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Unified Commerce: The Evolution of Omnichannel

Victoria Perea-Usher, Vice President Marcomms, JCB International (Europe) Ltd.

Tracking the consumer path to conversion can be tricky – with people moving across multiple online and offline channels, buying goods and services in a way that suits them.

The omnichannel approach – though well-established and proficient at providing products across various channels – can underserve businesses. It does not meet the logistically complex needs of the modern world.

Unified commerce (UC) is the next step in the evolutionary chain – it offers consumers total convenience and merchants greater understanding. It provides more than an omnichannel approach in the eyes of both the business and the customer.

Successful merchants concentrate on long-term objectives – this requires business strategies that can deliver on these goals. The pandemic forced businesses to make spur of the moment, reactive decisions. These did not necessarily provide long-term business value.

UC puts customer experience (CX) at the heart of operations – but the strategy remains in its infancy. JCB looks at the most effective ways to develop UC-centric commercial propositions – and why they are beneficial.

Changing of the Guard

Weaknesses have come to light with an omnichannel approach – so long a go-to for merchants.

This strategy does not provide integration across channel sales – nor does it store transaction and inventory data in a single location. These operational gaps mean developing frictionless CX is impossible. This can harm merchants’ profitability.

Merchants traditionally establish ecommerce propositions – the problem is that these stand apart from the brick-and-mortar stores. Proliferating channels hinder merchants’ ability to maintain accurate overviews across the business’ core pillars:

  • Consumer behaviours
  • Inventory management
  • Spending patterns

This pressure damages CX – and harms the brands’ long-term value perception. Merchants need to focus on channel alignment. Forecasts predict the global ecommerce market value will rise to $6,169tn by 2023 – and will encompass more than 22% of total retail sales.

Adopting a centralised platform – that connects consumer-facing channels with back-end systems – is the way forward. But transitioning from an omnichannel approach requires trust.

Customers need to be reassured that their personal information is safeguarded – and that the data will be anonymous unless permission is granted. JCB’s J/Secure™2.0 – an authentication system – can help merchants easily achieve consolidation across all transaction points.

UC – The Way of the Future

UC can appear daunting – some merchants are unsure where to start.

Developing a detailed understanding of the principles that prop-up this proposition is vital. The winners will be those that create a sustainable, competitive advantage – this stems from frictionless CX.

There are several benefits that stem from a UC-focused strategy:

Improved Returns System

Employees’ productivity – whilst focussing on processing returns – drastically falls. The average ecommerce return rate stands at 30% – and this is growing. The UK’s post-Christmas returns rose 24 % compared to the year before. Utilising e-receipts and collating information across purchase channels can help returns proceed swiftly.

Effective Supply Distribution

Merchants – using historical inventory data from a single platform – can identify stock patterns. This ensures that products are distributed with greater efficiency. It also reduces waste and drives improved profitability.

Greater Consumer Understanding

UC allows merchants to develop a comprehensive understanding of customer traits and behaviours. The average online shopping cart abandonment rate is 70% – merchants can use this strategy to reduce friction and obstacles preventing conversions. This also facilitates improvements to CX.

Updated Fraud Protection

Consumers’ are growing more concerned about how their personal data is stored and used. Merchants are similarly worried about being targeted by fraudulent transactions. Global losses incurred from payment fraud are projected to rise to $40.62bn by 2027. Consolidating systems allows for improved security solutions to be rolled-out smoothly.

The Plan is Coming Together

The pandemic’s impact remains widespread – businesses continue to react to immediate challenges rather than keeping an eye on the future. UC offers merchants’ the building blocks for sustained success. Collating data – provided by satisfied customers – is key moving forward.

UC’s use within payment solutions can enrich data exchanges throughout the payment ecosystem – and allow everyone to reap the rewards of the next step in the payment evolutionary process.

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