E-commerce, on-site, and remote sales are all vital to today's buyer experience. In fact, B2B buyers now interact with merchants through ten or more channels, making omnichannel the new normal in B2B sales.
This shift has forced B2B businesses to rethink their processes and prioritise the omnichannel sales experience. While this is a step in the right direction, it also means businesses are missing out on the opportunity to garner valuable cross-channel insights that can truly transform their omnichannel sales experience.
Unified commerce solves this issue and provides the foundation that supports the creation of more seamless, consistent and personalised omnichannel experiences.
What is unified commerce?
Unified commerce is a business strategy that integrates all customer-facing channels and backend systems into a single platform. This platform allows businesses to manage customer data in a single repository, creating a unified customer profile and providing a comprehensive view of customer behaviour and purchase history.
By connecting these channels and backend systems and enabling them to communicate in real-time, businesses provide customers with a more seamless, consistent, and personalised omnichannel sales experiences.
What is omnichannel commerce?
Omnichannel commerce is a sales approach that integrates multiple online and offline customer-facing channels and systems to create a seamless and consistent experience across all channels. This approach allows customers to purchase products and services from any channel they choose while still having access to the same information and features. It enables every channel to relate to one another so that customers can switch easily between channels and experience a seamless shopping experience.
For example, a customer may find a product online, but if they need more information, they can seamlessly switch to a physical store to ask questions and make a purchase. Similarly, customers can start their shopping journey in a physical store and easily switch to an online channel to complete the purchase.
Omnichannel vs unified commerce – What’s the difference?
It’s easy to see why unified and omnichannel commerce are used interchangeably and seen as the same. They share the same goal of providing a more seamless and consistent experience across all sales channels
The critical distinction between the two is how each strives to reach this goal and the outcomes they can provide. Omnichannel synchronises front-end systems to communicate and deliver a consistent experience to buyers across multiple channels. This includes providing a consistent look, feel, and messaging across all channels, as well as offering a consistent set of services and products.
Unified commerce is considered by many to be an evolution of this approach as it takes things a step further. It integrates all aspects of a business's operations (back and front-end) and customer relationships across all channels and devices into a single platform.
Ultimately, by unifying all systems and data into one centralised platform and enabling real-time communication between these systems, unified commerce offers a more holistic approach to managing a business that allows for a more unified customer experience.
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Key benefits of unified commerce
Improved customer experience: Unified commerce provides customers with a seamless, hyper-customised and consistent experience across all channels, resulting in higher customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Product consistency: Unified commerce enables real-time updates to inventory and pricing information to ensure customers always see the most up-to-date product information, regardless of which channel they use. This information includes product descriptions, prices, delivery options, stock availability, payment options and more.
Increased operational efficiency: Unified commerce systems help improve operational efficiency by streamlining processes and allowing for better inventory and order management.
Greater visibility: Unified commerce provides a single and real-time view into customer orders, inventory levels, and sales performance. This enables better decision-making and the ability to react faster to changes in customer needs.
Enhanced personalisation: Unified commerce provides businesses with access to richer and more detailed customer data. This enables them to better understand customer behaviour and offer more relevant, engaging and contextual experiences on every channel.
Simpler data management: Unified commerce solves one of the most challenging issues brought about by omnichannel commerce: reconciling incomplete, contradictory, or duplicated customer data from multiple systems. This ensures businesses always have access to accurate customer information and reduces the time spent on reconciliation.
Making unified commerce a reality: what challenges await?
The potential rewards of unified commerce are immense, but the implementation process has its own set of challenges. Before taking the plunge, businesses need to consider the potential difficulties that can arise while transitioning to unified commerce.
Integrating multiple platforms: B2B businesses often have multiple platforms in place, such as inventory management, order processing, and customer relationship management (CRM) software. Implementing a unified commerce approach requires the effective integration of all these platforms.
Cost: Creating a single unified commerce system requires considerable investment in terms of IT infrastructure and staffing. This is often a barrier for small to medium-sized businesses. However, new technologies and unified commerce platforms are emerging that are simple to integrate and cost effective.
Complexity: Unifying all the systems and processes involved in a business can be a complex task. It requires a deep understanding of the different systems and processes, as well as strong project management skills.
Data security: As unified commerce systems integrate multiple platforms and data sources, there is a higher risk of data security breaches. Businesses need to ensure that appropriate security measures are in place to protect customer data.
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