Retail Transformation

Are You Ready For “Unified Commerce”?

Casper Fopp Casper Fopp 4 min read
Are You Ready For “Unified Commerce”?

Experts agree, it’s time to drop the “e-” and simply call it “commerce.” The process for shopping and purchasing goods and services from a retailer through a website compared to physically in the store does not differ greatly. Ideally, online and offline commerce should be part of a seamless journey that consumers use to find and purchase the right product for their needs. While this sounds amazing, the reality is that retailers are struggling to implement the concept of seamless commerce. “Legacy systems” and “outdated infrastructure” are mentioned as the biggest barriers to realizing a true omnichannel experience. How can retailers overcome these obstacles?

 

This article in Furniture Today calls it “seamless retail;” other industry publications call it ‘omni-channel’ or “multi-channel.” All these terms essentially describe what retailers are experiencing every day – consumers don’t go shopping, they are shopping, anywhere and anytime!

 

According to Forrester Research, “More than half of retail sales are influenced by digital.” While back in the day it was enough to simply unlock the door and “Open for Business” each morning, today’s retailer has to be active on many fronts. Big box retail has invested huge sums into developing omnichannel and seamless experiences. Now Main Street retail has to compete.

 

Find The Disconnect!

 

Consumers don’t understand why products can show a different price between a retailer’s website, floor tags, and in-store tools or care why it’s set up this way. All they know is that it’s a poor experience and they lose trust in the business. As a result, your Sales Associates in the showroom gets to look at countless smartphones, just to admit that the price quoted on the website is indeed much lower than the price on display.

 

This McKinsey & Company report concludes, “Over half of all customer interactions happen during a multi-event, multi-channel journey.”

 

With ideas flowing freely among teams, it’s imperative that data can flow freely as well,” says this article describing obstacles of the omnichannel experience. Most retailers report that legacy systems and data silos prevent them from offering true omnichannel commerce.

 

Why Is Product Content Syndication So Crucial?

 

It all starts and ends with product data. Your merchandise is the most important aspect of your business and the core of everything. Keeping product content, pricing, inventory levels, and data such as alternative images and cross-sell attributions constantly synchronized can be a tedious and repetitive task. 

 

While Sales Associates may be able to wing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) data or the lack thereof, this can’t be done for product data and pricing. Consumers want to know what product they’re getting at what price. It is time-consuming to always keep your website, marketplace ads (i.e. Google Shopping and Amazon), in-store devices, and other systems up-to-date. Find a central data repository that allows changes to be made and information to be pushed to a multitude of connected services and devices.

 

Product associations menu in Catalog App Manager platform

Up-sell and cross-sell dashboard on Catalog App Manager to associate items across in-store devices & websites

 

It begins with automated feed management that should be provided by the product content syndication platform. Discontinued items should be removed on a daily basis to make sure new statuses synchronize to all connected systems automatically, saving countless hours of processing. The platform should also provide data related to the addition of new items and automated kitting of items such as beds, sectionals, groups, and common packages.  Find a partner that does not need to be contacted every time there are revisions. For example changes to “collection” or “lifestyle” association, updates to “fluff” or “romance copy”, and price information should be managed in a User Interface (UI) that can be synchronized to all endpoints.

 

In today’s digital world, consumers expect product suggestions. Popular e-commerce websites use “you may also like” suggestions that increase the average order value (AOV) or average ticket size, with some systems offering related-items to constitute an up-sell. When customers look at a sofa, the system can be configured to suggest a sofa and loveseat combo, or even the sectional version in the same series. Make sure associations can be managed since valuable combinations are not always obvious, depend on consumers’ tastes and trends, and certain associations require modifications.

 

Use The Right Tool For The Job

In-store kiosk displaying error message

Example: The ”kiosk experience” at a big brand retailer. Slapping a website on an in-store touchscreen device isn’t a good idea.

 

While your website is a critical component to the success of your omnichannel. It is imperative to make sure the right tool is used for the right job. Still, to this day, too many retailers believe the answer is offering their website as an in-store tool to demonstrate the “endless aisle” or combat narrow assortment.

 

Chances are very high that customers have already browsed your website at home prior to coming into your store. Offering customers the same experience that could have easily been done from the comfort of their home and/or on a personal device only results in disappointment. The in-store experience should be unique, giving consumers a reason to come to the store!

 

Your website should be responsive and mobile-accelerated to make sure visitors don’t bounce and actually convert, while your in-store application should provide more than just a SKU lookup. Ideally, it should allow guests to explore, spend time in the store, and discover new items they didn’t consider before coming to the store. All these traits will help to result in higher average ticket size and an increased close rate.

 

While some of this lingo might sound difficult to achieve, getting started is actually pretty simple. Cut the job into bite-sized chunks and pick a place to start. The following infographic highlights five key areas that can be tackled individually and very quickly.

 

Infographic showing 5 easy steps to achieving unified commerce

 

Are you interested in utilizing a product content syndication platform that feeds unified product and pricing information to your in-store kiosks, Sales Associates’ tablets, e-commerce website, and marketplace accounts? Shoot us a note to chat more about it.