The future of commerce is clear. Retail competition and consumer expectations are on the rise. Those who cannot evolve, will not survive. From brand manufacturers, to consumers, from wholesalers, to B2B customers, and every step along the supply chain, winning commerce operations demand peak performance and consistent connectivity. Systems that deliver this are known as Unified Commerce systems.
It’s been called “the new holy grail of the industry”1, “the new imperative”, “the new retail business model”, and “a must for business growth.2” Boston Retail Partners (BRP) heralded that 85% of retailers have made unified commerce their top priority,3 and 71% plan to have a unified commerce platform within three years.4 More than just a buzzword, Unified Commerce is redefining the way businesses operate, connect with one another, and maximize revenue. But, what exactly is Unified Commerce?
Unified Commerce is more than “omnichannel”
- “Unified commerce helps you deliver the omni-channel experience by replacing disconnected channels / systems with a single commerce platform. A single and centralized platform for all customer engagement points (web, mobile, POS, call center, etc.) is the driving principle behind unified commerce.” – i95.dev5
- “Global Unified Commerce is 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” – Pitney Bowes6
- “Unified commerce is the cornerstone for delivering the holistic real-time customer experience by breaking down the walls between internal channel silos and leveraging a common commerce platform. A unified commerce platform is not simply the future in-store or Web platform, but combines in-store POS, mobile, Web, order management, call center and clienteling into one integrated platform. It has become the new retail imperative.” – BRP7
These descriptions give the impression that Unified Commerce is fulfilling omnichannel’s promise of a cohesive sales trifecta composed of eCommerce, brick-and-mortar and mobile – successfully connecting many of the touchpoints where disparate systems fail.
Unified Commerce optimizes more than customer experience
What the descriptions fail to acknowledge is the extent of coverage that Unified Commerce brings. Going beyond the notion of a “seamless customer experience,” a unified business enjoys optimized, real-time interdepartmental data sharing, creating a seamless operational experience.
After 20 years in commerce technology consulting, third-party software implementation, and countless hours of integrating systems that weren’t designed to perfectly match, the executive team at HotWax Systems8 shifted the company focus from treatment to prevention. The result is the award-winning open source Unified Commerce Platform, HotWax Commerce.9
According to HotWax Commerce, Unified Commerce is the native coordination of commerce business processes across multiple functional areas.
“Picture a thriving B2B2C organization with a single source of truth for their entire set of businesses processes across all departments. Imagine the efficiencies and new opportunities. The entire product lifecycle is tracked real-time in a natively integrated, self-aware system that can tell you what to produce, when to produce it, how much it costs to make, where it’s stored, how it’s marketed, who’s buying it, for how much, when it arrives at their front door, and whether they liked it!.
Now think of the competitive advantage. You can make strategic adjustments on-the-fly using real time data and reports, achieving objectives before your competition even knows those objectives exist.
It’s more than just master data. We’re talking about no more backorders, no more double entry, no more duct tape holding your commerce operation together. Instead, you get one cohesive, self-aware tool, that lets you see things you have never been able to see before.” – Mike Bates, CEO & Founder of HotWax Systems
Traditional ERP systems emphasize financial accounting, while neglecting or completely ignoring the needs of real time business processes across multiple departments within an organization. Yet it turns out that it is the in-between operational aspects that have the most potential to deliver meaningful improvements to margins.
Unified Commerce, on the other hand, offers a real-time holistic view of the entire enterprise – empowering finely-tuned insights that drive margins upward and create new strategic possibilities. With market trends, pricing, and logistics constantly changing, a commerce business that is able to recognize changes and act swiftly will dominate.
“Picture a thriving B2B2C organization with a single source of truth for their entire set of businesses processes across all departments. Imagine the efficiencies and new opportunities.”Mike Bates, CEO & Founder of HotWax Systems
A classical example of Unified Commerce functionality reflects the Outdoor Retail industry’s seasonal character, often affected by unpredictable weather patterns. Uncommonly high temperatures in November, similar to those in 201510, would typically shift consumers normal buying patterns from cold weather equipment to warm weather clothing. By incorporating multiple departments onto a single Unified Commerce platform, an outdoor apparel manufacturer could:
- Become aware early on by the decrease in warm weather clothing stocks, due to ongoing demand.
- Take real-time inventory of warm weather clothing stocks in warehouses throughout the country, and transport these from low-demand to high-demand areas.
- Create an across-the board B2B and B2C marketing campaign promoting the most popular warm weather items, complete with preferential pricing rules based on purchase history.
- Evaluate the impact of a shorter winter season on Sales, and decide together with the Procurement, Manufacturing and Warehousing departments whether to reduce the planned winter equipment production volume, and where to store the excess of raw materials for next year.
Customers are provided with clothing options compatible with the weather outside, while companies can shift sales and production plans to match demand, and even free up older stock. The live communication between the Order Management System, Distributed Omnichannel Sales, CRM, Warehouse, Inventory, Manufacturing, and Procurement, turns an external challenge into an opportunity that benefits both customer and company.
This connectivity allows for functionality that is expected from a customer’s perspective, but remains beyond the reach of the vast majority of omnichannel eCommerce systems. From a customer’s perspective, there is no artificial separation between business operations. For the Enterprise User, Unified Commerce equals opportunity.
Having access to customer data, wherever it may be within the system, creates shorter processing times, increased quality of service, a decrease in the overall number of returns, and improved customer loyalty.
Similarly, B2B customers’ trust and cooperation depend on the wholesaler’s ability to anticipate their needs, and fulfill orders as promised. Dedicated B2B sales personnel risk promising products that have already been reserved by a separate client, if the system that they are using isn’t aware or able to reflect changes in real time.
A Unified Commerce system, on the other hand, would not only prevent backorders in the first place, but also notify manufacturing and procurement that a restocking order is imminent. The sales person is confident that her order will be instantly registered and communicated to all other channels. She is free to progress through her reordering and confirmation quickly and confidently with detailed customer history and powerful CRM at her fingertips.
The remarkable strength of Unified Commerce stems from this one shared native platform, which captures and updates data from every operation and activity run anywhere within a company or group of companies and brands.
A business is unified when data throughout the entire enterprise is interconnected. The ultimate beneficiaries: customers first and foremost. But also management, who becomes able to identify cause and effect relationships, cut costs, and fine-tune margins, while simultaneously increasing quality of service.
- Billing Management
- Business Intelligence
- Business Process Management
- Content Management System (CMS)
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
- Database / Master Data Management (MDM)
- eCommerce Storefronts with dedicated B2B Sites
- Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
- Enterprise Asset Management (EAM)
- Marketing Management
- Material Requirements Planning (MRP)
- Merchandising and Promotions
- Omnichannel Order Management (OMS)
- Product Information Management (PIM)
- Reporting and Dashboards
- Sales Management
- Supply Chain Management (SCM)
- Warehousing and Shipping
With data purity and operational interconnectivity, Unified Commerce is the “Holy Grail” for CXOs. With easy integrations to external payment gateways, shipping providers, and other partners in the commerce ecosystem, it is finally possible for upper management to:
- Double up on data-driven decisions – Focus on business strategy, confidently knowing that reporting data is finally trustworthy and consistent throughout the enterprise.
- Stop managing, and start leading – Replace menial tasks related to managing and correcting data with in-depth analyses and strategic measurement.
- Go from defense to offense – Proactively respond to changes in the marketplace, turning challenges into opportunities.
Unified Commerce puts business strategy back into the driver’s seat, ultimately freeing up executives, and arming them with the data they need to help the organization reach its full potential.
All in the name of the Customer.
With Unified Commerce, The Customer is King
From a customer perspective, Unified Commerce provides a holistic shopping experience, which leverages the entire organization in closing the best deal:
- Improved customer services – Empower CSRs to better cater to individuals’ and accounts’ needs through quick reorders, a wide range of payment and shipping options, on-the-spot order edits, and RMAs processing.
- Seamless omnichannel sales experience – Manage multi-language, multi-currency, multi-brand and multi-store experiences in a single, interconnected interface that provides live sales feedback and customer trends.
- Cutting-edge brand experiences – Follow customer trends and comprehensive analytics, and respond with quick B2B and B2C price rules and promotions across all sales channels, from brick-and-mortar to digital devices, and back.
Unified Commerce allows sales personnel to better anticipate customer needs. Customer service reps quickly resolve any concerns, and warehousing and shipping personnel quickly and accurately fulfill orders. Marketing personnel track and manage user experience to inform future campaigns, and manufacturing managers plan production based on real-time demand, long-term trends, and forecasted fluctuations.
“Unified Commerce is the new imperative. It is the model that commercial organizations have been striving for since the first transaction. It provides the highest level of business process efficiency and mitigates the risk of data discrepancies across different areas of the organization. Everyone sees the same single source of truth.”Mike Bates, CEO & Founder of HotWax Systems
Unified Commerce Is Quality of Service
From the procurement of raw materials, to production, stocking, marketing, selling, processing, packaging, and shipping, all of your organization’s departments are involved and coordinated in the successful handling and delivery of each and every order. The ease with which these departments collaborate defines the value of your organization to a large degree.
Unified Commerce does more than just centralize data from multiple operational areas. It connects the people involved in delivering on the promise of the organization, and it connects the organization with the end customer at a whole new level.
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