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Global Ecommerce

Unified Commerce - buzzwords or buzzworthy?

By Michael Griffiths, Vice President, Marketing & Communications,
Retail & Global Ecommerce, Pitney Bowes

Unified commerce completes the omnichannel puzzle in
ecommerce with Pitney Bowes.

Empowered shoppers expect more from their retail experience.  But that’s not news.  We all carry smart devices with more computing power than it took to put a man on the moon.  We browse the store of retailer A, while cross-shopping the pricing of competitor B down the street.  We might even be checking real-time reviews for those items via social media. Retailers are smart, and they know this is happening.  No one has to describe to them the importance of customer experience.  In fact, it’s their dedication to providing a fantastic experience that has lead retailers to a very real moment of truth.

Brand identity is always moving.  Depending on the success of each engagement with consumers, brand affinity and loyalty are always increasing or decreasing.  It’s never static.  Consumer expectations are also marked by constant movement, but – unlike the ups and downs faced by retailers – there is only one direction....up.  Ever increasing expectations that fuelled the maturing of digital channels, internet speeds and Amazon, have changed everything, again!  Empowered consumers are now borderfree shoppers – global reach, expanded access, and expectations of shipping for free. 

The borderfree shopper expects the right experience at any cost.  While omnichannel has blurred the lines between physical and digital channels, it has come at costs that are unsustainable.  Too many systems; taking too much focus at too great a cost; addressing too little of the global customer experience.  Omnichannel is an important step along the journey, but it is just that – a step.  Retailers know that technology needs to do something more….and that is to make commerce complete.  Ultimately, it’s about addressing the missing scenarios that have kept retailers from finishing what they’ve started.  These scenarios - like cross-border, marketplace and intelligent shipping - are what make Unified Commerce possible.

Global unified commerce describes a journey for retailers that finally allows them to exceed customer expectations through the perfect storm of experience, insight and execution, all of which are required to grow profitability and earn lasting loyalty. In fact, 75% of retailers plan to utilize a single unified commerce platform within 3 years according to a recent Boston Retail Partners study.  This same research drives home the urgency in the following numbers:

  • 91% of retailers plan to offer inventory and order visibility across channels within 3 years.
  • 90% of retailers plan to use centralised inventory management, order management, and integrated CRM as part of a unified commerce platform within 3 years.
  • 77% of retailers plan to offer customers the ability to “buy anywhere, ship anywhere” within 3 years.
  • 57% of retailers plan to offer a shared cart across channels within 3 years – offering customers the ability to start a transaction anywhere and finish it anywhere.

Unified commerce is retail as it’s meant to be: global, profitable and sustainable. Retailers make a promise with the brand every day, and this is how you deliver on that promise.

Connect without compromise to any customer

Retailers need to serve customers how, when and where they shop. The question is: how big is that potential group of customers.  By 2020, there will be over a billion global consumers driving over a trillion dollars in digital spend.  Not only does that mean cross-border retail has become a technology imperative, but so too has delivering through the channels that most appeal to each specific global shopper.

For example, our global online shopping study revealed 66 percent of worldwide consumers buy their products from marketplaces, which are especially popular in China, Japan and Australia. But, in Canada, France, Hong Kong and South Korea, customers strongly said they prefer retail websites. Your global retail strategy needs to be flexible enough to support unique platform, product and device strategies in each country.

A truly unified platform can deliver this while expanding and enhancing your existing systems of record like POS, CRM, ERP, order and warehouse management. With the ability to effectively listen, learn and respond to customer needs, you’re able to expand into the areas of greatest growth and opportunity.

Engage is a way that’s personal and empowering in every moment

Each individual customer is unique, and a unified platform allows retailers to distinguish themselves by leveraging data to create personalised and complete shopping experiences for each customer - helping you deliver an exceptional customer experience while also boosting productivity.

That means powerful localisation capabilities that ensure accurate pricing in each cross-border shopper’s native language. It also means applying powerful data insights to drive personalised shopping recommendations and location-driven offers when a customer is close to your store.

Additionally, intelligent shipping capabilities allow you to give your most valuable asset – people - control over carrier selection, cost and timing. The result is a happier customer and margin-optimised shipping.  

Deliver with agility on any opportunity, every time

How do you apply the brakes in a race to the bottom littered with markdowns and missed opportunities? A unified commerce platform offers a single vision of the truth across your entire global enterprise, enabling you to make critical decisions with insight that drives profitability.

With the ability to pull-in CRM, order and inventory data, your scenarios like sourcing and returns – previously limited to domestic or, at best, regional potential – are finally available on a global scale. That helps you reduce markdowns, maintain a fluid inventory and increase speed of service across your business - improving average transaction size and conversion rates.

Ultimately, unified commerce is now a major strategic priority for 85% of retailers, because it addresses the exploding costs and limitations in global reach that have made omnichannel alone unsustainable.

Buzzwords or Buzzworthy?

All of this begs the question: are we talking about the next marketing fad or a universally-adopted market imperative?  "Omnichannel, customer-centricity, seamless, simplified"….sometimes the clever euphemisms all seem to run together.  But unified commerce feels different.  Retailers are too smart; too many lessons have been learned; and the answers this time around seem clear.  There has been a quick, decisive embrace of what a unified commerce platform represents - global, sustainable, profitability, while delivering amazing experiences.  The ball is clearly in the court of technology providers to prove they can make this real and be worthy of some buzz themselves.

Read more as to why Pitney Bowes Commerce Complete™ for Retail is the platform that fulfils the promise of what global, unified, commerce can be.

You can also download the full 2016 Pitney Bowes Global Online Shopping Study report to learn more about the buying preferences of global shoppers.

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