Unified Commerce: Bringing your omnichannel offering to the next level

What you need to know about digital capabilities, customer fulfilment and compliance to be successful in the world of commerce

The changing world of commerce

Over the last few years, consumer business has been much like a rollercoaster, with new technologies offering promising opportunities and with increasing customer expectations. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated these trends, with unprecedented challenges such as lockdowns, reduced consumer mobility and disrupted supply chains. Online sales increased rapidly while physical stores were closed. Brick and mortar stores were turned into distribution centres in order to offer click and collect services. All these developments have further impacted consumer expectations, who are demanding an even more seamless experience between offline and online channels than before. They request unlimited availability, same-day delivery and similar service levels across channels and sellers. For them, it’s the product and the speed of delivery that counts – not the party that offers, sells and supports the goods. 

Example: endless aisle
Responding to these increasing expectations requires an end-to-end approach. For instance, let’s have a look at the endless aisle concept. The customer is at the check-out with most items on the wish list. However, some items are out of stock. Instead of shopping at another store or coming back in a few days, what the customer really wants is to order the missing goods, have them delivered at home, and pay for everything at once. This is endless aisle and it is one of the examples of what we call Unified Commerce – the next level of maturity in a seamless consumer journey. Other instances are in-store web returns, ship from store, payment across channels, and sharing customer profiles over all channels to facilitate the customer journey. This all will lead to a seamless consumer journey across the owned brand and reseller in an online and offline manner 

The challenges of Unified Commerce

Many retailers are already experimenting with Unified Commerce. New technologies and cloud capabilities offer the required scalability, innovation and speed. However, there is more to Unified Commerce than meets the eye. It is like an iceberg: we can only see its tip – such as the innovative mobile app to enhance the customer journey, which is about 10% of the iceberg. The other 90%, below the surface, is where we find the true value (possibility to succeed in operational excellency) – and the true complexity – of Unified Commerce.

Especially for established businesses that might have difficulty combining legacy systems with innovative power, and that need to make several vital decisions concerning transparency, risk appetite, and inventory partnerships (each with their own operating models, legacy systems, and supply chains). Also, they might get stuck in a siloed approach and compliance issues (e.g. for cross-border transactions).

How to start?

This is why a holistic and agile approach to Unified Commerce is crucial. Successful players need to determine what role their business can play in the future, what digital capabilities are required for that role, and what choices need to be made in the field of customer fulfilment and compliance. For instance, will the business operate on a local or a global level in the future? This is an essential question in regard to compliance issues. What kind of experience should the business offer, both online and in the physical store?

Next steps towards Unified Commerce

Once the strategy is clear – and aligned with the IT strategy - it is easier to determine the steps and required capabilities to get there. The first step could be e-commerce border fulfilment, followed by transparency. Next steps could then be whether to build e.g. a reservation system, maybe followed by a capability for platinum members. Once you have your own cross-border entity, it could be interesting to build capabilities for sales via third party channels.

The value of each step will be unlocked by pilot projects, followed by a full-scale roll out across channels and geographies. What could be helpful, is a new business model and maybe even a different company culture. Some retailers have switched from a siloed approach to agile teams (with experts on e.g. digital capabilities and operations) that solve a particular challenge and then split up again. It is important to first determine both the business strategy as IT strategy together with a clear view on the current state of the present capabilities.

More or less every retail brand is having capabilities present in this area already, which should considered to use. An assessment needs to be done - based on the direction and current state - to determine if the focus should be on uplifting technology capabilities, legal/tax implications, the supply chain processes and/or to optimize enabling functions in general. Taking into account what brings the most value towards the end customer. It is a best practice to think big, but act small by adding incrementally  elements out of the unified commerce toolkit like: cross-border fulfilment, in-store web returns, ship from store, payment across channels. 

What digital capabilities do you need to be succesful in the world of commerce?

Do you know what digital capabilities you need to be succesful in the world of commerce? When discussing capabilities for Unified Commerce, we are referring to a combination of people, processes, data, mission statement, and technology, and a wide variety of (digital) skills and expertise. Download our PDF to learn more about how you can determine which capabilities you need, in-house or not and the benefits of leveraging cloud capabilities.

What you need to know about digital capabilities

Is customer fulfilment a differentiator for your business?

How can customer fulfilment become a differentiator for your business? Knowing your consumers’ preferences in the fields of purchasing, delivery and return will determine your competitive edge and future success. Learn more about the wide range of fulfilment options, the complex choices you will face, how important internal alignment is and the (required) collaborations with third parties. Download our deep dive to discover more about customer fulfilment!

Customer fulfilment as a differentiator

What compliance challenges should you take into account when offering true Unified Commerce?

One of the most challenging aspects of Unified Commerce is compliance. It’s one thing to understand the tax implications when consumers buy a product online but want to pick it up or have it delivered by a store close to their home, but what if they decide that they want to return a product in-store when it was initially purchased online? Download this deep dive to learn more about the most urgent challenges that you should be aware of if you want to offer true Unified Commerce such as; fiscalisation, transfer pricing, reconciliation of returns, and contract set-up and management. 

Awareness of compliance challenges
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