The days of Omnichannel are over. Welcome to the age of unified commerce !
Multi-channel, cross-channel, single-channel: all terms that form an integral part of industry jargon and reflect who we are as retailers and professionals.
But venture onto any social media platform, and you’ll find consumers who are completely unaware of the technical lingo, but manage to perfectly sum up the concept:
“I went into a store and fell in love with a jacket. It was a little pricey, but I bought it anyway. When I got home, I opened my email and found a special offer from the same brand. The sales assistant didn’t even tell me about the offer when she swiped my loyalty card.”
“Slow clap for @Telecomobile.com Their phone prices are all over the place. The in-store price is way more expensive than the one online. And the sales consultant told me she couldn’t do anything about it! What’s the point in physical stores, other than attracting new clients? I’ve been a loyal @opérateurtéléphonique.com customer for years, with zero benefits.”
“Wow. We ordered a table on the @Furniture.com website, with click and collect that same day. We get there and the salesperson tells us ‘Oh, we actually only had one table in stock and it was reserved in-store so we can’t let you have it’. Umm, guys? I’ve actually PAID FOR THE TABLE?!?!?!”
“Homeappliances.com ripped me off. They made me pay up for delivery before Christmas, but on 24/12 my order STILL hadn’t been dispatched. And I couldn’t even use their website to re-order for click and collect.”
These comments are clearly embarrassing for the brands in question. But as we all know, clients are at their most vocal when they’re angry.
It is clear that what they are looking for is a unified commerce experience, rather than a single-channel approach: sales that are structured around their needs and preferences. Armed with their smartphones, today’s clients are at the very heart of sales channels. “The client IS the channel,” according to some brands such as American giant Target.
The world of sales has undergone a veritable revolution since 1997, when the Internet first arrived in France. Those were the days when you would pay thirty-odd Francs* for half an hour in an Internet café, a pre-Google era. Twenty years later, users are now ‘Mobile First‘, and sometimes even ‘Mobile Only’. Some younger consumers are 100% ‘Mobile Always‘: online users who have only ever experienced the Internet through their phones.
For retail professionals, these rapid, radical changes are inevitably difficult to keep up with, and even harder to anticipate. At the start of this year, the world’s biggest retail trade show, the NRF Big Show in New York, presented attendees with a slew of innovations: a trolley equipped with a touchscreen designed to display personalised special offers that scans products so customers can pay without having to use a till, and an app that connects online users with a ‘real-life’ sales assistant at a bricks-and-mortar store via video call.
But prior to going to market alongside these many new pieces of software, assessing the existing offer is essential. There’s no point in adding layer after layer of endless components and ‘Quick Wins‘, ultimately resulting in a tangled, complex web with no added value for the customer: this lies at the heart of the dissatisfaction seen in the quotes given at the start of this article.
We know that in-store purchases are often inspired by things seen online, and that this phenomenon is set to grow over the next few years. The process from screen to store needs to be absolutely seamless, and to achieve this, stores and websites need to share the same data and the same checkout process. Retailers who decide to go down a different route will be complicating matters for themselves, and will waste time and money while offering a second-rate consumer experience.
Global competitiveness no longer pits the large against the small, but the fast against the slow.
And if you want to be on the fast team, Unified Commerce is the way forward.
Unified Commerce isn’t about cramming online sales, OMS and POS experiences together, forcing them to work on an as-and-when basis with their own ring fenced set of data. Unified Commerce is about developing a cross-functional solution shared by both online and physical stores, based on a single, connected basket that is specific to each consumer, rather than each individual sales channel. Unified Commerce is the way to ensure consumer satisfaction.
By taking this approach, consumers are able to instantly find the products they are looking for across all contact points (website, stores, marketplaces) and can mix and match different delivery and payment methods in a single checkout basket.