Unified commerce is on the tip of the tongue at this year’s NRF. Coined as an evolution of “(insert word here) – Channel”, we’ve finally got away from channels and given the word back to its roots (e.g. English Channel, Channel Tunnel, and TV!). The word itself elicits thoughts of separation and steeps sides, so it’s little wonder that we’ve been scrambling to see the back of it. What we are left with is a super-high expectation from customers. It’s not just about inventory, or even ‘click and collect’, instead it’s truly a coming together of the customer experience into one that has them not concerned about what part of the retailer they’re shopping in, they’re just shopping!
To solve this problem, many retailers have been applying a lot of effort and cost into their existing commerce engine, stitching together their solutions to surface up data from different entities and have the ‘channels’ (trying to avoid the use of the word) consume it in their own way. The HUGE problem is consistency. There may be a single customer order, but in order to create it, the transaction itself has been exchanged, transformed, augmented and interpreted as it progresses and systems are scrambling to keep up with what occurred! (Imagine what would happen if a new order type were needed!) The TRUE modern store has unified commerce at its heart, and although the end presentation to the customer may differ to suit the medium, customer versus associate led, mobile versus tablet versus kiosk, the ease of migration between those as the transaction progresses should be easy, and seamless, and retailers focused on the offering and experience, and not on the infrastructure.
Added to the commerce aspect is the wider thought of the modern store experience. Customers are digitally aware, and using their own technology to enhance their experience. The Modern store will take that and compliment it with further digital experiences in the store. Some of these will be direct interaction with their mobile device, with the use of beacons or instore connections publishing personalized content to their device, or using the customer presence to trigger interactive large displays.
The cool thing from a technology perspective is also the data. This is essentially in-store browsing, and retailers doing it right are now gathering in the kind of data previously only the domain of the online browsing data. Being able to gather all of this data, and bring it into a CRM solution to be recorded as interactions is a fantastic opportunity for retailers to increase conversion, loyalty and customer retention (not to mention actually give customers what they want and when they want it.)
However, with all this data being gathered retailers are still facing a challenge in driving actionable insight from it. Add to this the drive for a more personalized interaction, and what you are faced with is an exponential growth in the data, and a vast increase in what was the customer segments to market to. Leading the solution to this are ‘personalization’ engines, driven from deep data analytics from within Azure Machine learning, with large volume data being scanned, analyzed and conclusions drawn. These conclusions can then DIRECTLY feed recommendations back into (for example, Dynamics AX!) for merchant decisions, and right into the MPOS for recommendations based upon new basket insights, but also into CRM for the creation of sub-segments, and individually- tailored and personalized ‘next step’ purchase recommendations based upon previous activity, and now instore browsing, as well as correlating with lifestyle and outside data elements.
If you’d like to see which of the above solutions might work for your business, online or off, explore the ways Microsoft Dynamics is empowering modern retail.
If you’d like to learn more about what it means to acheive ’unified commerce’ watch the IHL Unified Commerce webinar replay
Just looking to brush up on the lay of the land? Download our factsheet.
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