Holistic Customer Experience

Retailers recognize the need for a holistic customer experience that transcends channels, but most attempts are falling short.
Eighty-five percent of retailers indicate that unified commerce is a top priority, according to Boston Retail Partner’s (BRP) “2016 POS/Customer Engagement Survey.” However, many retailers have taken the “just get something done” approach to deliver a seamless customer experience across channels. The unfortunate result of this quick fix approach is a “faux” omnichannel model that doesn’t execute as promised and risks disappointing customers.

While BRP’s POS survey discovered that 60% of retailers have implemented inventory visibility across channels, 80% of those retailers report that the system needs improvement. This is a big problem. According to a recent article by the Washington Post, 60% of click-and-collect orders placed on Cyber Monday had issues.
Saddled with legacy systems that are not designed to accommodate today’s retail environment, retailers have cobbled systems and processes together to try to deliver the omnichannel capabilities customers expect. But to do it right, retailers need to invest in infrastructure, networks, and a service oriented architecture (SOA) layer. The risk of losing customers due to disappointing shopping experiences caused by flawed omnichannel architecture is deadly and that is why “real” unified commerce is retailers’ top priority for 2016.

Unified Commerce is the Holy Grail
Unified commerce goes one step beyond omnichannel, putting the customer experience first, breaking down the walls between internal channel silos, and leveraging a single commerce platform. The idea of a single, centralized, real-time platform for all customer engagement points is a key tenet of unified commerce. A unified commerce platform is not simply the future in-store or web platform, but combines POS, mobile, web, call center and clienteling into one single integrated platform.

The key to delivering a seamless and personalized customer experience is real-time retail. Today’s customer can quickly, but not yet effortlessly, navigate multiple touchpoints, and expects real-time feedback, whether it’s inventory, promotions or product recommendations to personalize their experience.

Many retailers have started down the omnichannel path by offering services emulating the expected seamless shopping experience, but in most cases the process is manual and involves complex integration across multiple systems and processes, and often doesn’t work well in real-time. Unfortunately, most retailers are finding it much harder than they thought to implement unified commerce services.

Retailers realize the importance of offering a true unified commerce environment to their customers but most have not reached that goal yet. Only 18% of the retailers surveyed in BRP’s “2016 POS Survey” indicate they have implemented a unified commerce/single commerce platform, and two-thirds of those companies indicated that it needs improvement. The good news is that 85% of retailers report that unified commerce is one of their top three priorities for 2016.

Retailers still have a long road ahead to achieve a successful unified commerce platform, but increased customer satisfaction and profits will make it worth the effort.