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Unified commerce the next step for retailers

Retailers should be adopting a unified platform and rethinking the value of stores if they want a true omni-channel business, says Demandware

More than 85% of retailers are looking to implement a unified platform in the next 10 years, according to Demandware.

Retailers are hoping to implement a new unified system to help with sharing customer data across organisations to promote a single customer view, the firm's research revealed.

“Innovation and the ways in which customers' interaction with your brand have increased over the past 20 years. What has surfaced is this concept of a unified platform,” said Demandware vice-president of industry strategy and insights Rob Garf. 

The aim is to increase customer engagement by monitoring and adapting customer experience based upon transactions and interactions throughout the customer journey, across all channels of the business.

This method works better for retailers in an e-commerce environment, as it can be difficult to track the same customer both on and offline.

“Over the next few years, 70% of retailers are looking to refresh point of sale,” said Garf. “Retailers are not just looking to replace point of sale, but rethink point of sale entirely.”

While many retailers still think stores will deliver “more than omni-channel”, this is not the case, he said, and retailers should rethink what their stores are doing for them.

According to Garf, creating a unified platform can help to create efficiency, attract and retain new customers, and reduce costs while increasing business growth.

“The most important benefit of this is operational efficiency,” said Ecommerce Europe head of research and advice Jorij Abraham. “If you’re becoming an omni-channel organisation you also have to change your metrics.”

Read more about omni-channel

  • Danske Supermarked is moving to an omni-channel model, and the CIO must ensure IT and business departments are on the journey together
  • John Lewis has seen growth from both its in-store, online and mobile channels across its John Lewis and Waitrose branches

Abraham highlighted that performance of a retailer cannot be measured in the same way as it was before an omni-channel approach is adopted, as a greater customer view will mean not just monitoring in-store or online sales.

But unfortunately if a unified platform is adopted incorrectly, it can increase the amount of redundant data throughout the business, generating inaccurate information.

According to Cambridge Satchel Company chief technology officer Jonny Wooldridge, this is often because the retailer will build on top of legacy systems rather than performing an entire overhaul.

“It’s easy for marketing teams to go out and buy systems but know where the data is flowing – whether it’s going in one direction and the right system owns that data," he said. “Legacy is, for me, a mindset and a lack of co-ordination or ability to change things fast.”

This can act as a barrier for unified communications as retailers are aware that it will take a significant time and investment to completely change the way their organisation works.

Research revealed only 13% of retailers are in the process of adopting this process now, with 23% only discussing the idea without having plans or budgets in place for execution. “You don’t necessarily have to spend a lot of money; you have to spend it in a smart way,” Wooldridge concluded.

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