3 Reasons Why Unified Commerce is the Future of Retail


In today’s hyper-connected world, retailers — no matter where they are in their digital transformation journey — have more data at their fingertips than ever before thanks to smart sensors, IoT infrastructure, and other external applications. Digitization helps retailers deliver seamless, intelligent and fulfilling shopper experiences, but it’s imperative for data streams to be integrated properly for the most efficient operations.

As retailers continue to navigate the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, tightly integrated digital and non-digital strategies will enable them to win within a highly competitive market and future-proof their businesses. 

Here are three trends influencing retailers to unify their data and drive prescriptive and predictive, data-driven outcomes: 

1. Rise of New Fulfillment Options

Although buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS) and curbside pickup were growing before COVID-19, the pandemic accelerated consumer adoption of these service. According to a survey from Sensormatic Solutions, 33% of consumers planned to use fulfillment services like BOPIS and curbside pickup this past holiday season. Additionally, a McKinsey & Co. survey confirmed this momentum, with nearly 60% of US consumers who used BOPIS in 2020 saying they will continue to do so after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.

However, oftentimes the data for these services may be siloed, and systems aren’t talking to each other.  As more people rely on these fulfillment options, there has never been a greater need for retailers to have up-to-the-minute inventory data to successfully fulfill these orders. To capitalize on consumer demand, we’re seeing many of our customers unify all channels by adopting a single source of truth for data to maximize their experience and meet consumers where, when and how they want to shop.

By capturing data throughout the entire shopper journey, retailers can gain actionable insights to help them enable a unified and frictionless brand and customer experience, both online and in-store. For BOPIS and curbside transactions, this translates to accurate inventory counts (and fewer canceled transactions due to insufficient inventory) as well as optimized staffing during busy fulfillment hours and more.

2. Consumer Demand for Personalized Experiences

Brick and mortar must be designed with a technology infrastructure that delivers insights that parallel online experiences — and not just for inventory display. As consumers continue to be more purposeful than ever while shopping in-store and making the most out of every trip, personalized experiences are essential. From the fitting room to the endcaps to the BOPIS pickup, retailers must ensure the merchandise most relevant to the shopper is available and accessible to create a seamless experience. 

It’s not just a best practice – consumers are demanding it. According to a recent survey from to SmarterHQ, 72% of consumers say they now only engage with marketing messages that are personalized and tailored to their interests.

These processes can be revolutionized with the availability of real-time sensor data, machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI). These solutions can do everything from provide real-time information regarding inventory levels dropping below defined goals, out of stock conditions by SKU, to shoppers’ interactions with merchandise. However, doing well requires more and more data and the capability to turn the data into actionable insights.

3. Loss Prevention and Liability Considerations

According to the 2020 National Retail Security Survey, shrink is at an all-time high, accounting for 1.62%  of a retailer’s bottom line — costing the industry $61.7 billion. This is expected to grow due to the global pandemic, record unemployment, consumer desire to interact less with store associates and the rise in self-checkout.

According to the “Preparing for ORC Epidemic Post COVID-19” report by LP Magazine, we’ve seen this before. Following 9/11, there was a 16% increase in shoplifter referrals from court systems nationwide. During the 2008 financial crisis, we saw an even bigger increase, with a 34% jump in referrals from the criminal justice system. In fact, early in 2009, 84% of retailers reported seeing an increase in retail theft.

By integrating data on loss prevention and liability, inventory and the shopper journey, retailers can better understand internal and external trends in shrink. For instance, AI- and ML-powered computer vision cameras can provide retailers with real-time data and prescriptive insights on consumer traffic patterns like dwell time, lateral customer movement, customer directionality and average traffic counts.

Solution: Open, Secure and Agile Platforms

To succeed in the current COVID-19 reality and beyond, retailers must move beyond simply surviving. They can do this by adopting an open, secure and agile platform that integrates retailer, and third-party data sources, along with advanced technology such as AI and ML, to offer unparalleled visibility into operations and shopper insights. This combination will not only drive prescriptive, data-driven outcomes for retailers, but also create value and growth opportunities as retailers move into the future.

Kim Melvin is global leader of marketing for Sensormatic Solutions and its intelligent digital operating platform, Sensormatic IQ.

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