fire TV as well as music and video streaming amongst other products and services. Currently, it is experimenting with cashier-less shopping, physical book and grocery stores, integrating drone delivery services. Showrooms are endowed with Augmented Reality/ Virtual Reality assistance to make shopping experience as pleasing as possible.
Wal-Mart is another example of a company having adopted the unified commerce platform. The aim is to make customers regard the different departments as one Wal-Mart and thus, as one easy and seamless experience across the app, the website and the store or club.
Article published in E-commerce
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