Unified commerce: A synchronized brand experience.
Integrated, measurable, and frictionless. Unified commerce consolidates all your channels, payment systems, products, and customer interactions to deliver seamless experiences beyond omnichannel shopping. Read on for what to consider and how to approach a unified commerce strategy for your enterprise.
What to consider and how to approach a unified commerce strategy.
As part of the customer experience, a unified commerce strategy allows retailers to unify their branding across all digital touchpoints.
Unified commerce is the syncing of online and retail spaces. It connects all of an organization’s sales channels and consolidates operational backend systems to create customer experiences that are a true extension of your brand.
Customer experience and brand unity throughout the sales ecosystem are the results of a unified commerce strategy. Businesses achieve these results by designing and creating a flexible and dynamic technical architecture. This framework connects systems and data across the company, ensuring that the information needed to pivot with customer desires and business obligations is readily accessible.
“When the commerce enterprise is designed with unification and rapid change in mind, it’s clear that the focus needs to shift away from customer journeys through different channels – and towards an interconnected architecture that allows all systems to work in harmony and accommodate changes rapidly.” - Broadleaf Commerce, Unified Commerce: The Speed of Change.
Business considerations for unified commerce
Suppose your organization is contemplating a unified commerce strategy. In that case, there are three areas of consideration to investigate during design and implementation, as per Broadleaf Commerce’s report.
Legacy systems and processes
In any digital transformation or architecture changes, every business will bump up against legacy programs, systems and processes that they will need to make decisions around. One of the most significant scope decisions will center around whether or not the existing systems can be modified to work with the overall unified architecture or if those systems must be removed and replaced. Typical, this is not an easy or emotionless decision. Many businesses have decades of investments, and the existing systems have proven reliable. That data is not easily dismissed.
Creating integrations that connect the older systems to the newer architecture is a cost-effective and common approach to modernizing legacy systems. A word of caution: Adding integrations and adaptors can create extra layers to the infrastructure and make future changes and ongoing maintenance more complex.
Intentional channel differentiation
Once you start discovery and strategy, make sure to take time to consider any business-justified differences between channels. It is an easy trap to fall into, thinking that every channel experience should be the same, no matter the platform audience. But, not all customers see it the same way, and not all channels have the same technical needs.
As an example: A remote kiosk used primarily as an awareness tool should probably have access to the entire company’s inventory for browsing or ordering, but being able to support returns may be more trouble than it’s worth for that situation.
It’s essential to take these kinds of business limitations or goals into account when designing the unified commerce experience across channels.
From a physical store point of view, intentional differentiation can also make sense when a business has different store layouts or specialty stores different from their main store configurations. Kiosks, pop-up stores, and delivery systems may have specific purposes or limitations that will need careful consideration when designing a unified commerce strategy. Having a flexible core architecture allows for variation and is key to enabling a catered experience to differentiate the brand as dictated by each channel use case.
Investment and support
With any digital change and transformation, every stakeholder within the business must be on board for change. Every member of the organization must understand and embrace the strategy as part of its DNA. To get that kind of buy-in, a business needs a person who drives, controls and nurtures that desire for change.
“Organizations with digital transformation at the forefront of business priorities succeed because they are willing to make the necessary time, resource, and talent investments and are committed to working through the challenging steps required to accomplish their overall goals.” - Broadleaf Commerce, Unified Commerce: The Speed of Change.
Thoughtful and thorough stakeholder interviews are an excellent tool for garnering full support for any digital transformation project.
Beyond buy-in, business leaders with the desire for change must make careful budget considerations while adequately managing expectations. Unified commerce transformations take weeks or even months and require significant investments.
How to approach unified commerce change
There are two ways of approaching the architecture and systems changes a business will need to create a complete and effective unified commerce methodology and achieve the desired outcome of brand synchronicity across all channels.
Rip and replace
When using a rip and replace method, an organization will set up the new system entirely on its own, find the cleanest integration points in and out of the system, then “flip the switch” from using the old system to the new.
This might sound like an easy way to overhaul an existing enterprise commerce system, but in reality, it can be a complex, time-consuming and expensive solution.
The simple truth is that many businesses cannot manage the volume of changes and integrations all at once — especially when trying to get legacy systems, finance, and supply-chain systems to align together seamlessly. Personnel requirements are quite often overlooked. You need the staff to keep the older system running and have another workforce build the new systems. Then, you will need a clear and detailed migration plan for the big switch. The actual migration must be flawless or expensive delays, rollbacks, and data compiling exercises will drag the launch date on and on.
Incremental and continuous improvements
A far more common approach to creating a unified commerce ecosystem for enterprises is to plan the transformation incrementally. A project is broken down into manageable, meticulously planned sprints, launches, and iterations using an Agile development approach. As each phase is brought to life, this often means that parts of the existing ecosystem are decommissioned. The key to incremental approaches is to ensure the entire business is on board with the perceived pace of the overall initiative, so there is support, understanding, and participation at every stage.
If your organization is ready to start exploring a unified commerce strategy, the first step is to reach out to our consultants. They can answer any questions you might have about creating the right integrations to make your commerce ecosystem the best that it can be while respecting legacy processes and systems that have to stay.