NRF. GELF. ShopTalk. At the biggest industry events so far this year, the omnichannel story was still very much present. However, in the spirit of open debate, omnichannel is no longer the hot topic – nor should it be.
Take, for example, a hypothetical brand that has a few stores in major U.S. cities and a passable ecommerce experience. Its omnichannel discussion would likely focus on having both a connected physical and digital location, and possibly a ship-from-store solution. But in a market that can grow by double digits, this is simply not enough for it to expand its reach and explore new markets.
While omnichannel aspired to blur the lines between the physical and digital (and sometimes did so successfully), it came with great complexity and costs often not sustainable for retailers. Omnichannel focused heavily on the consumer experience without a complete view of the systems required to ensure both opportunity and profitability were properly optimized.
Unified commerce, on the other hand, provides retailers with global reach in any market; a single version of the truth for scenarios like sourcing and returns; and control over the hidden costs like shipping enablement that have crippled margins and ceded far too much ground to the likes of Amazon.
Let it be known that unified commerce doesn’t replace omnichannel. It simply extends beyond where omnichannel could go, delivering the final pieces of a puzzle that empowers retailers to:
Connect without compromise to any customer: reaching them anywhere in the world how, when and where they shop.
Engage in a way that’s personal and empowering in every moment: providing exceptional customer experience and associate productivity.
Deliver with agility on any opportunity, every time: capitalizing on what’s next from demand to delivery.
A unified, anywhere-to-everywhere commerce platform accelerates retailers into the area of highest growth like cross-border retail (25% YOY growth). It also finally unleashes the potential of existing systems like order and warehouse management through intelligent, optimized shipping and global sourcing, improving both productivity and margins.
What does Unified Commerce Look Like for the Consumer?
It may simply be about the act of shopping itself. However, shopping today should meet and exceed expectations anywhere in the world and across the entire shopping journey. Consumers expect the seamless and transparent service provided by retailers who intuitively understand them and their preferences.
According to the Pitney Bowes Global Online Shopping Study, 58% of consumers are more likely to shop online with retailers offering loyalty programs and premium memberships, and 54% are more likely to shop during a sale event. But that is only the start. Unified commerce also needs to provide payment methods of choice, a view into inventory, the best delivery method options and a consumer-friendly experience.
What Does It Look Like for the Retailer?
For retailers, unified commerce uses solutions that are proven, capable and scalable on a global commerce platform, such as:
- Solutions for cross border, marketplaces and shipping enablement
- Supporting services for marketing, payment and delivery
- Powerful APIs that locate, trade, ship and track
Global unified commerce is ultimately possible by unlocking the potential in existing investments and providing unmatched customer reach. This is how you deliver on your brand promise and build lasting loyalty in a world where the only constant is change.
Let’s revisit our hypothetical brand. In order to succeed in new markets and improve the ecommerce experience, it needs supporting services that deliver on consumer expectations and explore a unified commerce approach – not just omnichannel.
A platform that brings unified commerce to life must deliver a range of capabilities in order to create the kind of consumer experience that supports a stronger, growing business in a rapidly changing retail world.
Michael Griffiths is VP, Global Marketing & Communications, Retail & Ecommerce for Pitney Bowes