“Frankenstacks” or Unified Commerce. Choose a side!

Frankenstacks: this portmanteau coined by Imtiaz Mohammady (Forbes Technology Council) is loud in meaning when it comes to describing the accumulation of bricks of software over time. Alas, a common mechanism, that had led too many retailers to segment their information system, causing it to evolve sporadically….

This is how a lot of retailers today end up with paradoxically “disconnected” e-commerce solutions; because they are cut off from the field and the brand’s physical stores.

So yes, certain services are displayed in catalogues (click & collect, e-reservation, ship from store and ship to store etc.) but in reality, they do not meet the expectations – at least not for the customer – who does not benefit from a smooth experience. There is no real-time view over the availability of products based on the brand’s global stock, there is an inability to mix different delivery methods within a single order, it’s not possible to return an item purchased online in one of the brand’s stores (buy online, return in-store), there is a lack of monitoring purchasing preferences when switching from one channel to another

What does the customer want? To discover, buy and receive their products whatever the channel.

This shapes into tangible services. First, deliver the promise (availability and delivery right from) from the product sheet by relying on the unified stock (central warehouse stock and store stock) of the brand.
Another example, in 2020, consumers will not wait five days to collect a product from the store. Rather than systematically offering (by default) free collection in store within 2 to 5 days, merchants must offer an express collection within a few hours, or as soon as possible, by relying on store stock.
Finally, the Unified Basket, still far from being popular, allows the customer to choose home delivery for a first item and collection in store for a second, within the same order. Why constrain the customer to creating two orders and therefore two payments?

As you can see, the expectations of consumers are “simple” and very clear. End of last year, we commissioned Forrester for a survey which compared the standpoints of retailers with those of their customers. In this survey we learn that 82% of consumers want to know the availability of products online and in-store and that they expect flexibility on delivery, whether it arrives to their homes (89%), in the store of their choice (67%) or at a pick-up point (61%).

The new Unified Commerce platforms will allow you as traders to bring 2 worlds together: physical and digital.

Behind the scenes, a unified commerce platform must address to five major challenges:

  • It acts as a single sales platform to serve all channels: e-commerce, mobile, store sales, social networks, IoT, etc. It will offer a unified basket, but also a mobile basket so that the consumer can, for example, create an order on their phone and find an identical order when they enter the store
  • It plays the role of middleware to unify and connect your information system: the IS client (CRM, loyalty program, marketing automation), the IS product (PIM) and the IS “all in all”: ERP, WMS, TMS etc.
  • It aggregates all your data for each sale: stock data, product data, customer data, order data, return data, etc. As much information as necessary to display availability on the product page as we mentioned above, but also to better predict future sales (and therefore feed in ideas for future collections), or even generate personalised recommendations
  • It includes an order orchestrator, which juggles between stocks, orders, and deliveries, allowing you to independently optimise your delivery strategy
  • And it includes a unified payment system (on and offline).

Aside from mechanically reducing IT costs, this Unified Commerce platform will reduce the rate of abandoned orders of your consumers, improve your conversion rate and optimise your margins through better logistics organisation.
Almost half – 43% to be precise – of you plan to switch to a Unified Commerce solution this year [+ link to the previous article]. If you are thinking about redesigning your e-commerce platform, think bigger, think Unified Commerce and encompass the physical world; your store network remains your best asset. This involves integrating new elements into your redesign: product promise, unified basket, unified stock, orchestration process, seller application, inventory management, store reservation, store withdrawal, ship to store, ship from store, flow transfer between online and offline, management of omnichannel returns, etc.

To conclude, a Unified Commerce project mobilises e-commerce management, digital management, network management, the stores, IT management, etc. simultaneously. This is, therefore, a business project.