If there’s one sector that has seen an accelerated boom in the last decade, it’s retail.
Today, consumers are simultaneously browsing on phones, computers, and smart TVs. They’re checking out products in your store with Amazon while checking social media notifications at the same time. Add to that AR consumer apps and AI-enabled assistants (Amazon Echo, Google Home), and it’s clear that seamless shopping experiences will soon be the bar by which retailers are measured.
Amidst the growth – online as well as offline – companies have evolved from a simple single-channel strategy to an omnichannel strategy that provides customers with an integrated experience across various platforms.
There’s another twist in the tale now as businesses step up their game by practising unified commerce in retail to provide a truly harmonious brand experience.
Unified commerce vs omnichannel systems:
- A centralized database reduces redundancies and improves tracking and analysis of existing data, enabling you to provide context-rich journeys for customers and consequently boosting brand value
- Decreased likelihood of data discrepancies that can occur from out-of-sync data on different platforms that can potentially lose customers and revenue (for example, letting customers place orders for an item that is out of stock/the platform not reflecting a recent price change)
- Customers can pick up from prior checkpoints, even while interacting with separate channels simultaneously, be it browsing, payments, or consuming products.
- Real-time overview of processes aids faster response (for example, needing to restock stores after a sudden surge in sales)
- It enables an architecture capable of incorporating modern digital channels such as AR/VR, smart assistants, etc.
Given the significant edge that you gain by evolving from Omnichannel, it is crucial to have a sound Unified Commerce strategy to ensure long term success.
Proper groundwork must be done now to meet customers’ expectations for unified experiences across your business.
The ultimate goal here is:
- To efficiently unify processes at the customer end while significantly enhancing the shopping experience, and,
- To integrate valuable components of the retail management system and ERP at the back end, be it inventory, customer data, purchase handling, digital systems etc. in order to achieve superior OX and CX
With this in mind, it is also important to channelize your goals for unified commerce specifically suited to your brand’s needs. So where do we begin?
Certain approaches are better than others, and Design Thinking is one of the more rigorous ones.
What is Design Thinking?
For the uninitiated, here is a quick introduction to design thinking. It is an approach that attempts to tackle poorly defined problems by revaluating them from a human-centric perspective. This allows the focus to be shifted to what is considered important by the user. Given that unified commerce is an approach that builds experiences with the consumer in the centre, it is a no brainer that we recommend using this methodology to define your goals.
The three stages of design thinking:
- Empathise and Define: Human-centered design thinking requires empathy while conducting such research because it allows you to go one step beyond just good ergonomics. It helps you understand culture and context when dealing with a specific group of people and eliminates false assumptions.
- Ideate: Brainstorm and identify new methods to find solutions to the problem statement.
- Prototype and Test: Come up with inexpensive, small-scale versions of the product (or features within the product) to investigate the ideas you’ve generated.
How did this brand do it?
Using these principles of design thinking for unified commerce, a global cosmetics brand in 2016 used AI to create a web experience tool that analyses skin using a selfie, asks customers questions about their skincare regime, and suggests suitable products to help improve texture, hydration, and skin tone.
How did they do it?
Stage 1: Empathise and Define
The company noticed that the skincare market was saturated with numerous products, promising to cure all kinds of skin problems. Customers were becoming increasingly confused about what their skin type was, and decipher which products were best for them.
There was also an increase in the number of women seeking help from in-store supervisors and beauticians , when trying to work out which products were best for them. But often these customers felt intimidated by the pressure to then buy from a specific brand.
Stage 2: Ideate
The brand realized they could do better with the image-analysis tech they had been developing for dermatologists over the past 25 years. The team simply had to make this technical tool compatible with their web-based channels so that it could be turned into a touchpoint for customers.
Stage 3: Prototype and Test
Starting with a very limited pool of data, the brand continued to shore up that collection by using new data that came from new users. They could see the direct impact of this online tool, from the number of visitors to the basket size and conversion rate, and course-correct when needed.
- The website has seen about 5 million visitors globally in more than 10 countries.
- It consistently attracts 5,000-7,000 visitors daily.
- Consumers who use the tool have doubled the conversion rate, and their basket size is 30 percent larger when they’re buying.
The company seemed to have pulled a rabbit out of the hat, but to be fair, this wasn’t magic.
It was a meticulous move on their part. A consequence of the realisation that despite being an omnichannel, global service, it was time to evolve.
You need to be in the driver’s seat of your customer experiences while innovating for the retail lifecycle. And for that, you need the right technological foundation.
Aspire’s expert assistance allows you to do just that: give customers the experiences they truly want and turn them into brand advocates.
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