What is unified commerce? A guide for businesses

Unified commerce means connecting every part of your business to get a complete, real-time view of all your channels, payments, product information, and customer interactions.
What does that mean for you? Well, if you're running a business then unified commerce helps every part of your operation speak to the other parts. That gives you a real-time, comprehensive view of all your business activities and helps you seamlessly connect all your data. This integrated approach helps you quickly identify issues, improve efficiency, and deliver better customer experiences.

Let's head back to 1876 when Alexander Graham Bell sat in an oak-panelled Boston office and made the world's very first phone call. Suddenly, communication changed forever. And information didn't need to be sent via long, often manual processes. Unified commerce might not be quite as groundbreaking, but the advantages it offers to businesses are similar.

So, here we explain how unified commerce can help you. We cover these things:

Unified commerce vs omnichannel

The omnichannel approach

An omnichannel approach is when the customer-facing parts of your business are all connected. This helps you deliver a consistent, seamless customer experience across all your channels: your website, social media, physical stores, and more. But often, the backend systems that power your channels aren't connected. And information isn't easily or automatically shared between them.

Consider a consumer who loves to research a product and brand before buying (basically all consumers nowadays). They might browse online to find a product, then go to a brand's website and social media pages to research it. They see consistent, clear messaging across every touchpoint. Happy, they head to the brand's physical store to make their purchase.

This is one version of omnichannel retailing.

The unified commerce approach

A unified commerce approach means all your channels' frontend and backend systems connect through one platform. That means every data point is shared between every part of your business. This gives you a real-time view of your payments, customers, inventory management, and more.

Let's think again about that consumer that was heading to their chosen brand's physical store to buy a product. What happens when they arrive?

Well, with an omnichannel approach, it might be that the product wasn't available. Why? Because the retailer's backend systems aren't connected, the consumer was sent incorrect information about the store's stock levels.

With a unified commerce approach, this is unlikely to happen. Why? Because every system is connected, the consumer can see the correct stock information.

Unified commerce examples

Let's take a look at some of the other examples of a unified commerce customer journey:

  • The customer orders something online and returns it at a retailer’s physical store.
  • The customer researches a product on a retailer’s website and checks if it’s in stock online before buying it at their physical store.
  • The customer browses products using a retailer’s app. They then pay for a product in the app before picking it up at a physical store.

Unified commerce benefits

We've explored some of the differences between omnichannel and unified commerce. Now we explain the different benefits unified commerce can offer your business.

Track and connect all customer interactions

The customer journey is no longer just A-Z. Instead, it could be A-G-P-Y. They might research a product online, visit your physical store, click a social media ad, open one of your emails, or all of the above and more.

Unified commerce lets you track every potential customer's interaction with your brand through a single platform. That allows you to engage and nurture them as effectively as possible. How? By delivering messaging targeted to the specific stage of their journey (think about cart abandonment emails or loyalty programs).

It also gives you information about what's working so you can make improvements across all stages of the customer journey.

Create personalised experiences

Mckinsey data shows that 71% of consumers expect businesses to offer personalised interactions. And 76% feel frustrated when they don't get them.

A unified commerce platform can help. As stated above, it gives you a complete view of a customer's interactions with your brand. That allows you to tailor their shopping experience and entice them to buy with bespoke product recommendations or personalised offers.

It will also help you improve your marketing efforts by providing customer data about their behaviour. That can help you send them the right messages at the right time.

Connect all your payments (and refunds)

Unifying your payments on one platform is vital if you're working across multiple sales channels. Why? Because it will give you much more agility to add new channels as needed.

Do you get frustrated dealing with multiple systems that don't all connect seamlessly (or communicate with each other)? Using unified commerce, you can choose software that meets your needs and instantly clicks into place in your tech stack.

Centralising your payments will also help you manage all transactions from a single platform and simplify your financial processes. As well as having all your payment data in one place, you can make reconciliation, reporting, and refunds much simpler and quicker – whether a customer paid at a point of sale, online, via a payment link, or even with a QR code.

Increase efficiency with real-time data

Getting the information you need across multiple channels and systems can be challenging. It takes expertise, time, and manual work. With unified commerce, that changes. By connecting everything on one platform, you get a single, comprehensive view of all your business operations and data.

Having one view of everything allows you to streamline your management systems, such as inventory management, customer experience, and order fulfilment.

It's also critical to show customers the correct information. And if you don't? Well, there's no better way to lose sales (or a customer's trust) than being unable to deliver a product they already purchased. Or showing them different prices across multiple touchpoints.

Unified commerce: how to get started

As a relatively new approach, unified commerce platforms are still developing. One way to quickly get started is to use a payment service provider that consolidates all your payments through a centralised platform. 

How can that help you? By having one payment system to manage all your in-person, app, and online sales channels. By doing so, you can understand your customers better, deliver better customer experiences, increase sales, and improve efficiency.

And if you do decide to take this first step? Then it's vital to choose a payment provider that integrates seamlessly with other systems to create an efficient, time-saving commerce solution.

The importance of unified commerce

Though still a relatively new approach, a unified commerce strategy can help you deliver the best customer experience possible and streamline your business. Before doing so, it's worth assessing your business's needs and which tech you use can integrate with other systems.

Want to get started creating a unified commerce solution? At Mollie, we can help you consolidate all your payment data and systems through one centralised platform. That helps you deliver remarkable customer experiences, increase sales, and streamline your business.
Find out more about payments with Mollie.

Get better payments now.